Strategic Spiritual Warfare and the Feast of All Souls – Comparing Cultural Technologies for Processing Collective Trauma


14206181_10154497505756670_610393306113448089_oThis year, while writing about the growth of Dia de los Muertos celebrations across the United States with Dr. Andrew Chesnut, it struck me that this famous Mexican holiday provides an alternative spiritual solution for  one of the main drivers of politicized exorcism and spiritual warfare culture – a society or culture’s sense of inescapable corporate guilt/sin and generational trauma.

C. Peter Wagner, a pioneering figure in the 3rd Wave charismatic movement, developed complex theories of ‘strategic spiritual warfare’ to combat collective guilt. He saw this ‘stronghold’ of demonic control as a key component in the late 20th century/early 21st century culture of crisis.

“As the Body of Christ agrees to pull down strongholds of corporate sin, the way will be opened for revival of churches and a harvest of souls greater than anything previously imagined. Identificational repentance gives us the power to heal the past.” (1)

The specific tool that Wagner presents to deal with these corporate sins is what he calls ‘identificational repentance’.  As he explains:

“We Americans are not ignorant of the fact that our nation has gained high international visibility for many things, some good, but some very bad.  Now by God’s grace many American Christian leaders want our nation also to be known for our deep remorse over the national sins and atrocities we have committed.  We want to be among the first to corporately humble ourselves before God and before the people we have offended, to confess our sins, and to seek remission of those sins in order to heal our deep national wounds.  With no desire to be arrogant, we hope that if we provide a good example which pleases God, some other nations may see fit to follow our lead.

This corporate or group humbling often takes the form of dramatic public performances of faith – what Wagner in other contexts refers to as a ‘power encounter’ between the Christian and the sinister forces that stand between the present world society and the Kingdom of God. Public prayer performance, theatrical displays, and visible ‘prophetic’ actions that draw on Biblical examples such as the clay pot, plumb line and other physical symbols found in the Book of Ezekiel.(2)

In Latin America and throughout the Carribean festivals associated with the dead and a cultural openness to a metaphysics in which the dead remain an active presence in the world of the living both play a part in altering this cultural relationship to corporate guilt.

On the level of spiritual practice and applied religion – this vitalized relationship with the past allows for a conversation and an intimacy to the process of collective grief that is completely absent from the forced and academic applications of behavioral technologies and social engineering techniques recommended by 3rd Wave and New Apostolic Reformation ‘prophets.’

The commercial growth of traditions such as Dia de los Muertos provides an important area of cultural integration and communication between the United States and Latin America – but as Sarah Chavez, director at The Order of the Good Death, points out – this is not enough:

“While the images and rituals of Dia de Muertos are beautiful, and praised and commercialized for their aesthetic value, keep in mind the reality of every day life for many in the Latinx community whose experiences are too often filled with violence, and policies that dehumanize, hurt and can lead to death.”(3)

And this is one of the key problems with politicized spiritual warfare. While collective rituals such as Dia de los Muertos provide an opportunity for community growth, personal reflection and a deepening of family bonds – in many ways the psychic warfare techniques of the 3rd Wave charismatic movement  serve only to deepen collective wounds stemming in large part from centuries of the same strategic spiritual warfare techniques being applied to indigenous spiritualities and socially marginalized individuals and groups.

Seen as technologies the responsibility for care when implementing, cultivating and developing these cultural tools becomes much clearer – and the unconscionable damage to the human organism’s collective psyche from their misapplication is an area where the popular prayer warriors have yet to repent.

For more on Dia de los Muertos and the culture of death in Latin America see:

Exorcising Mictecacihuatl – The Origins of Day of the Dead in Mexico (The Global Catholic Review) 

Meet Mexico’s Trinity of Death – Day of the Dead, Santa Muerte, and Catrina Calavera (Folklore Thursday)


(1) https://renewaljournal.blog/2011/07/18/the-power-to-heal-the-past-by-c-peter-wagner/
(2) Wagner, C. Peter, Spiritual Warfare Strategy – Confronting Spiritual Powers (Destiny Image, 2011) 
(3) https://twitter.com/sarah_calavera/status/1058041548154134528

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