Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Growing up with God is often rough enough, but I also had the opportunity to grow up with his evil counterparts: the Devil and his evil underlings. In a lot of ways, demons were more real to me than God. God never spoke to me, but evil spirits did, and they manifest themselves in a variety of ways, while God never quite managed to solidify as even one satisfying image in my mind. And devils might show up anywhere, during almost any time.

In the very early days, I didn't put as much stock in the supernatural (not counting God, of course) as some of my immediate family. Perhaps it's because didn't watch horror movies, knowing they would scare me. My brother, however, would wake up in the middle of the night to see some little green hobgoblin jump into our chest of drawers. Or he would open his eyes and see Freddy Krueger sitting in our desk chair, right next to our bunk beds, menacingly curling his bladed glove. My sister's visions were even more odd, since they involved seeing me walking through the hallway or hearing my voice in her ear when I was -- in reality -- in the other room sleeping.

As for myself, I've always been able to open my eyes at night and see all kinds of visions: as a kid, little hopping gnomish creatures would appear and -- today -- spiders. I once woke up screaming, thinking our cat was clawing me, and it took a long time to convince me that the cat was outside, since -- even while this was being explained to me -- I felt the pain of claw marks on my skin. But I knew enough about dreams back then to know that that's what they were: nightmares, waking dreams, mind tricks.

Unfortunately, however, simple childhood dreams, in my house, were often given immense power through the backing of religion. (And no wonder, since religions are based on dreams.) Sometimes, luckily, nightmares were quickly and lovingly dismissed as "just a bad dream," but -- other times -- they were not. The Freddy Krueger episode, for example, did not lead to a speech about how maybe my brother shouldn't watch scary movies if he couldn't handle them at age fifteen. Instead, it led to a speech about how God was more powerful than the Devil and that our family, with God's power, could defeat him. I was nine years old and this was happening in my bedroom. I was learning not only that the Devil could bother you at night, but he could do so in the form of a cheesy movie character. I woke up annoyed at all this commotion in the middle of the night, but by the end of the overheard conversation, I was certainly leaning toward the idea that this could be real.

One does not always become more rational or intelligent as one grows up and -- sure enough -- I did eventually buy into the idea that demons existed, even if I could still distinguish dreams (and movies) from reality. Unclean spirits were in the Bible, so I pretty much had to believe in them. So what did I think I was dealing with? The usual: fallen angels. God created angels before he created humans. Lucifer rebelled against God and he became Satan (just as Milton told us). He gathered other angels to his side and, together, they became very interested in sticking it to God by tormenting his beloved humans, looking for bodies to possess and souls to thwart before one day -- at the end of time -- they would be cast into the Lake of Fire.