Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Case of the Deceptive Demonologists

This is a general warning for my friends in the paranormal community. There are deceivers in your midst.

It has of course happened before, I have faced them numerous times. But recently there seems to be a rather large influx of Fundamental Christians who are representing themselves as Paranormal Investigators with advanced training in Demonology. Many of them have internet radio shows and blogs that portray them as paranormal experts; they come into paranormal social media circles innocently enough, but within a few months they become aggressive and dogmatic. Many times they are accusatory or bullying. Their main reason for claiming to be a Paranormal Investigator is to be able to proselytize and do ham fisted bible thumping.

The only problem is that most in this new group of "Paranormal Evangelists" have no biblical understanding or training, and they believe their half cocked assumptions of Scripture are the one and only truth. Additionally they have phony credentials, educational degrees and claims of experience that they flaunt as authentic.

They are in essence a cult in the making.

Recently I have had a few run in's with these "Paranormal Evangelists" within one month, which is quite unusual outside of reader commentary. So it makes me feel as if something is going on. Is this a new movement within fundamental Christianity or just a bunch of messed up an under educated self appointed prophets? I'll explain my recent run in's with the signs that they might actually be a Christian cult in the making...

The first sign that they are indeed a cult is their rabid and closed minded attempts at proselytism.

Now I am a Christian minister and I myself have done a fair bit of evangelism. I ministered to the gangs of Brooklyn's Sunset Park for 4 years in the mid 1980's, was a short term Missionary and in my pastoral experience I have done a fair share of altar calls. I do not guilt any believer of any faith when they try to share their beliefs in order to spread the love and peace that they may have found in their faith. But I have found that in this post-Christian age of rationality the best way anyone can share their faith is to be authentic. To be a friend and act out your faith. To walk in love and actually care. People have heard the words, and have seen people say one thing and do another for centuries. In this disconnected spam and con riddled 21st century people want something that is REAL. They want to see the faith in action, to know that what you believe actually works. So I do not fault anyone for wanting to share their personal beliefs or faith. Evangelism is literally suppose to be a message of "Good News" after all.

This new breed of "Paranormal Evangelists" do not bring good news. Instead of earning the respect of others in order to share such an intimate thing as their faith, they wear their words of dogma as a badge of honor and try to give it to you by force. What is even worse, they attack any views contrary to their own in the face of reason. It doesn't matter if the viewpoint is not an essential part of Christian faith and merely an opinion; if you disagree with them at any point, you are labeled a virtual heretic and a "false teacher".

I ran into a group of these on a Facebook group where I am one of a group of administrators. A grandmother had posted a comment that her grandson was using a phrase that her late grandfather had always said, "Whee Doggies". Her grandfather had died years before. I commented that perhaps the young boy had heard this on a television cartoon show since the old Warner Brothers cartoons have had a recent resurgence and this is a saying that the character Yosemite Sam often says. The woman responded:

No he does not watch old Bugs Bunny shows, he has lived with me since birth, so I know his habits quite well. I am a Lutheran. After my grandpa had died, he woke my grandma up in the middle of the night to tell her the refrigerator was going to catch fire. Sure enough, she got up and it burned her hand when she touched it. Grandma said it was so hot, that it certainly would have caught fire. I believe that grandpa loved us all so much, that he still shows us at times "

one of these "Deceptive Demonologists" immediately replied,

Cindy, according to the Word of God, your grandpa cannot appear again as a spirit in the physical realm once he has passed into eternity. This a deceiving spirit appearing as your grandpa to lead you astray. "

and another person also agreed,

" Have to agree with ****, Sorry guys. To me and my understanding of the Bible (and this is a Christian study group) and I hope I don't offend anyone's belief here, but any ghostly figure masquerading as a dead loved one is nothing more than a demon to make you believe in an New Age Spiritual Afterlife, Demons are very clever and knowledgeable and can and will deceive many of the elite even passing on knowledgeable things that only certain family members would know through ghosts or spirits of dead loved ones or even mediums or psychics. As **** says its all to lead you astray. "

Now nowhere in Scripture does it say that if you have a vision of departed loved one appear to save an entire family from a horrible death you should see that as the manifestation of a deceiving spirit. So of course I replied that Scripture is very vague about ghosts and it appears that not all ghosts are demonic, as in 1 Samuel God sometimes uses the spirits of the deceased for his purpose because He is well..GOD. After this these two went totally crazy from basically calling me a heretic to accusing this grandmother of necromancy. they showed a basic biblical knowledge of Fundamental Christianity, but not a knowledge of traditional Biblical Theology nor the willingness to try to even understand it. A few days later another one of their group attacked another woman and I once again came forward in defense and was assaulted by an insane rant by a fledgling Christian author whose book is about a "REAL" haunted house experience. The oddest one of his assaults was the assumption that I was a woman and I have no right to talk about scripture according to the Bible (alrighty then!) After complaints he had to be banned from the group for harassment.

After this the pastor emeritus of our church received a series of letters from one of these men that tried to persuade the church as to my pastoral status. Our pastor emeritus of course sent these along to me and played along, trying to see where this guy was coming from. He claimed that I was attacking them because they, as evangelists, were trying to share Christ with others (of course since our pastor emeritus has sat through quite a few of my sermons he knew that was a distortion of truth at best).
Of course my church knows me well and all this gentleman did was showcase his own personal problems.
 But one of the most interesting assertions that he proposed in one of these letters and on his online disagreement with me was that I was arrogant by correcting him on the basis of my Theological education in College and Seminary. Everyone can interpret Scripture on his own because according to the Bible the Holy Spirit guides the individual to all truth. This point of his leads me to the next clue that this is a burgeoning cult:

They hold to a dogmatic and exclusive knowledge given to them directly by God.

