When Demons Are Real

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SOME months ago, on a warm Friday evening in Accra, Ghana, I found myself in an all-night prayer session with a charismatic evangelical church. All-night prayer has become wildly popular in the city, somewhat to the distress of those who object to the late-night noise, which rivals that of an American frat party.

But the people who attend love them, because the long stretch of time allows them to pray more intensely than a mere two-hour Sunday morning service will allow. On this Friday night, the focus of our prayers was a story in the Book of Acts.

The Apostle Paul, arriving at an island on his journey to share the Gospel, picked up some brushwood for a fire, and a startled viper within it leapt out and bit his hand.  When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they thought that he would die. But Paul shook the viper off and lived. The pastor applied the Scripture to our lives: “Say it out loud!” he shouted. “Every viper sticking to my hands, my marriage, my career, my destiny, I shake it off. I shake it off!” The 200 people around me jumped up and down and shook their hands with fury, hurling invisible and metaphorical vipers into the air.

To be in Africa is to encounter a God different from that of a charismatic church in the United States. People say that the boundary between the supernatural and the natural is thinner there. Certainly religion is everywhere — churches and church billboards seem to be on every street — and atheists are few. American evangelicals often say that faith is more intense in Africa. There is something to this. Compared with Ghanaian charismatic Christianity, American Christianity can seem like soggy toast.

It is not just the intensity that seems different. In these churches, prayer is warfare. The new charismatic Christian churches in Accra imagine a world swarming with evil forces that attack your body, your family and your means of earning a living.

Written By: T.M. Luhrmann
continue to source article at nytimes.com

14 COMMENTS

  1. It’s a sad state of affairs when the simple minded are so seduced by this craziness. There is an emotional high though that some are likely obtaining in their all-night prayer vigils, which can alter their perception of reality. I experienced it once long ago.

  2. Africa… The Dark Continent… plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose; or (as per Dr John)… same ole same ole same.

    My relative who got his Ph.D in The socio-political situation in sub-Saharan Africa concluded that after 8 years of study
    “Africa- a basket case, a black hole for charitable donations”. Odd but that much was obvious to me as an ignorant layman…

    Tribalism is as hard to defeat as is Islam, the 2 go so well together. First step would be to ensure 75% of donations be spent
    on EDUCATION. Don’t send cash straight into corrupt dictators’ Swiss bank accounts, spend it on building schools and materials
    ON THE GROUND. Spend the balance on clean water, anti malarial treatments etc.

    • In reply to #7 by Fritz:

      Africa… The Dark Continent… plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose; or (as per Dr John)… same ole same ole same.

      My relative who got his Ph.D in The socio-political situation in sub-Saharan Africa concluded that after 8 years of study
      “Africa- a basket case, a black hole for charitable dona…

      Africa is a Continent comprising many contrasting countries, cultures and human morphologies; to lump the whole of Africa together is wrong.

      However, the problem it seems to me is lack of adequate governance in some of the continents nations, which allows kleptocrats to thrive on monies which are meant for schools etc, but end up building palaces for them.

      If there are any demons they’re the thieving crooks who reside in those palaces.

      But I grant you, this all night praying lark certainly ain’t gonna help to get the baby a new bonnet!

    • In reply to #7 by Fritz:

      Don’t send cash straight into corrupt dictators’ Swiss bank accounts.

      We can’t do that, think of the knock on effect on the German car industry and the international arms trade.

      • In reply to #12 by TrickyDicky:

        In reply to #7 by Fritz:

        Don’t send cash straight into corrupt dictators’ Swiss bank accounts.

        We can’t do that, think of the knock on effect on the German car industry and the international arms trade.

        They’d have to look for ‘developing markets’ elsewhere…

  3. Just change some of the place names and some of the activities to words like pub or soccer and the story seems very familiar.
    Hopefully they won’t progress towards things like king hit competitions, as practised in enlightened places where people are better educated..

  4. All-night prayers or even “just” two-hour prayers on Sundays? I say they are all the same: a waste of time that could be spent better re-building poor societies in Africa. I mean really? Don’t they have something better to do than praying?

  5. All-night prayers or even “just” two-hour prayers on Sundays? I say they are all the same: a waste of time that could be spent better re-building poor societies in Africa. I mean really? Don’t they have something better to do than praying?

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