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About a month ago, in the quiet upstate town of New Hartford, New York, in a church once begun in earnest, two brothers were attacked by their parents and several other members of the congregation. One of the boys has died, the younger suffered serious injuries. The boys were called into a ‘counseling session’ after church on a Sunday, but that session didn’t end until the next day, on Monday. They were questioned and physically attacked for hours because they wouldn’t confess and ask forgiveness for the things they were accused of.

It’s important to ask how such a horrific thing could happen.

I became a Christian at a youth event at Grace Assembly of God in Syracuse, N.Y.  (I believe it was in 1979, but it could have been 1978, making me about 13 or 14 years old.) Anyway, we went there for a while, but then started going to Nedrow Assembly of God, a small church in the valley because it was closer to home. We were there until I graduated from high school, but by the time we left to go back to Grace Assembly, I was a mess. At the time, ‘deliverance ministry’ was the New Big Thing, fueled largely by people like Bob Larson and Mike Warnke, and books such as Pigs in the Parlor: A Practical Guide to Deliverance and Spiritual Warfare (Impact Christian Book Books, 1973) by Frank and Ida Mae Hammond, which is actually still in print. Much has been written on the Deliverance Movement of the 70’s. It spawned a generation of false teaching and led to everything from the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s, to Satanic Ritual Abuse and the False Memory saga, and more recently to the calling out of ‘Jezebels’ in the Church and Neil T. Anderson’s The Bondage Breaker.

Anyway, I don’t know how it all came about, but one evening my parents drove me to the youth leader’s house, for what I believed was supposed to be some kind of prayer meeting. I don’t think I had any real understanding of what was going to happen there, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for it. All I remember about this particular meeting (if I’m remembering correctly) was that there were quite a few people in the youth leader’s living room, including my pastor and his wife from our previous church. I believe I sat in a chair in the middle of the room, which seemed dark to me for some reason. The all-important wastebasket appeared in front of me, as it did many years later, with the same explanation: some people throw up when the demons come out.

Sit tight for a minute, because it’s occurring to me as I write this that an entire church thought I was demon-possessed.

Well.

Moving right along:

I came across two different books this week, in two different stores. Both books were written by Charles H. Kraft, a retired seminary professor and former missionary. Both were books on healing and deliverance, and spiritual warfare.

There is so much wrong teaching in these books that I don’t even know where to start.

The first was Two Hours to Freedom; A Simple and Effective Model for Healing and Deliverance (Chosen Books, 2010). In a section on Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) Kraft states that he has prayed for deliverance for “hundreds of people” whose demonization was evidenced by the fact that they had “inners” (separate identities, or personalities on the inside of them) also known as “alters”, or “inner children”. The author describes a process whereby he takes clients back to their experience in the womb, and leads them, month by month, through their experiences in utero, specifically looking for areas where they may have hurtful memories or damaged emotions. From before they were born. Those who are uncomfortable with re-experiencing the ‘re-birthing process’ are deemed to be under the influence of demonic resistance, whom Kraft confronts and tries to elicit information from. (I personally consider the resistance to be a sign that there’s a shred of mental health left in there somewhere – in the client). He then progresses through the client’s elementary years, their adolescent and young adult years, and so on, inviting Jesus into each memory, using a method that can only be described as a type of Christian channeling, and guided imagery to ‘heal’ the memories, whether they are factual or not.

Seriously.

The other book, The Evangelical’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare: Scriptural Insights and Practical Instruction on Facing the Enemy (Chosen Books, 2015) was at Wegman’s. I ran in to pick up some thyroid medicine and a birthday card, and, lo and behold, there it was on the Christian book rack, only a few hours after finding the first book.

The beginning of the book states that it is actually a compilation of all of Kraft’s best work over the years (he has been doing this, I believe, since the 1980’s) but the information on Dissociative Identity Disorder he gives in chapter 11 is taken from the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1980). The majority of the people who pick this book up and toss it into their shopping carts along with their milk and toilet paper are not going to know that we are now on the 5th edition of the DSM (as of October 2013). DID is still included as an actual disorder, although it was vigorously petitioned against by many in the mental health field. The term Multiple Personality Disorder, however, is no longer used. Kraft is apparently unaware of this, as he writes how he leads each ‘alter’ (personality) into right standing with Jesus, and when each one is finally at peace with God, he knows that “his work is done”. He also states that those in deliverance ministry need to learn how to distinguish between demonization and MPD/DID, again, apparently unaware that there is no such thing, and therefore no need to distinguish between the two.

In another section on false memories, Kraft says that he isn’t bothered at all by the fact that the memories conjured up during a prayer session may not be true, or that some people may have been falsely accused of sexually abusing someone, stating that it is far worse to not forgive those who actually did commit sins against you than it is to make things up. Well, try to tell that to the people whose lives are destroyed by being falsely accused of crimes they didn’t commit. And to the clients whose lives are ruined because they now have traumatic ‘memories’ and images in their heads of things that never happened in the first place, and the actual memories they do have of real events, however benign, are now tarnished.

I cannot imagine what the younger brother from the church in New Hartford is thinking and feeling. My heart goes out to him; I wish I could help him somehow. The images and memories of that horrible day will be with him forever. I wasn’t trying to compare my experience with his in any way, but was trying to show how out of hand things can get, and how much serious damage spiritual leaders can do. Even well-meaning people who sincerely believe they are doing the right thing can cause a lifetime of damage. I don’t remember much of the ‘prayer meeting’ in the valley, mostly because it was quite a long time ago and an awful lot has happened since then. But the New Hartford story has had me thinking about it quite a bit lately. What a horrible way to mess with a kid’s mind.

I wish we had never gone to the church in the valley. I worry that I will hurt people I care about by writing that. I wish so many things. That I had never experienced the dark side of what we call ‘church’. I am not writing this to dishonor, or disparage anyone, including Charles Kraft. That is not my intent. But this deliverance thing, the way the church is currently doing it, is false teaching – it has absolutely no scriptural ground to stand on – and it is false teaching that we need to be delivered from. My intent is to help people who are berating themselves for not doing it right, or wondering why their session didn’t work, or why they haven’t been delivered yet, in spite of hours of prayer, and searching for demons, or trying to heal their ‘inner child’. Relax. If you’re reading this, you are in all probability an adult, and you need to find an adult way of dealing with your hurts from the past. Stop looking for Jesus in your memories. He’s right where he’s been ever since he stormed the gates of Hell and took the keys. He’s on his throne at the right hand of God, praying and interceding for you. You don’t have inner children, or an inner child in you. You do have the Holy Spirit, and God did deliver you, on the cross. Now, go put your armor on and walk it out.

That is how Christians are supposed to do spiritual warfare.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.   – Galatians 5:1

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