Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fearing and Loathing the Future in La Plata and Resistencia.

I'm a materialist, and as such have a condescending, patronizing, and even punch-in-the-face-able attitude toward devout people with out-of-the-mainstream religious beliefs. (By which I mean snake handlers, Pentacostalists, Five Percenters, religious xenoglossiacs, and the like). It's not that I'm impolite about it; my parents raised me to prefer the bastinado to ever expressing an opinion which would make someone else feel condescended to, patronized, or just looked down upon. Even so, I know that, when speaking with true believers, my face (however much against my will) takes on an expression somewhere between "You're kidding, right?" and "You actually believe that? That's so cute!"

In truth, I envy true believers. In describing one of my ex-girlfriends I said that I wished I was as sure of anything as she was of everything. I wish I was as sure of any aspect of God or divinely-dictated morality as the true believers are of all of them. Most especially, I wish I felt that I lived in a universe whose basic element was religious narrativium. It'd certainly be a more comforting place to live in than the one I've got.

For example, there's the practitioners of Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare, or SLSW. A simple Google search will turn up a number of articles, like "Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare in Historical Retrospect" or "Spirit Mapping in the City of Chennai, India," but a search of the literature gave me Samuel Hio-Kee Ooi's article in the Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies v9n1 (2006): "A Study of Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare From a Chinese Perspective."

Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare is a relatively recent phenomenon, the phrase itself having been invented in the early 1990s. The basic concept is that (quoting Peter Wagner, at a symposium on power evangelicism),
Satan delegates high-ranking members of the hierarchy of evil spirits to control nations, regions, cities, tribes, people groups, neighborhoods and other significant social networks of human beings throughout the world. Their major assignment is to prevent God from being glorified in their territory, which they do through directing the activity of lower-ranking demons.

Another evangelical site (whose text is saved here) tells us that there are three kinds of Satan-sent evil spirits: "ground-level," which only possess people; "occult-level," which empower "witches, shamans, and magicians;" and "strategic-level" or "territorial," which are the most powerful and which rule over entire territories. The latter are powerful enough to keep the people of their territories in "bondage, sin and darkness," so much so that even the gospel itself cannot penetrate. The demons must therefore be "identified," "bound," "overcome" and "rebuked" in prayer.

Toward this end, Ooi says, there are certain proven steps to take against these demons:
First, seek the name of the ruling spirit and identify its territory; second, seek the function of demons in a particular area; third, if demons occupy a neighborhood, perform a "prayer walk;" and if the demon controls a city, a "praise march;" and if a demon exercises power over a region, a "prayer expedition;" and if a demon rules in a nation, a "prayer journey." The technical name for seeking and digging out the locations and powers of demons is "spiritual mapping."

Peter Wagner's Breaking Strongholds in Your City gives the example of La Plata, Argentina, in which it was discovered that the strategic-level spirit was "the god of freemasonry--Jah-Bal-On." Jah-Bal-On's lieutenants were "a spirit of lust, spirit of violence, spirit of witchcraft, (and) spirit of living death." Also present in the city and influencing its inhabitants were Osiris and Isis. In Resistencia, Argentina, the territorial spirit was Piton, the spirit of witchcraft, who was empowering San La Muerte (the spirit of death), Pombero (the spirit of fear), and Currpi (the spirit of sexual perversion).

Your reaction to the preceding is likely like mine, and doesn't need to be described. I the only one to feel, on some level, jealousy toward the practitioners of SLSW? These men--I assume they're all men, given the Pentecostal attitude toward women--are living the lives of the heroes of fantasy novels, or comic book superheroes. The SLSW practitioners travel to a city, state, or country, confront demons, and defeat them, thereby freeing the afflicted from the grip of Satan. (From the SLSW practitioner's own perspective, of course--but isn't that all that any of us have?). The lives of SLSW practitioners are lacking the randomness and unsurety which materialists like me must accept as a fact of life. What the SLSW practitioners have instead is religious narrativium, with themselves as the heroes. The rest of us get plots written by Raymond Carver or John Cheever; the SLSW practioners get plots written by William Hope Hodgson (in his Carnacki stories) or Algernon Blackwood (in his John Silence stories). The SLSW practitioners are Buffy or Angel or the Charmed trio in their own lives. I'm...not.

I wouldn't swap my own delusions for those of the SLSW practitioners, but I do envy them their self-image.


fiduciary said...

Where do you find this stuff? Honestly. I think you're digging deep into places that I honestly fear.

That being said, I, too, have had the envy pangs. These people are so wrapped up in what I consider a parent-driven delusion that they don't suffer the sorts of doubt and fear that drive me to distraction.

They think they can go to Argentina and slay demons? So now, presumably, there is no lust and violence in La Plata?

I guess it comes off my vacation list, but still, you know, good for them.

All of this used to be an academic exercise, but these are the people dictating actual social policy in the United States. Not that Bush actually believes in anything outside his own infallibility, but he's given these people the wheel to secure their support.

And by "these people" I mean the backward illiterate hillbillies who believe this sort of thing.

You're too kind and broad minded to judge them that harshly, so I will.

Jess Nevins said...

Having access to a wide variety of databases can bring me strange bounties.

And, yeah, they help dictate social policy and have far too much sway with policy makers, and in general make us think with good reason that the inmates are running the asylum. And the future will laugh at us for it.

But, damn, I'd like to be as noble in my own mind as they are in theirs.