EDITORS NOTE: Given the new-norm on capitol hill where dropping F-bombs against political adversaries and threatening harm to those who oppose their inflammatory behavior has elevated ill-mannered freshman lawmakers to media celebrity status (mostly for their embrace of anti-Semitism, socialism, and other left-wing agendas) we felt it would be timely to reprint three chapters from the 2016 Defender Publishing book, When Once We Were A Nation. The excerpt below is from the chapter titled: “When Once We Were a Nation of Etiquette and Polite Norms.”
Dr. Thomas R. Horn
Early in American history, the “art of debate” was routinely taught and practiced from high schools through universities, courtrooms, and many pulpits. The eloquence of argument against perceived logical fallacies was not just for politicians, but a necessary and learned exercise involving well-crafted protocols, procedures, and rules, through which one could persuade others through reason, logic, diplomacy, facts, insights, values, wit, and rhetoric to embrace a particular idea as more or less plausible to reaching a conclusion. Besides winning in debates, proper discourse and etiquette provided a “code of behavior” for “polite” society expected by “gentlemen” and “ladies” in respect to people and cultural norms. Young women learned early on how to behave in society—including how to speak, dress, hold their posture, etc.—and boys were taught to treat girls and their male counterparts with courtesy and respect; to say “yes ma’am” or “thank you, sir.” Stratified society expected citizens to carry themselves in these appropriate ways and to interact with one another in a dignified manner (not that everybody obeyed these rules, of course, but most were made to understand that what was expected could improve their opportunity for acceptance and advancement in the world). Such polite conduct as an art form was not confined to the social elite, either. “Good manners for ordinary people in everyday situations were set forth in the United States by two prominent and influential arbiters of taste, Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt. Drawing on her own wide experience in social, political, and diplomatic situations, no less a personage than Eleanor Roosevelt published her own typically practical Book of Common Sense Etiquette (1962).”[i]
Fast forward to today and we find an entirely different reality. Etiquette, courtesy, and civil discourse have largely given way to increasingly rude, crude, and verbally abusive individuals in a culture where even “Christians” treat each other with a passing contempt that would have horrified previous generations.
Charisma News recently illustrated this phenomenon with a clip from the Jim Bakker Show in which Lori Bakker, Jim’s wife, was reading this selection from Galatians 5, verses 22–26:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
The important point the Bakkers made from this text involved how much vitriol they and other ministries face today from “Christians,” and that God hates it when such discord is sewn among the brethren. The timely comments by the Bakkers reminded me of something I had intended to address for a while involving so-called Internet trolls—narcissistic, Machiavellian, psychopathic, and sadistic individuals who actually enjoy sewing discord and polarizing people, especially among believers.
And when I say enjoy, I mean that in the coarsest way possible: Modern society is plagued by sick-minded individuals who actually get “turned on” in demonic and twisted ways while trolling.
But don’t take my word for it.
Not long ago, Psychology Today highlighted a study that actually confirmed what many of us have sensed for a while: Internet trolls are a symptom of a deeper cultural malaise and are not just horrible misanthropes; they’re actually part of deranged society in profound ways.
“Let’s start by getting our definitions straight,” professor Jennifer Golbeck wrote. “An Internet troll is someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation. Often, in fact, it seems like there is no real purpose behind their comments except to upset everyone else involved. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response.”[ii]
The research Golbeck quotes from was conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and his colleagues. Titled “Personality and Individual Differences—The Dark Triad of Personality,” it was published in the journal ScienceDirect.[iii] The material investigates whether there is a direct link between so-called “trolling” and growing personality disorders defined by a Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to employ cunning and duplicity to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and excessive or erotic interest in oneself over others), psychopathy (enduring antisocial behavior, diminished empathy and remorse, and disinhibited behavior), and sadism (the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others).
Of the wickedest findings made by the researchers is how sadism turns out to be the strongest admitted characteristic of trolls, and that such persons do indeed find regular sexual fulfillment in tormenting others.
Keep that in mind the next time you sacrifice your online energy trying to pacify a troll. It’s very possible you’ll be having unintended, one-way sex chat with a creep!
Of course, it’s not just laypeople whose social media is increasingly infested with rampant incivility and ad hominem attacks by trolls. Businesses and ministries have likewise wasted enormous time and resources in recent years swatting at Baalzebub’s flies as they hatch their vitriolic eggs. To deal with the growing problem, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Beast, Popular Science, Vice Media’s Motherboard, The Verge, and others have gone so far recently as to shut off their online comment sections altogether.
Good for them.
