Thursday, June 15, 2006

Religious Others as "Satanic" and the Paranoid Worldview

I was intrigued last semester by some of my Old Testament professor's thinking on Satan in the Old Testament, and by extension, the topics of the demonic and the principalities and powers in the New Testament. One of the books he recommended to explore this topic was Nigel Wright's The Satan Syndrome: Putting the Power of Darkness In Its Place (Acadamie Books, 1990). I recently finished the book and found an interesting quote in chapter 9, under the subheading "The identity of the enemy:"

Here we need to return to what we have described elsewhere as the 'paranoid worldview'. All of us, under pressure, will resort to paranoid attitudes. We will identify our enemies and blame them for our misfortune. So we will gain a degree of personal relief because we feel we have bottomed the situation. Paranoia pushes the blame on to another and enables us to feel relatively blameless. It is a psychological defence mechanism which helps us preserve an inner sense of being in the right. When spiritual warfare leads to our becoming paranoid about individuals, or groups of individuals we need to be wary. Paranoia and love cannot coexist. In naming the power of Islam, or witchcraft, or spiritualism as 'satanic', it becomes difficult to view those who are involved in these activities in any other way than as enemies. It erects a barrier between them and us which becomes difficult to cross, since fear and love do not easily dwell together. In denoting any of the structures of society as demonic we need to guard that we do not 'demonise' those who are involved in them. In the first chapter we referred to the witchcraft crazes of former generations, a horrible example of this tendency.

1 comment:

philjohnson said...

Part of the remedy for the tendency of "demonising" others involves an ability to engage in critical self-reflection. If we internalise in our thoughts and actions the uniqueness and particularity of Christ but do so to the exclusion of other biblical matters, then we may very well incline to demonise people without much discrimination in our discernment and thinking and behaviour.

The other vital factor is surely that the life lived is in obedience to Christ, and that entails the fruit of the spirit being manifested: love, joy, peace, patience and so forth. If our attitudes and behaviour are not manifesting the fruit of the spirit, then we do need to be introspective about our habits and thoughts.