I woke up convinced that I was going to die.
It is interesting to be here in Africa. More so than in the Western world, demon and Satan worship are still very common. Mostly, such religious practices are a response to the spread of Christianity. Christian missionaries labeled a great number of the native religious practices in Africa as practices related to the devil. Native people, many of whom came to detest the colonists and the missionaries, looked to the worship of Satan as a counter influence to the intrusive introduction of Christianity.
Satanism works off of the premise that Christianity is a lie. There are two gods, Jesus and Satan, and Jesus tries to deceive people by encouraging them to be weak. The Beatitudes are prime example of Jesus’ fallacy. Blessed are the meek… Blessed are the poor… Blessed are the peacemakers…. Blessed are those who are persecuted… Satan, on the other hand, encourages people be strong, and feed off of the weak. Not a bad message for political outcasts who are looking to gain power.
Satanists teach that everything Christ preached was a lie, and they revere Satan by doing the exact opposite of Christians, in practice and in worship. In fact, their worship ceremony involves participants entering backwards, a sacrificial representative offering for their own real blood to be drank, and participation in a sexual orgy.
I have been in a few communities in Africa where the priest, and people, talk actively about fighting Satan worship. Curiously enough, Satanists have a high infection rate of HIV/AIDS… which they teach will be removed by strengthening yourself through more worship… more blood drinking and more sexual activity... without protection. Now, who’s telling the lie?
I really don’t know what to make of all of this. I don’t know what a demon looks like. I haven't figured out a cosmological explanation for the idea that the Earth is an active spiritual battle ground between angels and demons. I don’t have a philosophical point of view that helps to explain why Satan, or demons, would even delight in interacting with humanity. What is their prize? What is their purpose? How do they engage the material from the spiritual? I just don’t know.
I am frequently asked about “Satanism in the United States” by African people. I reply a bit sheepishly. It is not as big a concern in the United States as it is here. I tell them that my Archdiocese has an exorcist, and I quote what he has been reported to say, “Demons are just thugs. They want to instill fear and doubt, and they win when you let them do that. You just have to put demons in their place, and then you are fine”
So I repeat… I woke up convinced that I was going to die.
My flu symptoms have taken a turn for the worse. Still not experiencing symptoms of Malaria, my fever had increased, and my internal organs felt infected, bruised, and swollen. I thought maybe my appendix needed to be removed or something. It literally felt as if I had been punched in the stomach thirty times.
By breakfast I had a different tune.
“How are you doing this morning David?”
“I feel as if my body is a spiritual battle ground.”
“What do you mean?”
“I went to Mass convinced that I was going to need the Anointing of the Sick or a doctor. As I sat in church, I was doubled over in sharp pains. Then I remembered my spiritual director in the States. He told me that sometime demons haunt our lives, and we need to expel them, so I said, ‘Demon, I bind you in the name of Jesus Christ and cast you out.’ Within seconds, the pains went away, I still felt bruised and sick, but the sharp pains went away, and have not returned. I don’t know what to think.”
“I think it was a demon.”
“It is timely for today.” Another priest pipes in. “Jesus expelled the demons into the swine."
“I’m sorry?” I reply. The Mass was said in Luganda, so I didn’t really know what Gospel was spoken. “Do you mean that today’s Gospel, was the Gospel for when Jesus expelled demons into the swine?”
“Yes. That is today’s Gospel.”
O.K. GOD! I GET IT ALREADY!
BUT I’M ALMOST TIRED OF YOU SENDING MESSAGES TO ME!
I am a very skeptical person. A couple days ago at the equator, I didn’t want to believe that water drains differently a mere twenty yards from an invisible line on the Earth. They had to show me that it worked… and it did.
I repeat. I don’t have a cosmological understanding of the presence of demons that works. I don’t know how to put them into a philosophical category. I rationally understand that most of what was attributed to demonic possession in the course of human history can now be analyzed as a psychological disorder. These disorders can be treated in medical terms with medication and therapy. Not everything that once was demonic possession can now be classified as demonic, but in clear and uncertain terms, I asked the demons to stop bothering me, and within seconds, I was better. I don’t know what to make of that other than to agree with the exorcist from Chicago, “Demons are just thugs… you just need to put them in their place.”
But before anyone jumps off the cart and starts acting like an exorcist, let me put out a few things that I do know. Even if there are demons, which I grant that there are, they don’t necessarily look like the little horned monsters you see in movies. It is also important to note that everything that is bad is not a demon. You can not be on the verge of a heart attack and say “Demon be gone!” and expect to live. That is just foolish. There is still a universe that largely follows the understood laws of physics and biology. If you are really sick, be prepared to go to the hospital, it is not a sign of weakness of faith, it is a sign of intelligence.
Also, I’m imagining that if you are pregnant, it is not a good time to utter the words “Demon, I bind you in the name of Jesus Christ, and cast you out.” The demon may in fact come out, and then you will be forced, by law, to care for the demon for at least 18 years. Some mothers know this, even if they didn’t consciously enact an exorcism. I have a sister who might be willing to give testimony in this regard.Most of my day was still spent in bed. This evening, my fever finally broke, so I am feeling a bit better. The priests of Ggayaaza are very supportive, and have encouraged me to seek rest. They know that I would like to see more of Uganda, but not today. Casting out demons is tough enough work for one day.