In fact, it may be time for all of us in media to return to the old fashioned “letters to the editor” method for interacting with public commentary. This is where staff members screen submissions, keep and publish the good, and “round file” (verb: “to throw in the garbage”) time-wasting materials before anybody of importance ever has a chance to see them.
For the last few years, that’s exactly what we’ve done at Defender Publishing and SkyWatch TV. Ask anybody who works in this ministry and they’ll tell you how my method for dealing with trolls is lovingly referred to as “BLOCK, FILTER, DELETE!” This system accomplishes the following:
First, we block the individuals from making additional comments in the future.
Second, we place the email (if that is how the message was sent) in the spam filter so that we will never know if the trolls continue sending comments.
Third, we delete whatever drool the trolls have attempted to leave on our message boards and social media sites. If they’re on our email list, we delete them from that as well.
We never read or respond to anything once it’s obvious we are dealing with a troll.
I’ve recommended the same process to other large ministries that followed suit and later thanked me. Basically, my advice to all who will listen is simple: DON’T FEED THE TROLLS! Never reply to or try to explain yourself to a troll. Never give them an ounce of your energy. They’re not interested in truth, fellowship, or council. They feed off anguish and hope to gain access to your audience (most trolls only have tiny followings—if any at all—on their own webpages and social sites) in order to legitimize or make a name for themselves while increasing overall misery. They don’t just love doing this; we now know such parasites actually have a lust for it. But is this sickness more than just a sign that Americans and much of the world have lost our capacity for civil discourse? Is literal evil supernaturalism behind the loss of diplomacy?
EVIL SPIRITS SET MINDS AND TONGUES AFIRE
During our formative years in ministry, few people more profoundly influenced our theology and practical Christianity than pastor and theologian Dr. Robert Cornwall. Bob—or simply “Cornwall,” as his friends knew him—had a photographic memory, and in order to pay his way through Bible college as a young man, he had gotten a job proofreading books for a publisher of scholarly works. As a result of maintaining this job for years and having an uncanny propensity for recalling facts, Cornwall retained the majority of material he read and became one of the most well informed and brilliant thinkers we ever had the privilege of knowing or being mentored under. Cornwall was also a great storyteller and could thrill audiences at churches and in conferences by weaving details of true-life events with deep theological propositions. A particular story that raised profound spiritual-warfare implications (and eyebrows at the time) revolved around one of the first churches he pastored as a young minister in a sleepy little town near the Oregon coast. As described by Cornwall himself at Redwood Family Camp meeting in the 1970s, he had barely settled into leadership at the church when strange things began to happen for which he had no explanation. Objects in the building seemed to move around on their own, especially overnight when the building was supposed to be unoccupied. He would hear the piano playing and go into the sanctuary to find nobody there. Doors would slam, pews would be discovered positioned backward against the wall, and his notes would disappear—then reappear. Members of the church reported similar phenomena, and Cornwall eventually learned that the activity had been going on for years.
One night, hours after he had gone home to bed, Cornwall’s telephone rang and the police chief was on the other end of the line. He wanted to know what kind of party Cornwall was sponsoring at the church.
“What do you mean, a party?” Cornwall asked.
“Neighbors are calling. They say it’s so loud they can’t sleep. We thought maybe the youth group was having an overnight event that was getting out of hand.”
Assuring the officer that nobody was supposed to be in the building, Cornwall agreed to meet him at the church. On arrival, they noticed the lights inside the auditorium were going off and on, the piano was banging loudly, and what sounded like shouting of some kind could be heard throughout the edifice. The officer drew his sidearm while Cornwall unlocked the front door. As they pushed the entrance open, all activity inside the facility abruptly ceased. The lights were still on, but the noises had suddenly gone silent. Cornwall moved through the building with the officer and found every entryway locked, with no signs of break in. This experience was documented in the police report—which, at the time, Cornwall was happy to let us confirm with the chief along with other unexplained events.
Together with his board members and ministry leaders, Cornwall began a series of special prayers over the building in what today some might call a “cleansing” ceremony to purge the house of worship of malevolent spirits mimicking trickster ghosts or poltergeists (German poltern, “to rumble or make a noise,” and geist, meaning “spirit”—invisible entities that manifest by creating noises or by moving objects around). But the results of these prayers were mixed, and Cornwall could not understand why. Whenever members of the church were inside the building and prayed, the phenomenon stopped. As soon as they would leave the facility, it would start up again. This went on sporadically for some time, until one day the chief—now a member of the church—called Cornwall and asked if he could meet him downtown at the police department, saying he had found something important and wanted the pastor to see it. Arriving on schedule, Cornwall was handed an envelope that contained a copy of the original deed to the church property and other interesting documents. One of these records was very enlightening. It revealed that the structure—which was nearly one hundred years old and had been boarded up for over a decade before the organization Cornwall was a member of purchased it and turned it into a church—had originally been constructed by an occult group as a meeting place for their “order.” It had been dedicated as a residence “for spirits of Lucifer as they move to and fro upon the earth.”
