Ask Christine O'Donnell the Right Questions - Not if She is a Witch
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Sep 23, 2010 at 12:33:27 PM EST
The important question is not whether Christine O'Donnell is a witch, but does she believe the mythology spread by some evangelical preachers that Satan worshippers (which they call witches) are sacrificing thousands of humans in the woods outside our homes. Does she share the beleaguered worldview of those who think that demonically possessed humans are intentionally destroying America?

Throughout history witches have been accused of societal misfortunes from crop failure to car accidents.  These episodes tell us more about the people doing the scapegoating than they do the people being scapegoated.  Likewise, the current fixation with Satan worshippers should lead us to dialogue about the demon-obsessed state of the Religious Right, not on a hunt for witches. In my opinion, today's charismatic `prayer warrriors' and their obsession with witches and demons, serves to make it socially acceptable to demonize certain groups of people.  If your enemy is demonic, any action against him is permissible.

According to a Christianity Today article (Sept. 2001),
"Stunning numbers of North American Christians believe that demons may be at the root of apparently natural maladies and temptations."
 Charismatic `spiritual warriors' like those of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) present this demonology in terms of fighting witchcraft, which in this context refers to possession by demons or those they claim are in the service of demons. NAR leaders gain credibility through telling of their encounters with Satan worshippers or, even better, having defeated them in spiritual warfare.  As Bruce Wilson has pointed out, tales of witch hunts are a badge of honor for the NAR's leading apostles and prophets.

Ted Haggard, the Charismatic former president of the National Association of Evangelicals (before his scandal) and one of the pioneers in the formation of the NAR, burnished his image with claims of encounters with witches.  This past week a popular Christian radio personality and Christian rock star who has been supported by politicians including Michele Bachmann, claimed that government officials are covering up the abduction of thousands of people snatched for ritual murders.  This is a widely preached (and demonstrably false) claim spread by numerous Charismatic leaders.  

Some of these leaders claim to have been former Satan worshippers.  Like being a former drug addict or alcoholic this provides credentials.  The worse the background, the more miraculous one's salvation, and the more proof that they were chosen by God to be endowed with supernatural gifts.

The Growing Obsession with Demons

Christianity Today's 2001 article Possession or Obsession, referenced above,
credits charismatics with introducing this new view of spiritual warfare and dates its current popularity as beginning in the 1970s.

"And then in the early to mid-'70s, untold numbers of Americans, many of them staunchly middle class, the kind of people you might chat with at the supermarket checkout counter or bump into at a local mall, became convinced that they or their loved ones were suffering from demonic affliction.

Supply followed demand, and 600 evangelical deliverance ministries--"quite possibly two or three times this many"--have sprouted by this year, Cuneo [Michael Cuneo, author of American Exorcism] told Christianity Today."

The article's author credited growth in the belief that Christians can be possessed by demons to several prolific evangelical authors including C. Peter Wagner, Mark I. Bubeck, Frank E. Peretti, and others.  The article was published in 2001, just as Wagner was declaring the advent of the New Apostolic Reformation.

This belief that literal demons can enter the bodies of Christians has created a atmosphere of paranoia and and a continuous siege mentality.

The Christian Research Institute (CRI), founded by the late Walter Martin and now headed by Hank Hanegraaff, also describes the current obsession with spiritual warfare and demonic deliverance ministries as introduced in the 1970s.  An article titled "Deliverance Ministry in Historical Perspective" by David Powlison points out the influence of  charismatic leaders including Don Basham, author of the 1972 best-selling Deliver Us From Evil, and his collegues Bob Mumford and Derek Prince.

These three were part of the Ft. Lauderdale Five or the Ft. Lauderdale Shepherds, and were major proponents of spiritual warfare and the belief that Christians can harbor demons.  Their ministry was called the Holy Spirit Teaching Mission and later Christian Growth Ministries, and was best known for teaching `shepherding' also described as `discipleship.'  They mentored many of today's Charismatic leaders.

CRI also examines a non-charismatic branch of demonology that formed among dispensationalists centered at Dallas Theological Seminary and Moody Bible College and list examples of their writing from the 1970s and 1980s but describes this movement as more restrained, "operating more through private pastoral counseling and prayer than via extraordinary encounters with demons."

CRI goes on to explain that the notion of territorial spirits and belief that demons hold entire cities or regions hostage is

"a recent innovation within third wave teaching.  The third wave was centering around Fuller Theological Seminary and the Vineyard movement.  Well-known leaders including the late John Wimber, C. Peter Wagner, Charles Kraft, John White, and Wayne Grudem, and distinctive emphases include `signs and wonders' church growth and third world missions.