When I politely corrected them they described it as a "viscous assault". That threw up a red flag. I have observed other of these like minded "evangelists" talk about the witness of the Holy Spirit to their dogma. While the tenants of their dogma is not directly referenced in scripture. It is at best a "doubtful issue" not directly talked about in the Bible. While the Bible does speak of unclean spirits (Matt 3:11; 12:43, Acts 8:7 et al) it does speak of ghosts or spirits in a vague generality with neutral association. Also in 1 Samuel 28 we see the actual spirit of Samuel the prophet brought forth after his death by God to pronounce judgement against King Saul. Therefore all spirits are not evil and God can bring forth a deceased person' spirit for His own purpose. When confronted with this evidence they became violent and accusatory instead of trying to make a rational argument based on the assertions. They accused those who did not agree with them as holding to a "different gospel", a code word for heretic. They resorted to personal attacks and attempts at discrediting the individuals instead of discussing the questions at hand. This is the hallmark of a cult. To have authority the cult leaders do not attempt a logical debate, they attack the people questioning their doctrine and therefore discard the questions as irrelevant due to the nefarious nature of the person raising the issues. Jim Jones did it (and at the beginning he looked very fundamental), Heaven's Gate did it, as do other cults.

In a cult you maintain authority by attacking detractors, just as dictators silence their opposition in a quest for absolute domination.

Another sign that this is a cult is that this group uses deception and lies in order to further their goals.

A few months ago I noticed a pastor making the rounds on social media promoting his $150 a session demonology seminars. I was curious because I had never heard of him before, and many times I have scoured the country trying to find individuals who could point to trained and legitimate local help when it comes to demonic oppression and supposed possession. So I did a little investigation, this person claimed to be a pastor but his church had no address, it only had a post office box (RED FLAG 1). It had no denominational affiliation and did not state that it was an independent church ( RED FLAG 2). Suddenly he began to promote himself as having a Doctor of Divinity and a Doctor of Theology without citing the source of his degrees (RED FLAG 3). After some more digging on the web I found that Pastor Whammo (his last name is that of a famous flying Whammo product we all know and love) received these degrees from the Universal Life Church, which issues non accredited degrees for a nominal fee. Now while I have no problem with people exercising their constitutional right to religion by obtaining an ordination from some of these sites, a degree is something else altogether. People spend  much time and money to get real doctorates and sometimes sacrifice quite a lot for this education. To buy a phony degree and flaunt it as if it is authentic is a lie and deceptive. I don't know about you, but I have a problem with an exorcist who lies and deceives in order to gain credibility. It is an oxymoron. I began to suspect that this "Demonologist" was a fraud and con artist. My suspicions were validated when I came across a local Georgian community forum that focused on Pastor Whammo and his less than stellar history in his community. It turns out he was a politician that had constantly switched affiliation in order to get elected. He was had ties to a pyramid scheme in which his associates faced felony indictments for theft. Once he claimed to be a pastor, many in his community and on this forum questioned his claims to be a pastor; he said that he was ordained years prior. But he constantly refused to produced any documents that backed up his claims. Lastly prior to his sudden appearance on the scene as a demonologist and exorcist he had no history in any of the areas in which he claimed expertise.

He was a con artist.

There are many like this in the Christian church, I have met people who claim to be Evangelists after speaking at a few men's breakfasts. While they claim to be doing this "ministry" for the betterment of mankind they have ulterior motives.

Which leads to the last sign that this unaffiliated group is a cult: they are motivated by money.

Go to any phony ministry's website and you will see one thing that is common to all of them. They ask for money.  Be it a PayPal donation button or a paragraph plea with a P.O.Box where you can send a check, they all want your cash. If they were legitimate religious minister they would have a source of funding through their congregation or denomination. That they have to ask the general public for donations to continue their "ministry" speaks volumes. Like the disgraced televangelists of the past they prey on the unsuspecting and ignorant in order to enrich their coffers. Rather than relying on legitimate employment to support themselves (which many ministers of small congregations or independent churches do) they choose to deceive and manipulate the weak taking funds from those who can least afford to give.

Of course the church has had problems with false prophets from it's inception. Consider this from the early church document "The Sheperd of Herma" written in 100-10 A.D.

In the first place, that man who seemeth to have a spirit exalteth himself, and desireth to have a chief place, and straight-way he is impudent and shameless and talkative and conversant in many luxuries and in many other deceits and receiveth money for his prophesying, and if he receiveth not, he prophesieth not. Now can a divine Spirit receive money and prophesy? It is not possible for a prophet of God to do this, but the spirit of such prophets is earthly.

In the next place, it never approacheth an assembly of righteous men; but avoideth them, and cleaveth to the doubtful-minded and empty, and prophesieth to them in corners, and deceiveth them, speaking all things in emptiness to gratify their desires; for they too are empty whom it answereth. For the empty vessel placed together with the empty is not broken, but they agree one with the other.

But when he comes into an assembly full of righteous men who have a Spirit of deity, and intercession is made from them, that man is emptied, and the earthly spirit fleeth from him in fear, and that man is struck dumb and is altogether broken in pieces, being unable to utter a word.
(1[43]:12 to 1[43]:14 translation by J.B.Lightfoot )

My friends, be wary of wolves in sheep's clothing. They do NOT represent the Christian community as a whole.

Until Next Time,
Pastor Swope

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Slenderman Book

My new book "Slenderman: From Fiction to Fact" is available from Amazon now.  
Chapters include:

The Internet Myth

Mythos growth

Historical Archetypes for Slenderman

Real Slenderman encounters

Of phantasm and fantasy

How to fight Slenderman

Right now you can buy it at Amazon for $10: