The Demonic Factor in Mass Shootings: A speculative essay
The gun control debate:
The recent mass shootings at Sandy Hook elementary School in Conneticut reignited the whole gun control and background check debate. The deadlock and inaction in the Senate will not mean that the issue will go away, but rather that it has been postponed.
What is lacking in the dispute is a consideration of the spiritual dimensions of gun control. The silence from the pulpit on this issue is especially notable. Perhaps it is because the clergy dislike weighing in on issues that are not specifically defined in scripture, and because American Christians often have very different and passionate opinions on this issue.
In this blog let me offer some thoughts on one dimension of the debate that has received little clergy attention: the demonization (obsession or possession) of many of the mass shooters.
Right at the start let me say that talking about the demonic realm for the Christian is both necessary (if one is true to the Gospel) but difficult due to its multifaceted complications. As Christians, we are in a state of constant spiritual warfare against the demonic realm. But as in most wars, there is a “fog of battle” in which our intelligence of and knowledge of the enemy is limited. Some Christian writers claim more than we can know about the demonic, as in the exact order of hierarchy and functions of the “thrones, principalities, powers, etc.” Especially difficult is the demarcation between psychological issues, chemical imbalances, etc., and demonic activity in and through a person.
On the issue of mass shootings, it is natural for secular professionals, as in educators and psychologists, to claim that a more robust mental health structure would bring down the mass murder rate. This may be true in a marginal way. But it is a mistake for Christian to agree with this without reservations. A person like Adam Lanza, the murderer of Newton, was not just a neurotic in need of counseling and medication, but almost certainly a demon obsessed/possessed person in need of deliverance and exorcism ministry.
A major problem here is that most pastors and ministers are poorly educated in the ministry of deliverance and exorcism, More precisely, many ministers have been mis-educated into the theology of cessationism which limits the miraculous, including the healing ministry and exorcisms, to Biblical times. This is sadly true not only of liberal denominations but of many conservative, Bible-believing groups such as Presbyterians and Southern Baptists. Exorcism and its allied gift, the “discerning of spirits” (1 Cor. 12:10), as teachable and usable skills are simply avoided in most seminaries. Exceptions are the Pentecostal/charismatic seminaries and some Catholic and Anglican seminaries.
Evidence for Demonic Activity:
Notice that most of the mass killings, and many domestic homicides, end with the suicide of the perpetrator. For Christian ministers, this should be a sign of severe demonic oppression/possession. I learned this indirectly (as one cannot interview a successful suicide victim) decades ago when I was doing research on a book on exorcism. I wisely postponed writing the book, waiting for further spiritual maturity and experience, and it is still to be written in final form.
At the time of my initial research I ran into Wilson Van Dusen’s book, theNatural Depth of Man. (New York: Harper & Row, 1972). Van Dusan was a psychiatrist in the California mental health system who treated many schizophrenics. He came to understand that many of these patients were assaulted by voices and entities that closely resemble biblically described “demons.” Further, effective treatment required that the patient resist the voices’ suggestions to do immoral acts such as lying, stealing, or self-mutilation. Further, Bible reading by the patient was especially helpful in subduing the voices. Wow! (It is still in print and available HERE.)
Unfortunately Van Deusan fell into Swedenborgism, a spiritist cult, as the interpretive theology of his findings. I imagine he first consulted with some cessationist or liberal theologian who could tell him nothing about the demonic spirits of his patients or about the ministry of exorcism, and thus sadly turned to Swedenborgism. But his core insights into the demonic nature of negative internal “voices” are valid and especially useful to Christian ministers and mental health professionals.
As usual, when the Holy Spirit is trying to teach me something new, I immediately run into someone or something to verify it. (Happens to you too?) In this case it was a young man I met when I gave a talk at a Unitarian singles’ group on Exorcism – about 1978. (They did not invite me back). After my talk this young man shared with me his strange meditative experiences. He practiced deep meditation, and being a Unitarian, he wasn’t big into prayer. In one of his meditative sessions he encountered the most beautiful woman he ever saw. She offered to have sex with him, and they did. He found that in this meditative state he could experience great sex. The catch is he had to lie to someone in order to get repeat sexual favors from the “fantasy figure.”
That fantasy figure was the classic demonic “succubus” of medieval fame. The male counterpart is the “incubus.” Neither are believed in by the elites of education and psychology. No matter, they are real and still active in the world. I explained to the young man that he must resist the beguilement of this figure, or his life would be ruined. He agreed. Unfortunately, I did not have follow up contact so I do not know the ultimate resolution of this case. Now, this person was by no means mentally disturbed or “bipolar” or anything of the sort. But he had made direct contact with a demonic entity that communicated with him and attempted to destroy his life.
Holy Spirit’s round two on this lesson. A bit later I saw the very fine movie, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” (1977). It was based on the autobiographical novel by Joanne Greenburg of the same name (HERE). The movie showed a young woman driven and harassed by “fantasy beings” – just as described in the Van Dusen work. “Blau,” the young woman, was tormented by a tribe from the “Kingdom of Yi” that dwelt in her mind. Originally they were inviting and friendly, but then rapidly turned negative. They tried to get Blau to injure herself and commit suicide as part of an initiation ceremony into the tribe. The psychiatrist at the treatment center was able to help Blau, but at the end of the movie the voices ominously whisper to her, “We will never leave you!” Well yes, there was no one to do an exorcism on her.