It is from this "third wave" that C. Peter Wagner developed the New Apostolic Reformation, one of the larger networks in the international wave of apostolic and prophetic movements.  A significant component of the larger movement is strategic level spiritual warfare (SLSW), or the battle against various tiers of demons, from those who supposedly inhabit humans to those who reign over entire nations and ethnic groups.

Satanic Panic

Did interest in the demonic increase due to Hollywood's movies like "The Exorcist,"  or was Hollywood motivated by the increased interest in the demonic?  In the year before movie before and the year during the 1973 release of "The Exorcist," Don Basham published his Deliver Us From Evil (1972),  Frank and Ida Mae Hammond published Pigs in the Parlor: A Practical Guide to Deliverance (1973) and John Hagee published Invasion of Demons (1973). The Hammond's book included a chapter on treating schizophrenia through deliverance from demons.

This obsession with the demonic was followed by waves of 'Satanic Panic' and the belief in widespread Satanic ritual abuse (SRA).  In addition to evangelists preaching about demons and Hollywood's sensational movies, some psychologists and social workers bought into the concept of SRA and began teaching seminars to emergency workers, counselors, and parents.

By the 1980s a string of cases, now largely discredited, were brought against nursery school employees and owners, including the McMartin family who were accused  abusing children as part of Satanic ritual abuse. By the early 1990s the SRA panic spread to England.  The press, largely unquestioning, published incredible tales of secret underground tunnels, rituals, cannibalism, and the abuse of thousands of children.

The Los Angeles Times later reported,

More than most big stories, McMartin at times exposed basic flaws in the way contemporary news organizations function.  Pack journalism. Laziness. Superficiality....  As most reporters now sheepishly admit - and as the record clearly shows - the media frequently plunged into hysteria, sensationalism and what one editor calls ` a lynch mob syndrome.'

In his 1993 book Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend, author Jeffrey S. Victor concludes:

The ritual abuse scare is the social creation of a late twentieth century witch hunt.  There is no verifiable evidence for claims about a Satanic cult ritual abuse conspiracy.  However there is abundant evidence that an increasing number of moral crusaders are creating a form of deviant behavior, which exists only in their preconceptions.  The victims of this rush to judgement include children who are traumatized by the emotional overreaction and repeated interrogations by well-meaning child protection workers.  The victims include children who are taken away from parents who have been falsely accused of ritual sex abuse.

Law enforcement investigations have also found that there is no evidence to support the existence of SRA cult groups.  Nevertheless the claims have continued.  In John Hagee's 1997 Day of Deception he claims,

"Female Satanists breed themselves to give birth to children for ritual offerings.  Doctors in the satanic groups deliver the baby, filing no birth certificate.  As far as the state is concerned, the person never existed... The baby is ritually slaughtered, cremated, and the fat is used to make candles for satanic worship at a later date...."

"The most disturbing reason that you don't read more about the epidemic in your local newspaper is because some publishers, city fathers, and even police officers are occasionally involved in some occult practice themselves."

This week radio personality and Christian rock bank leader Bradlee Dean claimed that the Department of Justice and FBI is forced by people above them to cover up ritual sacrifice of children.

"America, we're talking about 58,000 children in this country that have been ripped off, out of your country, by forces behind this government stealing children."
The guest on the show was Judith Reisman, a Jewish culture warrior, leader of the anti-Kinsey movement (and endorser of Scott Lively's The Pink Swastika) who spouted other right wing mythology, claiming that the cover up is because of gays and is, at the same time, empowering "a Muslim takeover of the country."

You can listen to the audio at the Dump Bachmann website.  Michele Bachmann has supported Bradlee Dean's band Junkyard Prophets, which is part of his You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, Inc. ministry, including a $50 dollar a plate fundraiser last November, which was advertised as:

Hear exciting news about our expanding vision and listen live as keynote speaker Congresswomen Michele Bachmann & Bradlee Dean empower patriots to be on the offense.

The "expanding vision" of the band includes evangelizing at more public schools.  They have been featured at paid performances at numerous public schools across the country in recent years as part of character training, suicide prevention, and programming to fight drug and alcohol use.  

Rep. Michele Bachmann participated in the anti-healthcare Prayercast which included Randy Forbes, Jim DeMint, and Sam Brownback and also Tony Perkins and NAR apostles Harry Jackson and Lou Engle.  Both Engle and Jackson have described homosexuality as demonic.  Jackson was quoted in Charisma,

"Gays have been at the helm of a fourfold strategy for years, but the wisdom behind their spiritual, cultural,  political and generational tactics is clearly satanic."

