Spiritual Warfare & National Politics

The beginning of another national election season has provoked increasing comment on our polarized country.  The rhetoric between the Left and Right has become alarmingly aggressive over the last several decades, fueled by media outlets eager to retain viewers and attract listeners.

It’s common for evangelicals to turn to biblical rhetoric of spiritual warfare to express anxiety about a culture that seems out of control.  During a recent election, I visited a friend’s church.  At the end of the service a leader strode to the pulpit and intoned solemnly that we were involved in a spiritual battle for the soul of America.  The announcement invited loud “amens.”  To engage that battle, he had set up a table in the back with a petition to include a measure supporting traditional marriage on the upcoming ballot.

Such rhetoric frightens the opposite end of the political spectrum with visions of militant Christians calling for a theocracy.  A recent report on NPR noted the resurgence of “spiritual warfare” language among evangelicals eager to reclaim culture from demonic influence.  Sin, corruption, and poverty are ultimately caused by “a hierarchy of demons under the authority of Satan.”  Certain evangelicals “will go into a geographic region or a people group and conduct spiritual-warfare activities in order to remove the demons from the entire population.”

The article’s author does note that this ideology belongs to a fringe group of evangelicals (see this response in the L.A. Times).  Relatively few evangelicals believe that overt tactics of spiritual warfare are appropriate for a national election.  Many, however, resonate with the rhetoric of spiritual warfare because our conflicted national climate seems to involve a spiritual dimension.  We have the sense that larger dynamics are out of control and are perhaps subject to the manipulation of darker forces.

Is it appropriate to speak of spiritual warfare in relation to national politics?

5 thoughts on “Spiritual Warfare & National Politics

  1. David Olsen

    “Relatively few evangelicals believe that overt tactics of spiritual warfare are appropriate for a national election.” Just wondering what you mean by “overt”? I also read the linked LA Times article. I do believe the left overstates the “dominionism” argument but I think Allen totally understates it. Rushdoony and North have a large following–at least they did in the early 1980s at my alma mater, Cedarville University. Hey–I bought their books. Last but not least, I’m not sure the “spiritual warfare” rhetoric is any louder this election than it has been for the last 50+ years. The Old Religious Right fought against Communism with the same language. The New Religious Right fought against lots of things with the same language, each time asserting “the end of the United States and Western civilization was close at hand,” and using fear tactics like comparing the Left to Hitler, Mao and others. And in answer to your question–I do not think it is appropriate to speak of spiritual warfare in relation to national politics. David

    1. timgombis

      I don’t have numbers, but it seems to me that around just about any and every group of evangelicals, if you started referring vaguely to spiritual warfare in reference to national politics, you’d find strong resonance among them. But I think it would be very vaguely felt and ill-defined. I think that many evangelicals would actually then hesitate if you started talking about actually doing things that embodied spiritual warfare. Common sense might kick in, at least to some extent. This is a terrible thing to say, and you’ll hammer me for it, but they’d regard it as “merely rhetoric.” (I think they’d make that claim in the same way that Sarah Palin cluelessly fails to connect the dots between her rhetoric [and those like her] to increasing aggression and rhetorical violence on the Right.)

      So, I guess that’s the distinction I’m making. It seems to me that there are indeed many more sensible evangelicals who might resonate with the rhetoric, but would object to more speculative forms of engaging spiritual entities that have caused unfavorable gerrymandering, for example.

      1. athanasius96

        If not quantitatively, at the least there has been significantly more organization over the years by James Dobson on the parachurch side, by George W. Bush on the government side, now culminating in figures such as Sarah Palin and Rick Perry.

        If people would actually read what the Bible says about spiritual warfare, I am sure we could respond far more graciously to the ills we face in our culture. As it stands, we can hardly stand against the ills that rage in our own hearts and our churches.

  2. Craig Benno

    I think the concepts of ‘Spiritual Warfare” differ’s between the variety of flavour’s / practices of evangelicalism. I could be wrong; but it seems to me that instead of binding and loosing every kind of stronghold, which seems to be practised within the real praying people…. we should be praying for all in authority that we have the right to live and practice our faith in peace.

    Within this framework of living and practising our faith in peace – we should be active in transforming our respective communities. I believe that if we (The church ) tackles the problems of greed within our own ranks…it will have an overflow into society…and that is the beginning of real spiritual warfare. …for me anyway.

  3. Pingback: Elsewhere (09.05.2011) | Near Emmaus

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