Say "demon" and most people conjure up images of creatures with blazing eye sockets, horns and scary voices. This week's clergy step away from the pop culture version and discuss historical references for demons.
Pastor John Gravagna,
lead pastor, Connect Church, Bellmore:
Yes, there is scriptural basis for the existence of demons. Ephesians 6:12 (NLT) says, "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."
As Christians, we believe that God has created every person with great purpose. It is our belief from God's word that the devil, Satan, and his cohorts don't want us to fulfill that purpose (John 10:10).
In Revelation 12:7-12, we see the fall of Lucifer and his angels as they fought against the angels of God. After his defeat, he was cast to Earth with his angels (demons). He is described as the one who deceives the whole world. We see in the Old Testament that there were those who made sacrifices to demons asking for their help (Leviticus 17:7, Deuteronomy 32:17). In Mark 1:34 (New KJV) it details the ministry of Jesus, saying, "Then he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons . . . " In Luke 8, we see Jesus heal a demon-possessed man. The Bible describes who demons are, where they come from and what they commonly do. Demons are real.
Now here is the great news. The Bible also has many passages of who the angels of God are. Hebrews 1:14 say the angels are ministering spirits who are sent to those who believe in God. That means God has your back.
Yes, there are demons, but there also is a God who loves you, guides you, provides for you and protects you from evil. "Don't be afraid but be confident in the God of the universe who makes demons tremble" (James 2:19).
Nayyar Imam, Muslim chaplain,
Suffolk County Police Department, Yaphank:
In Islam, it says God has created the human being and the deviations. Humans were created out of dust and clay. He took clay from everywhere in the whole world, some black, some white, some from the mountains, some from the sand. That is why we all look so different.
He also created Jinn, the deviations, from fire. There are good Jinn, and bad Jinn, who create problems. Bad Jinn possess people, do bad things to people and make people do bad things.
The last two chapters of the Quran is specifically recommended for those possessed by a Jinn. We are to read the chapters regularly to those possessed. It translates loosely to "May God protect me from the bad wishes of people, and from the demons and the Jinn."
It also is important to understand that one is not responsible for the bad things each of us may be driven to do by Jinns.
The Quran was written nearly 1,400 years ago, but it is still the same. There are two angels with us from the moment each of us is born. The angel on the right writes down all the good things. The angel on the left writes down the bad things. On the day of judgment, that is the book by which we each will be judged.
Msgr. Frank Maniscalco, pastor, St. Thomas
The Apostle Church, West Hempstead:
There certainly are references to malevolent beings, but the concept of demons being things like the walking dead, vampires and werewolves are unhistorical, popular references to demons. What we refer to as demons is the devil and his angels.
The devil is mentioned numerous times in Scripture. He is called the tempter. He tempted Jesus in the desert. He tempts us today. He is said to go about like a roaring lion. Not only is he a visible character, he is an invisible character. Scripture tells us that there was a falling out among angels, and the devil and those who followed him were cast out. That is our basic Christian understanding of demons.
Even though the devil may be able to influence us, we have freewill and can choose whether we do evil. We have to remember that God's love and concern for us is more powerful than Satan.
Yes, we as Catholics believe there can be some sort of demonic possession, but it is extremely rare. And an exorcism would not be performed until all psychological possibilities are ruled out. An exorcism may be necessary for those who choose to let evil into their lives, who invite Satan into their lives. No, Satan or demons aren't waiting in an alley to jump on you, jump in you and possess you. You have to invite them into your life.
There have been only a handful of exorcisms in America, yet there are millions of Christians in America. I see that as proof not of demons but of a spiritual life.