And of course, if your enemy is satanic, then anything you do to combat that enemy is justified.

Vomiting Demons

The 2001Christianity Today article featured a small church in Indiana where participants regularly expelled demons in the form of vomit into paper towels. In 2008, Matt Taibbi wrote about his participation in a weekend seminar sponsored by John Hagee's Cornerstone Church at which participants vomited up what was supposed to be various demons into paper bags, a practice now surprisingly widespread.  

A church whose school students provided a display on the Holocaust for Hagee's recent Christians United for Israel summit in Washington, D.C., is well known for teaching `blasting.'  This is the practice of a groups of people holding down the supposedly afflicted person and screaming at them, sometimes for hours, until the demons are expelled from that adult or child.

Various 'holy spirit outbreaks' around the country have featured faith healers who claim to heal through expelling demons, sometimes striking the patient.  In articles posted on in 2008, Bruce Wilson and I wrote about the participation of Sr. Pastor Ed Kalnins, of Wasilla AOG, at both Todd Bentley's faith healing revival in Florida and the simultaneous 'outpouring' at Rick Joyner's MorningStar Ministries in Ft. Mill, South Carolina.  The latter was also the destination of a trip by youth from Wasilla AOG.    Bruce Wilson included footage of the outpouring at MorningStar Ministries in his video Sarah Palin's Churches, Thomas Muthee, Witchcraft, and the Third Wave.

There are now deliverance centers, and faith healing centers around the country, which expel demons, including hundreds of centers under the authority of the NAR apostles.

Witch Hunting in the Transformations Series of Movies

The Transformations movies have been shown throughout the U.S. and all over the world and have resulted in numerous Transformation entities including those under the authority of Ed Silvoso's International Transformation Network, Luis Bush's Transform World, and the Transformation Associates of George Otis, Jr.  These Transformation entities are located on all the inhabited continents and have close ties with government and religious leaders in several countries including Uganda.

Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family and C Street, recently criticized the Economist for their factually challenged coverage of the anti-gay bill proposed in the Ugandan Parliament.  From the Economist:

"Then there is the question of class... The cabal of civil servants, soldiers and businessmen who dominate the golf and social clubs of Nairobi and Kampala... are mostly Anglican and Roman Catholic and are unlikely to be be swayed by the casting out of demons."

Sharlet countered this with his personal interviews of Ugandan Anglican leaders but there is much more evidence to support the fact these Ugandan leaders and their American counterparts do practice casting out demons as well as other strategic level spiritual warfare.  In fact the schism of the American Episcopal church has been impacted by spiritual warfare and even The Transformations movies.

For instance, the NAR's first The Transformations movie was the focus of a SOMA (an Anglican Communion charismatic renewal group founded in 1985) conference in Cape Town, South Africa titled "Beyond 2000 - Community Transformation."  Charismatics from the Anglican Communion came from the U.S. and other countries for days of sessions with producer George Otis, Jr. and the stars of this first Transformations movie that had been released in 1999.  (This movie included Thomas Muthee although he was not one of the speakers at the conference.)

This SOMA conference has become something of a legend in the charismatic world as it is credited with eventually resulting in the South Africa based Global Day of Prayer, founded by the head of the African division of International Transformation Network, Graham Power.  John Guernsey, an Episcopal priest whose initial interest in The Transformations led to the SOMA conference, is now a bishop for Uganda representing the American congregations who have split from the Episcopal church to join with African Anglicans under Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi.  A SOMA newsletter preceding the 2000 event states, "John Guernsey shared a copy of an audio tape and a booklet produced by George Otis, Jr. that tells of the work of transformation taking place in Cali, Colombia with the SOMA Executive Group who were on a retreat he was conducting for us.  God then began to stir within our hearts a vision for a consultation which is now fast taking shape."

The SOMA leader for the U.S. described working with Francis Frangipane and Rick Joyner, both New Apostolic leaders, as well as other sessions held in the U.S. with George Otis, Jr. and Alistair Petrie prior to the 2000 event in Africa.  The Canadian Apostle Petrie was also speaker at the SOMA event in 2000 describes his mandate as recruiting Episcopalians and Anglicans.  Note that Petrie also shared a stage with former Senator Rick Santorum when Santorum spoke to a "Transformational Summit" in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.  The title of Santorum's session was "Partnership Between Ministry and Government Leaders."

Since the SOMA event in 2000, the series of Transformation movies have been viewed by churches of numerous denominations around the globe and have inspired the formation of Transformation entities, some of which are listed in the Resource Directory for the New Apostolic Reformation linked in the left panel of this website.  Spiritual mapping has been used in the renewal groups of Mainline Protestant churches to target their gay populations as being demonically controlled.