Holy Spirit’s round three. Soon after this, a woman I knew was institutionalized for several days for severe depression, and then released with a medication regimen. She had been hearing nagging, negative voices that told her she was worthless, etc., and should comit suicide. After her release a prayer partner and I did a deliverance on her. In ten minutes we challenged the assaulting voices/demons and cast them out. She never had further problems of this nature.
Holy Spirit round four: Shortly after that, I read what became one of the classics of the Pentecostal literature on exorcism/deliverance, Frank and Ida Mae Hammond’s, Pigs in the Parlor (first published in 1973). HERE The book has an appendix on the demonic aspects of schizophrenia. The Hammonds describe how schizophrenic patients often begin to become demonized by incidents or circumstances of rejection in their lives. This allows a ruling demon of rejection to enter. But various other demons, such as lust, pride, anger, etc., also come in, and in conjunction with the rejection demon, cripple and distort the core personality. The victim’s internal thought are dominated by demonic thought and voices of lust, vengeance, fear, etc., that the victim believes to be his own. For many schizophrenics deliverance prayer must proceed in stages, to give time for the victim to reestablish his/her authentic personality.
All of this is to say that, much of what passes as severe metal disturbance and hallucinations, and attributed to chemical imbalances, etc., is at times demonic obsession and possession. It is probable that at least several of the mass shooters of late may have had and obeyed demonic voices within them.
We can speculate as to how this happens. They are taunted and beguiled to violence by voices they cannot stop, and which reward or punish the victims in various ways. I have described how the demonic can reward a person with sexual favors. Punishment is also an option. My wife and I ministered to a person who was punished by interior spirit with severe headaches if she started to go to church. We might believe that at least some of these mass shooters have been rewarded and/or punished by interior demonic spirits in similar ways to a point of control. Finally, when the mass murdered is cornered by the police the voices/demons turn into screams of accusation and commands to commit suicide.
All of this is speculative, and I especially invite comments and critiques by ministers or others in the healing profession who have experience in the deliverance ministry.
If my analysis is correct, the promise of stopping mass shooting will not be effectively addressed by any secular mental health program. Anything mandated by Congress under our present understanding of “separation of church and state” will annihilate spiritual considerations, especially any consideration of the demonic as real, or the need for exorcism and deliverance. (I really believe we Christians should begin to confront the phrase “separation of church and state” itself, and insist it be renamed to what it is, forced secularization.)
All of this seems to make the possibility of effective gun control and the reduction of mass shooters, murders and countless gun suicides impossible to restrain. Especially distressing are the number of privately held assault weapons and hand guns already out there. Actually, by identifying the spiritual roots of mass shootings we can see that the opposite is true and a remedy is possible.
The remedy is called REVIVAL.
That is, the massive turning of a nation to God and the Bible as happened in the Second Great Awakening of 1797-1830 when Deism was defeated and Evangelicalism birthed (see my book, Forgotten Power: The significance of the Lord’s Supper in revival, for a detailed study of this revival, (HERE).
But it must be a Pentecostal/charismatic type revival. That is, a revival in which the leadership accepts and incorporates the gifts of the Spirit, including discernment of spirits, and categorically rejects cessionism. Imagine what an America would be where a majority of its churches were actively Spirit-filled and empowered. Pastors and their prayer teams would be alert to persons in the community who were in the process of demon oppression and possession, and could intervene with deliverance ministry before they acted out.
This promise that revival can bring major social/ethical and spiritual changes may seem far-fetched only because Americans have no living memory of a major revival. (The stuff that goes on in churches when the sign says “Revival tonight by Pastor Smith” is merely normal evangelizing.) America has not had a nation shaking revival since the Azusa St. Revival of 1906-1913. No revival has ever been 100% effective in converting and transforming everyone, but such revivals as the Welsh Revival of 1903 were so profound that the crime and drunkenness rate shrunk to previously unimaginable numbers.
Let us all pray that a great revival come to America, where the murder rate shrinks to minuscule levels.
On an unused scripture:
Before I proceed with my last speculation, let me bring up an incident from the book of Acts. It is that of Paul confronting a sorcerer and immobilizing him. (Acts 13: 8-12.)
But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.
Note that this is not an exorcism, but the immobilization of a person through blindness. The Church is just awakening from its cessationist period and into its Holy Spirit powers. As of yet, no Spirit-filled Christians I have met has ever discussed doing any such thing on any demonized person. I am a Charismatic from way back in the 1970s, and I have never seen a teaching on this, Pentecostal or charismatic. Neither have I found it in the literature of classic Christian spirituality. (If I am wrong on this please let me know in a blog comment.) Cessationist commentators easily write this off as history, and a special grace of Apostolic times without present day relevance.
