A Former Charismatic Confronts the Devil

A Former Charismatic Confronts the Devil November 30, 2023

a devil mask with a pitchfork on a red tablecloth
image via Pixabay


It was one of those days that’s very hard for former Charismatics. In fact, I’d call it a devil of a day.

There was a very silly priest, an alleged exorcist, who was featured in a video going viral on Twitter. The priest was excitedly explaining that there are demonic rituals and “the occult” hidden in Taylor Swift concerts and that you could get possessed if you weren’t careful.

I reacted to that like the nonsense it is, because I was raised a Charismatic Catholic. Everything and its brother is alleged to be “the occult” when you’re Charismatic. Nothing is safe. You have to be suspicious and avoid contamination at all times. The fruit of that movement is abuse of all kinds, PTSD, and lapsed Catholics. If we judge trees by their fruit, the Charismatic Renewal actually is from hell. Once you break away from that hellish movement, you start to realize that most of the things people do are harmless.

Of course, Twitter being the cesspool it is, an army of very strange people showed up to correct me. They breathlessly assured me that it’s true that “the occult” is everywhere and you have to listen to exorcists or you’ll catch a demon like a cold. I had people telling me that Taylor Swift was “an abortionist.” I had people saying she was part of a secret demonic cabal that took over all of Hollywood. I was told about nursing homes where the patients all suffered insomnia until someone called the exorcist. I was chided that I ought to go to Eucharistic adoration to cure my “oppression.”

Former Charismatics don’t do well in situations like that one. I started to get sick like I was last Sunday. I’m still a little shaky, to tell the truth.

“If you don’t believe in the devil, you’re not Christian!” insisted one fellow.

What an odd way of putting things.

I happen to believe in both good and evil spirits. At this moment in my deconstruction I don’t believe in any exorcisms except the one you get at Baptism; I’ve seen far too much horrendous violence committed in the name of “exorcism” and “deliverance prayer.” I think that priests who claim to be exorcists are just charlatans out to abuse mentally ill people and vulnerable children. I don’t know if I’ll ever have healed from the Charismatic Renewal enough to revisit that belief, so any effort to convert me will either be mocked or ignored. But I still believe that angels exist, and I believe that an event we refer to as “the fall of the angels” really happened, and I believe that the devil is one of the players in the event call “the fall of man” which Jesus came to heal and reconcile.  I don’t believe IN the devil. I believe the devil exists. I believe IN Christ. That’s what a Christian is supposed to do.

What a terrible, backwards Christianity, if you have to “believe in the devil.”

It’s horrifying how many Christians’ faiths boil down to “the devil is scary, the devil is ever-present, the devil is a constant threat, the devil is the cause of everything, and oh there’s this guy Jesus we follow because he’s useful in protecting us from the devil.”

It’s horrifying how many Christians don’t even seem to see that that’s a problem.

If your whole faith is that the devil is awful and Jesus is a useful tool to avoid him, your faith isn’t in Jesus. You’re just using Jesus. Your faith is in the devil.

If the devil is a fascinating and scary boogeyman, and terror of the devil dictates all of your actions, then you’re actually following the devil and not Jesus. Jesus isn’t important to you except as a tool.

If Jesus is who He claims to be, nothing else matters. The devil can be anything the devil wants, and all you have to do is keep following Jesus. If the devil really was as powerful as those strange people think, it wouldn’t make a difference. The devil could torture you every day of your life and you could still be a saint. The devil could murder your physical body for fun and you’d end up in Heaven, which means the devil would lose. So why worry?

When I look at the things the most beautiful saints say and do, I don’t see great terror of the devil. I see the saints proclaiming that the devil is a pipsqueak. Saint Therese spoke of the Lord showing her two tiny demons hiding behind a flower pot, far more frightened of her than she could ever be of them. Saint Teresa of Avila, another Doctor of the Church, said that when the devil reminds you of your past, you should remind him of his future. Saint Francis said to tell the devil “open wide your mouth and I will sh*t in it.” The devil wasn’t interesting to saints. The devil was beside the point.

I would like to be a saint.

I’m not very keen on being a good Catholic as the world around me judges a Catholic anymore. I’ve given up on that. The Charismatic Renewal, the Catholic bubble of Steubenville and its admirers in Columbus, has shown me the most anti-Christ example of Catholicism imaginable, and I don’t want to impress them ever again. But I’d like to be someone who seeks this God I’ve chosen to believe in, and finds God, and journeys with God, and does what God would like best.

I’d like to be someone who loves Christ, not because He’ll give me over to the devil if I don’t, but because Christ first loved me. If Christ doesn’t love me, I won’t reciprocate. But if He loves me, that’s reason enough to love Him back.

I don’t have to bother with the devil.

That’s not the Christianity I was raised in, but I think it’s the more authentic Christianity.




Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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