The Transformationmovies demonstrate the concept of spiritual warfare with smiling faces, dancing, and happy people claiming that their communities have been miraculously transformed. They celebrate unity and the breaking down of racial and denominational barriers.  However, if you look beyond the celebrations, there is a recurrent theme that mini-utopias can be achieved if the demons preventing the utopia are purged from a community.  In these movies the demons are portrayed as grotesque and demonic witches and warlocks. Since they are fully demonic, it is acceptable to pray for and celebrate their demise. Their demise is required to bring about the miraculous claimed in the movies, such as healing of diseases like AIDS.  

It is my opinion that this is a technique which gradually teaches well intended viewers that it is acceptable and holy, to pray for the purging from society, or even death, of other human beings, if they are viewed as an obstacle to Christian dominion.

I don't believe that this is a far-fetched notion if taken in context of the media and actions of the movement's apostles.  Neighborhoods and campuses have been spiritually mapped and are regular prayer walked by people who believe they are battling the demons. Top NAR leaders fly around the world, claiming to supernaturally bring about the destruction of icons and property of other religions.  They claim their prayers can kill, not only 'witches,' but people such as Mother Teresa whom they associated with the Queen of Heaven, a demonic principality.

The impact of this Western-sourced brand of spiritual warfare is impacting nations like Uganda, considered the NAR's great success and prototype.  As pointed out in a diary, this brand of spiritual warfare is not a resurgence of indigenous beliefs, and may be playing a role in the demonization of children in places like Nigeria. While Africans had their own beliefs in the spirit world, scholars have described the current wave of deliverance ministries as a `neo-witch' mentality, brought to Africa through Charismatic missions. In Spiritual Mapping in the United States and Argentina, 1989 - 2005: A Geography of Fear, author Rene Holvast describes spiritual mapping, as "an expression of Americanism, as well as the socio-political concept of Manifest Destiny and U.S. religious marketing."

The strategic level spiritual warfare techniques promoted by C. Peter Wagner, George Otis, Jr. and others, have been so controversial throughout the evangelical world that a special Lausanne Movement consultation in Nairobi in 2000, titled "Deliver Us From Evil," was held to examine the pros and cons of this new missions methodology. The participants in the Lausanne Movement are evangelists, intent on converting the entire world.  Even so, this consultation resulted in a number of warnings about the use of this new brand of spiritual warfare.  Other missionaries viewed the practice as simply subsuming animist culture but demonizing the existing spirits and gods of native cultures which had been believed to be neutral or ambivalent and not actively evil.  A review of the controversial consultation published by World Vision described the work of  Charles Kraft, another Fuller Theological Seminary professor of Church Growth who is credited with popularizing the "Third Wave" along with C. Peter Wagner and John Wimber.

"Chuck Kraft advocated a militant model of spiritual warfare.  He defines conversion as a change of power:  This results in Christian activities, such as healing, dedicating and blessing, which look very much like those of animists--except that the source of the power is God rather than Satan."

Richard Bartholomew, writing for has quoted his university mentor Paul Gifford, author of African Christianity: It's Public Role:

...this stress on demons is also an important strand in American Pentecostalism. We have argued that authors like Peter Wagner, Derek Prince and the Hammonds cannot be ignored in any discussion of the contemporary formulation and legitimation of Africa's contemporary deliverance theology.

Since 2000, these American-based Charismatic spiritual warfare practices have become increasingly popular around the globe.

All of this was well known, at least in certain sectors of the evangelical world, before Thomas Muthee anointed Sarah Palin at Wasilla Assembly of God in 2005.  Nevertheless mainstream journalists belittled those of us arguing that Sarah Palin's association with well-known NAR leaders and self-described witch hunters, deserved closer inspection.

After the 2008 election was over Charisma magazine featured an article titled "The Faith of Sarah Palin" in which it was claimed that Palin was "vilified by the media" for her religion.  The January 2009 article included confirmation that Palin was mentored by Mary Glazier, including during the 2008 elections, and Glazier was described as receiving a "word of knowledge about Palin being called to impact the nation." "Word of knowledge" is lingo for receiving a prophecy from God. However there was no mention in the article of Glazier or other Palin supporters being apostles in the NAR's International Coalition of Apostles (ICA).  In 2008 both Stephen Strang, whose Strang Communications publishes Charisma, and editor Lee Grady, were listed as ICA apostles, but the articles about Palin never mentioned this fact, nor did they mention that others praising Palin in the articles, such as Harry Jackson and Sam Rodriguez, are also ICA apostles. (Grady is the former editor of the publication of Maranatha, the now defunct campus ministry led by Bob Weiner, now also an ICA apostle.)  

