How the Church Confronts Evil

Pure evil. Is it on the rise? How are churches handling the public’s curiosity or concern about the presence of evil in our world?

Public interest is intensifying. The horror of another mass shooting causes many to ask questions about evil influences. They wonder where God is when evil erupts in ghastly ways.

While events such as the Orlando massacre cause many to ponder evil, research shows that a diminishing number people today believe in an evil being–Satan. A Harris poll found that 58 percent believe in the devil, down 4 percent since 2005.

But the devil and demons continue to fascinate the populace. The exorcism film The Conjuring 2 drew top box office crowds to its opening. The movie’s story is based on “The Enfield Poltergeist,” which allegedly bedeviled the home of Peggy Hodgson in Enfield, England, from 1977-’79. The BBC reported on the Enfield case in a documentary that is now circulating on the internet again. See a clip here:

A YouGov survey found that 51 percent of Americans said people can be possessed by the devil or “some other evil spirit.” And 46 percent believe in the power of exorcism.

So, how is the church responding to these evil and demonic suppositions in the public discourse? “We’re not doing enough,” says Fr. Gary Thomas from the Diocese of San Jose, California. He believes satanic activity is on the rise today, partly due to people’s growing “apathy” toward matters of faith and the church. He says the church needs to address issues of evil head-on.

He has some personal experience in this frightening realm. Fr. Thomas is a practicing exorcist. In fact, his story inspired the best-selling book The Rite, and the movie of the same name, starring Anthony Hopkins.

I talked with Fr. Thomas for the Holy Soup podcast. He mentioned a number of things he’s observed about those who show signs of being overcome with evil or demonic possession. He said, “Satan is more attracted to people who have broken relationships–or no relationships.” This is certainly an area that churches and all Christ-followers can address.

Evil is real. Increasingly the culture senses a palpable darkness surrounding us. But it will not prevail. We are assured in 1 John 4:4: “The Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.”

Fr. Thomas said, “The demons and Satan are gradually dying. Satan is defeated by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.” That’s the hope the world is dying to hear.

And that is the assurance that allows Fr. Thomas to continue his often harrowing work. I asked if he fears the evil he encounters in exorcisms. He said, “I’ve never felt fear. I am not afraid.”

Listen to the entire conversation with Fr. Thomas here on the Holy Soup podcast:

14 Responses to “How the Church Confronts Evil”

  1. Powerful! We are thinking in the same direction. I’m working on a new book and just wrote a chapter about fighting the demons. Then I posted this on Facebook yesterday.
    “Question:What causes shootings?
    Answer: People listening to demons speaking in their thoughts (and in the media they consume) and eventually obeying the evil that they allow demons to dump in their mind and heart.”

  2. Wow! Fascinating interview. I’ll be sharing it. Great job!!

    >

  3. Thom didn’t do this, but sometimes we look at opinion poll results as if they create reality. “…people are entitled to their own beliefs, they are not entitled to their own truth. Simply believing something doesn’t make it true.” From: Questioning the Bible: 11 Major challenges to the Bible’s Authority
    My college philosophy professor did think that believing makes it true — e.g. if everyone believes the moon is made of cotton candy, then it is. We butted heads. 🙂

  4. controversialchristian1 Reply June 15, 2016 at 10:53 am

    I have written a 3 parter on my blog about the Paranormal. I’m putting the third part up soon.

  5. While it may be true that” a diminishing number people today believe in an evil being–Satan” I wonder what the poll results would be if asked: Do you believe in a dark side of The Force?

  6. Michael commented on Facebook: “Hmm! Never read in the Gospels where Jesus cast or exercised the Devil from anyone!”

    • Ellen replied on Facebook: “Just a few versus for you. There is much more. Jesus did cast out demons…Luke 11:14…Matthew 8:16…Mark 1:34…Mark 1:39…Luke 4:35…Matthew 8:32…”

  7. Mark 5:1-20
    Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man

  8. Here in the modern times, they’ve written off a lot of what was thought of as demon possession as mental disorders, treatable by medicine. If you look at people on the far, far right or far far left, you will find these people are living in a bubble only being exposed to one set of views and thinking. My mom exposes herself to all these prophesy programs and gets very paranoid about things going on in light of that one view. These Islam lunatics are people who are only being exposed to that one sided view of the world from that one extreme perspective. We all live in our own bubbles and we all think our bubble encompasses more than one singular world view. There are just as extremist Christians as Islams but at least Christians beliefs don’t push them to go off and kill others who refuse to believe like Islam. The extreme of both Christianity and Islam does not make a person with a healthy state of mind. If these gods are real, let them do their own dirty work. I’ve yet to see either religions god kill off sinners nor save those they supposedly love from being killed by other people. Talk about lazy and good for nothing.

    • controversialchristian1 Reply June 18, 2016 at 11:10 am

      Extremist Muslims murder ‘in the name of God’. Extremist Christians in the US use Americanism mixed with a curious brand of Christian faith to excuse dropping bombs on people ‘in the name of freedom and democracy’. Religion and politics are a very dangerous mix everywhere. In both cases, ‘faith’ is used for empire building and far right political machinations.

  9. Ryan that sounds like an analysis of religion by an agnostic or atheist. Do you view Jesus as just a good man or moral teacher, or as the Son of God?
    https://www.cru.org/how-to-know-god/who-is-jesus-god-or-just-a-good-man.html

  10. Excellent topic! Thank you so much for this interesting topic.

  11. People who have studied the “witch burnings” of the Christian church from years ago have concluded that the people who were deemed “witches” were most likely suffering from autism. Thank God for the education and enlightenment that we have today.

    • controversialchristian1 Reply June 20, 2016 at 10:27 am

      And in the UK, the witch burnings often involved religious nutters going from town to town making a killing’ from witch finding (pun intended) and usually picking on people who had no social standing or just old people minding their own business. Have a look at Mathew Hopkins’ illustrious career. It also flared up during the English Civil War when there was little policing anywhere because people were preoccupied killing each other.

      Equally, you may be interested to know that humid places across Europe, that made wheat deteriorate and contain a strain of LSD in the bread baked from it, also had higher cases of witch persecution, too.

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