Cornwall was shocked. Legalese existing within the building’s first title and deed provided lodging for satanic spirits. Equally disturbing, the experiences at the church suggested demons were operating under some legal claim to be there.
As soon as possible, a new church was erected across the street from the old one, and subsequently the original building was torn down and an asphalt parking lot was poured over the plot of land on which it had sat for nearly a century. From that day forward, all paranormal activity on the property ceased, and a powerful and important theological proposition was born in Cornwall’s mind—that under certain conditions, Satan and his spirits have legal rights to property and people.
While some may step back at this point and ask what comparable authority over earth Satan continues to hold following the redemptive work of Christ, most scholars agree that until the Second Coming of Jesus and the final judgment of men and angels, this planet remains under limited jurisdiction of Satan as “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and under the influence of “the rulers of the darkness of this world” (Ephesians 6:12). During this time, contracts and covenants with such spirits allowing access or entry into one’s property or life do not have to be officially recorded as in the story of Cornwall’s church above. They can be oral or assumed agreements, not to mention “adverse possession,” or what laymen call “squatter’s rights.” In the physical world, this is when a person openly uses somebody else’s property without contractual permission over such a long period that eventually the “squatter” gains legal claim to the land, due to the original owner not taking legal action against him or her. These are ancient statutory principles that pertain equally to material and spiritual dynamics. They imply that wherever activity favorable to malevolent spirits occurs by consent, is tolerated, or action is not taken to force the “squatter” to cease and desist, footholds and even personal rights can be surrendered to hostile forces over people and locations. This is similar to the contract some make with dark forces as a result of incivility to others.
But what does this have to do with the state of our union?
In my 1998 book, Spiritual Warfare: The Invisible Invasion, I documented how, throughout history, entire geographies became strongholds of demonic activity as a result of what governments and citizens were willing to tolerate in foreign, domestic, public, cultural and social policies. Specifically, I cited biblical examples like the city of Pergamum, which Scripture identified as having become a seat of satanic influence (Revelation 2:12–13). More recent examples would include the history of Nazi Germany and similar cases. This phenomenon—territorial demonization—also occurs on a small scale, wherever space or property (real property including home office space, land, personal property as in possessions, commercial property, public property, and even intellectual property) is provided for purposes hostile to moral or biblical law.
As an example, many years ago as young Christians, my wife Nita and I walked through a local mall during the Christmas season and came upon a New Age bookstore conducting a grand opening. In a derisive tone, I said to Nita, “Can you believe the lack of intelligence of some people?” I strolled casually into the store, snatched a book from the shelf, and began offering sarcastic commentary as I read from its pages. I could tell she was uncomfortable with what I was doing, so I placed the book back on the shelf and proceeded out of the store. Suddenly, a dull sensation hit the pit of my stomach and shot upward through my chest into my cranium. My head started spinning, powerful nausea took hold, my hands began to shake, and I could tell I was about to collapse. It was literally as if something invisible had jumped on me and was injecting rapidly spreading poison throughout my body. Feigning interest in sales items, I moved away from the shoppers and began praying under my breath, asking for forgiveness for my smart attitude, for my lack of caution, and for my lack of concern for the lost. I prayed for deliverance from evil and for healing of my body and mind. After more than an hour of such intercession, I was finally restored. As a young preacher, I discovered a valuable lesson that day: The princes of this world are powerful and territorial, and we should enter spaces that have been dedicated to them only with the proper attitude and when guided by the Lord.