Apparently anything, including taking dominion over the Seven Mountains, as well as the demonization of others, is considered off limits to criticism, if done in the name of religion.  Even some progressive writers have questioned if Sarah Palin's religious background should be scrutinized, although the NAR is as much a political movement as it is religious, and openly attacks separation of church and state.  

Many journalists writing about Palin got caught up in her Pentecostal background, but the NAR is a movement outside of traditional Pentecostal denominations and in conflict with some stated beliefs of these denominations. That has not stopped many Pentecostal churches, like Wasilla AOG, from openly embracing the movement. Furthermore the NAR is a movement that has declared a goal of eradicating all other religions and creating a post-denominational Christianity.  It is certainly not anti-religious to warn others about this movement.  Articles on this topic at were often taken more seriously by conservative evangelicals (who feel their churches are threatened by the NAR) than they were by mainstream journalists.

Lance Wallnau, one of the lead promoters of the Seven Mountains campaign, explained to the Wasilla AOG congregation that stealth evangelism is required to advance the movement's goals.  Journalists can not expect New Apostolic leaders to spell out their Christian dominionist agenda in interviews.  Their intentions have been openly stated, but to find them requires reading their books, watching their sermons, conferences and other media, and monitoring their political activism.

Witches and witchcraft are taken very seriously by much of today's demon-haunted Religious Right. Their claims that America is under assault by demonic beings opens the door to demonization of targeted groups of people in our society. O'Donnell should be questioned if she views other Americans as demonic, not asked if she is a witch.

But it would be very nice if you could provide sources for the things you mention in the following paragraph:

Ted Haggard, the Charismatic former president of the National Association of Evangelicals (before his scandal) and one of the pioneers in the formation of the NAR, burnished his image with claims of encounters with witches.  This past week a popular Christian radio personality and Christian rock star who has been supported by politicians including Michele Bachmann, claimed that government officials are covering up the abduction of thousands of people snatched for ritual murders.  This is a widely preached (and demonstrably false) claim spread by numerous Charismatic leaders.  

I can source your first sentence:  According to Soldiers of Christ: Insider America's Most Powerful Megachurch by Jeff Sharlet, Harper's Magazine, November 2, 2006:  "He sent teams to pray in front of the homes of supposed witches -- in one month, ten out of fifteen of his targets put their houses on the market. His congregation 'prayer-walked' nearly every street of the city."

Who is the "popular Christian radio personality and Christian rock star" you mentioned?

by Diane Vera on Fri Sep 24, 2010 at 12:33:56 AM EST

It's in the section called "Satanic Panic", a couple of paragraphs down.

by phatkhat on Fri Sep 24, 2010 at 02:41:33 AM EST

Sorry to take so long to respond.  I was traveling yesterday after posting the story, and again today.  I am also going to add some more links.

There is a lot information out there on Bradlee Dean including quite a bit of video and audio.  Dean and his band have been supported by Michele Bachmann and several other politicians. The Dump Bachmann website has been monitoring this closely.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Fri Sep 24, 2010 at 04:50:19 PM EST

Diane, I was referencing Jeff Sharlet's interview but I also have most (maybe all) of Ted Haggard's books.  Haggard writes about fighting witches in some of these.  I will have to look for the exact books and pages, but in one, I believe Primary Purpose, he actually claims that cattle mutilations decreased after they drove  witches out of town.

It continues to amaze me that Haggard avoided being connected to the New Apostolic Reformation despite his major role as one of the pioneers and his partnership with Wagner in the World Prayer Center.  I am looking at my copy of Primary Purpose (1995).  Leading the endorsements (alphabetical) is Mike Bickle, and also included are Dick Eastman, Cindy Jacobs, George Otis, Jr, C. Peter Wagner and Doris Wagner.  Somehow these people are invisible to the press.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Fri Sep 24, 2010 at 05:05:40 PM EST

His claim about cattle mutilations is on page 43 in Primary Purpose.  In this book Haggard also writes about his vision of demons being attached to newborn of parents who are not born again (page 154) and describes leading a team of 31 people on a strategic level spiritual warfare venture in Albania in 1993 (page 167).  

Like Wagner, Haggard includes Masonic lodges in his list of demonic power points.  Again, it is incredible that he was president of the National Association of Evangelicals, supposedly on the phone with the White House weekly, and his involvement in the NAR has hardly been publicized.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Fri Sep 24, 2010 at 05:48:28 PM EST

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