Two summers ago, I plopped onto a plane and went to Uganda. The pre-story to that is quite detailed, so I'll spare you the lengthy story. Feel free to ask me about it another time - or look back at my Uganda blog.
While I was there, I went to a church, where people ran out screaming from the congregation in a wild panic. There were woman collapsing in the aisles, having seizures. There was one woman who ran terrified down an aisle that was crowded with people, tripping and hurting herself along the way.
I was - to say the least - a bit confused. So I asked about it. And my friend told me they were possessed by demons. That the pastor would perform those little rituals to take the demons out, and they'd be completely normal again. And I asked if this happened very often, and my friend said, "Why yes! All the time!"
(I should note here that I don't think one person's "yes" means that all churches are like this. I'm quite sure that there are many Ugandan churches that are not. Yet for the sake of making this point, I will continue the argument below.)
So I went back home and started doing more research on Uganda. About the spiritual realm of the people, about how they consult spirits in performing community rituals, in how they believe in the "cen" or evil spirits that haunt a place of murder or killing. There is a very spiritual realm in Uganda. One that faces them outright all the time. Religion and government are infused, religion and country divisions are infused, community religious traditions are infused with social cohesion - not all of this Uganda's religion, but that of missionaries - and so there is a very present and real spiritual realm to life for most of the population.
And so, coming back to Canada, I wondered why we never see these outbursts here in churches. Why there aren't any crazy sudden seizures or visible demon-possession?
And I wondered if maybe, the most vicious kind of demon-possession of all is the one that is silent. The one that doesn't take us into fits, but rather, spirals us down and down, very slowly and surely, in until we're stuck in patterns of sin. These demons are more pervasive and crooked than those that cry out, because the ones that cry out can be cast away in the name of Jesus. Ours just sit there and fester, growing their beloved infection each and every day. They are the hidden demons that we continue to deny out of shame.
They are the greed we harbour, they are the search for pleasure in relationships, in success, in food, in sex, in those things that distract us from our very core identity as children of God, as the disciples of Christ, as the beloved spouse of God. They are silent and swift, and we choose to ignore them, because to recognize them means that we need to let them go. We would have to cast them away from us, to exorcise them out of ourselves, and put Jesus first there instead. Which would mean giving everything up. It would mean basing our identity on a man who died, hanging on a cross, beaten and bruised by the very ones that he gave up all for, that he loved with everything he had. And this is our calling - to die to everything we have, to give it all up for His glory, and to follow Him to the cross.
So we must exorcise out our demons. First greed, then hatred, then the idols of relationships, of success, of food, of sex, of violence, of anything at all that "possesses" us. We must recognize that our demons may not be screaming, they may not throw us on the floor in seizures, but they are real and deadly. And they are holding us back from going out on a limb to be all that we can be.