With this scripture in mind, let me turn again to the issue of mass shooters with a final speculative word, but one that may be life-saving.
First, a sensible word from the US government. FEMA recently put out a brochure advising churches on how to react to mass shooters. It suggests that ministry staff talk about the possibility of a mass shooter incident and develop a quick response plan. It gives very sensible, secular advise. Basically: run, hid, and fight (i.e.,“take aggressive action” as in throwing chairs, fire-extinguishers, etc.). The brochure is in PDF format for dowwloading and available HERE.
More elaborate instructions are given in recent article HERE.
Not hint of a spiritual remedy – naturally. Now let me add that there may be an effectivce spiritual weapon in these incidents. IF, and only IF, one finds oneselftrapped in a group with a demonized person shooting at people, and IF there is no way to run, hide or fight, try this: Speak towards the shooter but to the demons and command: “In the name of Jesus, be bound and paralyzed!” Now, I cannot guarantee this will work, and if all you get is a quick trip to heaven I will see you there some time later and personally apologize. But if you are about to be shot anyway, what is there to lose?
Rightly, there are many difficulties in using this scripture from Acts as model. I frankly do not know if a spirit of sorcery is more easily bound than a spirit of murder. But the scripture is there, and it is not difficult to understand – but all too easy to dismiss. I repeat this is speculative. I have no stories to tell of having done such a thing. But with so many armed, demonized persons out there it is good to keep this in the back of your mind, just in case.
If you have had experiences with the demonic, and minister deliverance ministry of any sort I would love to hear from you in the blog comments.
I am adding (8/23/13) this report of an incident at an Atlanta area school which received way too little publicity. It could have been another school massacre, but it was stopped by a prayerful and faith filled school bookkeeper, Mrs. Tuff. She prayed the heavily armed and mentally disturbed intruder to disarm await arrest. The link to the news report is HERE. A fine interview of Mrs. Tuff appeared in Christianity Today and can be accessed HERE.
Update: The following is a link to a revealing article from The New Yorker, posted March, 17, 2014, on the Sidney Hook Elementary slayer, Adam Lanza. HERE The article relates the tragic narrative of Mr. Peter Lanza, Adam’s father, an executive of a major company, who was a loving father and did all he could to bring his boy out of autism, with no avail. It is interesting to note that in the lengthy article about the Lanza family words like “church,” or “prayer” do not appear. The Laza family was loving, but appreantloy totally secular, and thus clueless as to the “creeping demonization” of Adam, hints of which appear in his early school work and obsession with killing.
On Friday, the 27th of June, the Barbara Walters 20/20 special, “The Secret Life of Eliot Roger” aired. It centered on a lengthy interview of Peter Roger, Eliot’s father. Mr. Roger frankly shared his shock and pain at being the father of the mass killer at the University of California, Santa Barbara (May 23, 2014) University. Eliot murdered a total of six persons, and wounded thirteen before committing suicide.
Mr. Roger explained that he did everything he knew how to help his shy, and troubled boy to normality. This included psychiatric help and a special high school. He was shocked about the murder spree and equally shocked, disgusted, and astounded by Eliot’s manifesto, posted just before his death. That lengthy document detailed his raging hatred at women and everyone who Eliot felt had slighted him.
Throughout the interview and background flashbacks, there was not a single reference to God, Church, the Bible, etc. Apparently the Roger household, like many in America today , was totally Godless.
Spiritually discerning the situation, we can see that Eliot became a disturbed boy after his mother died at age seven. Since there was no spiritual cover in the home, the demonic used his anger, fear, confusion, etc. as an entry point to take over and ruin the growing boy. Eliot developed a dysfunctional (demonic) attitude towards sex and women. All of this was spewed out in his death manifesto.
One of the surviving victims of the murderous shooting spree said that she saw a “demonic look” on Eliot’s face as he shot down his victims. This is as close as the Walters interview came to any real description of the spiritual dynamics of the situation.
This article, published in the New York Times, verifies in secular vocabulary much of what I say about the demonic nature of voices found in some patients with schizophrenia. “Our Failed Approach to Schizophrenia.” The link is HERE
An article in the Atlantic on mass shootings and contagion. How much of contagion is demonic influence? HERE
Another article from the Atlantic on why a better mental health system would not stop mass murderers, HERE
This is a terrific video from the 700 club on how a faith-filled command stoped an armed robber. HERE
An article from the National Review on why mass shootings are like a riot, and are likely to increase. HERE
Links to my favorite books on exorcism and deliverance ministry are:
Francis MacNutt, Deliverance from Evil Spirits
Frank and Ida Mae Hammond: Pigs in the Parlor
This link is to Dr. MacNutt’s very fine Christian Healing Ministries in Jacksonville FL(HERE) The web site has links to its book store which has a selection of the finest healing an deliverance books in Christendom. I recommend also subscribing to their fine monthlyemail magazine.
An article from USA Today Oct., 2017) revealing newly dislosed FBI documents on Lanza’s weird (demonically molded) personality HERE
A review of various conspiracy theories of the Vegas mass killings from Newsweek HERE
The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my latest book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.