So, things are so bad that people are getting killed in churches and pastors are committing sex crimes against children. And let’s not even begin to look at all the scandals among entertainers and politicians. People think that horror movies are scary. Heck, the stuff on my Facebook feed makes Freddie Kruger look like Tinkerbelle.
After listening to a podcast with Antiochian Bishop John, I kinda wonder if these horrific acts of sex and violence are due to the fact that people are spiritually empty and fail to fill themselves with holiness. Consider porn; here it is someone watches that stuff as if the woman is really pleasing him. The fact is that the viewer is just getting high off of the lady that she doesn’t know and is being used. The viewer’s soul is still empty as there is no real love being shared. If this continues, he (or she) will either spiritually starve to death. Or, Satan may make an example of the viewer and lead him (her) to some form of immorality or crime. Not all viewers become rapist and molesters. But, as long as there are some examples of the worst behavior, too many are satisfied with their “not that bad” habits.
The same can be said for gun violence. It is true that most gun owners are law abiding citizens. And I am all for people taking self-defense training, if they so choose. But, one thing that is driving many people to gun ownership is a fear. When the gun becomes the source of security, the owner is not satisfied with something basic for a well trained self defender. He (she) needs something more powerful because the bad guys have better guns. Along with this fear is that someone is out to do them wrong or has done them wrong and they need to pre-emptively attack the enemy, or avenge their self-esteem. Perhaps some increase of gun control laws, or better enforcement of the checks and balances that are already in place can help prevent more of these crimes. Then again, a knife in the hands of the fearful and vengeful can still kill someone. Even if no killing is involved, the fearful and vengeful soul decays and rots into something ungodly as it dies.
Jesus taught that when an unclean spirit leaves a man, it eventually returns to where it came from. Finding the place empty and neat, it brings back seven other spirits worse than its self. In the end, the man is worse off than before (Matthew 12:43-45). Could this be what happened to the three pastors in Ohio who sold girls as sex slaves? Could this be the case with the man in Texas who killed people who were in worship? Of course, the criminal justice investigators, law enforcement, even psychiatrist all have their answers. But, I believe that there are demons who are willing to leave people alone for a while in expectation that the people they lived in will not fill their souls with anything that will lead them to salvation. And when proven right, they further lead their host to spiritual decay, or destroy them all at once.
This is why it is so important for us to spend time devoted to prayer, reading the Bible and holy writings from the fathers, worship, and compassionate service to others. When we intentionally take time out of our day to do these things, we fill ourselves up with the Holy Spirit. We cannot digest something as challenging as St. John Callimachus’s Ladder of Divine Ascent in one setting. Even the entire Gospel of John is a bit much to take in all at once. But, Father Seraphim Rose, as well as other monks throughout the ages, recommend that we make time to take a little bit of spiritual nourishment each day. Each of us can find a corner in a room and cut out a little entertainment time for prayer. We can surround ourselves with uplifting music, images, and words to counter all of the negativity we have been assaulted with throughout the day. And there is someone that we can do something good for, often right under our noses.
The vicious cycle of unclean spirits is real. We can only overcome them with souls full of holiness. Even if we fall, we have enough of the Lord’s presence that we can repent, get back up, and grow stronger.