By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
The answer I was given a number of years ago was this: demons oppress people by breaking them down physically, emotionally, and spiritually; often to the point where they are at their wits end…. or even end their own lives. The manner in which the demonic do this is limited only by their extensive, depraved imagination….and they are relentless. It is obvious that they get a perverse pleasure from causing a person or relationship to unravel. It is not uncommon for an oppressed person’s home to be a pig-sty….an outward symbol of inner, psychic dislocation; and they are laughing at both. I think of Jim Morrison, the poet of psychic dislocation, in People are Strange: “…women seem wicked when you are unwanted, roads seem uneven when you are down…” People’s perceptions become strange when oppressed. (and under the effects of acid!)
In 1979 I enrolled in a three year Masters of Divinity degree, and afterwards was ordained in 1985. Once I put the books aside and got involved in actual pastoral ministry, I learned the following truths in a visceral way: ministry is messy, and hurting people hurt people. Both are intensely biblical. Though all Christians could benefit from being reminded of these facts of life, I wish to apply them specifically to those who have been called to help those suffering from demonic oppression. My daughter texted me tonight Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden…” Bone weary from sleep deprivation, and heavy laden with the effects of chronic and acute diabolical torture, we approach our clients at the nadir of their lives. It is so humbling to hear, “This is the lowest I have ever been. Had you not come when you did, I am not sure what I would have done because I can’t take it anymore. Thank you for coming to help me. Everybody else had given up on me….” To hear those words is humbling and precious, isn’t it?
Oftentimes family and friends give up on them because they don’t understand. To make matters worse, the average person I have assisted has been turned away by several pastors. And to top it off, many have been neglected, mis-diagnosed, or judged harshly by Christian demonologists. Friends, what are we doing? Physically, emotionally, and spiritually these folks are wrecks, which means they just might not be doing very well spiritually; their patience may be very thin which means they are short-tempered and angry; and they just might not live up to our standards of responsibility when they are struggling to stay alive. C’mon, how do we feel when we miss just one nights full rest? Try being a young mom who hasn’t had a decent night sleep in months because of being tormented by demonic shadows every night or possibly even being raped by these supernatural putrid perverts. Jesus showed his most tender and gentle side to those who had been beaten down by demonic oppression/possession…or those with had symptoms similar to it.
“Don’t mess with that case because he is nothing but an attention seeking king, and he gets angry at everyone who has tried to help him in the past. It is all in his head… He has gotten so good at faking it, he even has his wife and kids in on it.” That is a composite of warnings I have received from folks over the years. I ALWAYS listen carefully, but occasionally I want to find out for myself…especially IF they are seeking my help—in EVERY case I’m glad I did (because it turned out they were wrong). You know the drill…certain people get a reputation, and soon nobody wants to help them. If you have uttered similar words, perhaps you need to remember what we have been talking about—the deleterious effects of demonic oppression. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT WRITING SOMEONE OFF, UNLESS YOU SPEND THE HOURS NEEDED TO SIFT THROUGH THE WRECKAGE—AND COMMUNICATE THAT YOU REALLY CARE FOR THEM AND ARE NOT JUST AFTER DATA ACQUISITION.
Just a basic knowledge of psychology is helpful here. The nexus of attitudes and behaviors of the demonic oppressed is complex and unique to each individual. We really need to cry out to the Holy Spirit for wisdom before we dismiss someone. My point is this: the very things that we see as red flags in our criteria for determining those who are faking demonic oppression (attention seeking, anger, irresponsibility, inconsistency in memory, seeming exaggeration, and so on), these are often part of the complex of symptoms that demonic oppression causes! Again, the very signs we look for in spotting the fake cases, are often the signs of a case being genuine! To put it simply, hurting people hurt people (we will get hurt), and I trust we all would agree that demonic oppressed folks are hurting. But often when folks display hurtful behavior we see that as a red flag, when it is the very thing we should expect from those experiencing diabolical torture. I am reading John Mc Cain, his autobiography, and he speaks of the savagery of his captors while a POW. The NVA and VC seem to know demonic tactics well. As I get older it is being impressed upon me of how madness surrounds demonic activity...sheer madness.
Why do we believe that demonic oppression breaks people down so comprehensively (especially spiritually), but then turn around and question: is their faith in Christ real or strong enough to do this cleansing successfully, when Jesus NEVER asked that question before he exorcised anyone? What of the power of faith the size of a mustard seed? Spiritually is where folks are hammered the worst. One can’t say everything in a blog, but certainly Jesus is the only means by which we can liberate folks. However, am I being a Pharisee by expecting people to clean up their lives before I deem them “cleansable”? It is similar to cleaning up ones act before becoming savable….which is a false gospel.
To be forewarned is to forearmed—expect folks to be tough to deal with at times. Sure we need to be discerning, and establish ground rules, but hurting people hurt people, and ministry is messy….especially this ministry. In the pastoral ministry I saw all kinds of evil and the effects of evil, but it did not compare with the relentless and savagery of the evil found in helping folks with demonic oppression. I bow before the Lord in worship for calling us to be co-workers with Him in liberating the captives. Please, let us be extremely careful that we not dismiss one of God’s wandering and savaged sheep.