Even then, experiences with exorcism many years later taught me that Satan’s jurisdiction and legal rights to property and people are extrapolated to an entirely different level when the phenomenology involves inner space as opposed to external, physical territory. This is because “habitable space” and spatial occupancy—the amount of substance (or demons, in this case) that can fit into a specific area—are different between material and spiritual dimensions. A unique argument, one that has existed since the Middle Ages and highlights this concept, involves the question of how many angels can fit on the head of a pin, illustrating that even the ancients pondered advanced physics, space-time, quantum gravity densities, relativity theory, and hyperdimensional materiality (though the ancients knew nothing of these terms), allowing for different maximal density of “beings” within what otherwise appears in the physical world to be the same “space.” Dr. Anders Sandberg, in the research paper, “Quantum Gravity Treatment of the Angel Density Problem” for the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, actually derived a number for the density of angels at critical mass that could fit on the head of a pin. He arrived at 8.6766*10exp49 angels (3.8807*10exp-34 kg), thus theoretically fixing through physics how an entire legion of demons (forty-two hundred to fifty-two hundred spirits, plus auxiliaries) in the fifth chapter of the New Testament book of Mark could possess the inner space of a single man. [iv]
An important question related to this mysterious relationship between people surrendering inner and external territory to evil spirits—and the boundaries of that association—involves the difference between those who are deceived into unwittingly giving place to the devil and thus become “demonized,” and those who knowingly form alliances with evil supernaturalism. The contrast between these types of persons may be defined in the most frequent New Testament expressions used to refer to demonic possession: 1) daimonizomai, meaning “to be demonized”; and 2) echon daimonion, which means “having a demon,” and can actually denote a person who possesses the demon, not the other way around. In the Bible, this might describe persons like Saul, who sought out a woman possessed by a “familiar spirit” to summon the deceased Samuel, even though he knew God’s commandment not to allow such practices in Israel (1 Samuel 28), and possibly Judas Iscariot, into whom “Satan entered” (Luke 22:3) as a result of his decision to do what his heart may have told him was betrayal of God. In echon daimonion, it is therefore one of the premises that territory can be surrendered to evil spirits by persons actually reaching out to and “taking hold of the demon” through willingly choosing to do what they otherwise know is satanic (such as Internet “trolling” or sewing discord among friends). That some people are not only aware of this marriage with evil, but energetically nurture it, is difficult for most of us to understand—yet the reality exists and is growing. An example of one such person was brought to us for treatment decades ago while we were still involved with exorcism. It involved a young woman who was released from a mental institution to spend a week under the care of her family, and her family, who sought help from the church because they believed her condition was the result of diabolical possession. Having been approached by a relative of the girl, we were told how, over time, she had become withdrawn and eventually delusional. She began hearing voices and held lengthy conversations with what appeared to be empty rooms. Finally, her condition became so detached from physical reality that she had to be placed in a psychiatric facility. As time went on and her condition worsened, prayer for her by her family was met with hostility and then outright violence, and her parents were desperate for help. After consulting with our group, an agreement was reached to have the young woman brought in for evaluation. We requested privacy and asked that a limited number of family members be present. Her caregiver agreed, and the story of the girl and what happened that week remains private. What we can say is that hers was the only case ever examined by our group in which the rare determination was made that while this person was truly possessed, exorcism was not an option. The simple reason was (the reader would understand if the unthinkable facts could be published) that she actually wanted the demons. They had a right to be there.
Interestingly, some years later, Nita and I were back in the same city and noticed that our host pastor looked tired. We asked him if it had been a busy week, and he proceeded to tell us about an exorcism he had participated in a few days earlier. As he recounted the story of a certain possessed woman and how the church had fasted and prayed for a week, followed by seventeen hours during which a select group of ministers in a private room drove multiple demons from her, we realized he was talking about the girl from the institution. We remained quiet as he repeated the exhausting story, telling of the many personalities and voices they encountered during the drawn-out ritual. He claimed that when the last spirit finally came out of her, she sat up and for the first time appeared lucid. When they asked her if she wanted to accept Jesus as Savior, she began cursing and crying, complaining that he and the others had made her friends go away. Through chest-heaving sobs, she began calling out to unknown persons by name. As she did, the pastor said he felt something move across the room into her. Her eyes rolled back, and once again she lost control of her faculties. The exorcism ended.
While the experience above is a glaring illustration of one aspect of echon daimonion, in which a person seeks out and “possesses the demon,” over the years when on those few occasions we witnessed what was considered authentic possession (as opposed to most cases evaluated as psychological or biological issues), it was typically daimonizomai, wherein the individual did not want to be under the spirit’s influence [… please note the original chapter from which this post originated is much longer in the book When Once We Were A Nation]
FINAL THOUGHT: While it was prophesied that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13), it is our sincere prayer that despite the echon daimonion dark influence that has been invited to settle over Washington, DC and much of organized religion today a spiritual awakening might burst forth from the throne of Grace and bring healing to our land, giving rise once again to a great nation where believers—and even politicians—can express themselves through “Etiquette and Polite Norms.”
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[iii] ScienceDirect, Volume 67, September 2014, Pages 97–102.
[iv] C. Claiborne Ray, “Science Q & A: Dancing Angels,” New York Times (11/11/97). Now at http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume7/v7i3/angels-7-3.htm.