Re: forces of darkness repost Originally printed in CHARISMA AND CHRISTIAN LIFE Magazine,

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From: Thomas Blackwolfe Re: forces of darkness repost Originally printed in CHARISMA AND CHRISTIAN LIFE Magazine, Copyright 1991 Battling the Forces of Darkness The conversion of former Wicca priest Eric Pryor is a hopeful sign in the fight for a city under siege. By Steven Lawson Last Halloween, Eric Pryor stuck a small handgun into his sock before entering Larry Lea's "Prayer Breakthrough" meeting in San Francisco. If Lea blasted homosexuals as some media reports had predicted he would, Pryor planned to shoot him. This Halloween, when Lea returns to the Bay Area for another spiritual warfare rally, Eric Pryor will be standing on the platform at Lea's side and holding a weapon of another kind---a Bible. Last Halloween, the afternoon before the opening of the breakthrough, Pryor led about 30 pagans in a ceremonial cursing of Lea and other Christians who would be attending the Prayer Breakthrough at the Civic Auditorium that evening. That cursing was carried by the media around the city and the nation. This year, Pryor plans to teach participating Christians how to pray for pagans and how to counter the curses of Satan. Last Halloween, Pryor was one of the chief spokes people for the 3,000 or so demonstrators who picketed the Lea meeting. Covered by the national and local media, the rally was described as "a classic clash between good and evil" in one report and dubbed a "Halloween Holy War" by USA Today. This year, Pryor will answer questions from reporters about his defection from paganism and his conversion to Christianity. At this time last year, Eric Pryor was high priest at New Earth Temple in San Francisco. Now he has become a born-again Christian, submitted himself to the discipleship of minister Dick Bernal and launched his own ministry to teach people about spiritual warfare. A City in Desperate Need The dramatic spiritual turnaround in Pryor's life came as a result of last year's well-publicized "Prayer Breakthrough" in San Francisco. Larry Lea had come to city, purposefully on Halloween, to lead Christians in prayer and spiritual warfare against the territorial spirits that influence the region. A month before the rally, Lea met with and sought the support of about 200 area pastors, including Bernal. For Bernal, the idea of spiritual warfare wasn't new. He had taught the principles to the 4,000 members of his Jubilee Christian Center in San Jose and had led prayer campaigns in that area. Once, Jubilee members and other Christians had even gone to the rooftops of buildings in San Jose and to nearby hilltops where, in prayer, they bound the spirits that influence their city. But to take the battle to San Francisco was to walk into the devil's backyard. San Francisco is well-known for its alternative lifestyles. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix romanticized drugs, rock music and raucous living when they roamed the streets of Haight-Ashbury. Even today, entering that neighborhood is like walking through a time warp. It remains a haven for those searching out anything and everything but the norm. Throughout San Francisco, you'll find psychedelic shops, New Age bookstores and transvestites shopping at Safeway. It's the home of the Church of Satan, the base of operations for homosexual activist group Queer Nation and host of the annual national Hooker's Ball. Each year, a gala Halloween night party draws half a million people to the Castro District, according to some media estimates, where many dress in drag and others flaunt sexual promiscuity. San Francisco also boasts the second highest rate of AIDS in the nation-7,000 residents have died in the epidemic. Half of the city's homosexual community is reportedly infected with HIV, the AIDS virus. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen recently wrote: "There's a craziness in the air, but that's the way San Francisco has always wanted it, back to the founding Gold Rushers, only now it's a bad craziness." Caen was referring specifically to the huge problem of the homeless and the shambles many once elegant buildings have become. But his remark has broader implications. He even quoted Rudyard Kipling, who once described San Francisco as "the perfectly mad city." For Lea, Bernal and the city's pastors, there is plenty to pray about. Some, such as Lea and Bernal, believe specific spirits need to be bound. Others, such as Lloyd Jacobson, pastor of Bethel Temple (Independent Assemblies of God), just see the need for prayer of every kind. "I welcome anyone who wants to pray for us," says Jacobson. "We need all of the prayer we can get." Bernal says the Bay Area is a composite of every imaginable kind of evil. Greed dominates in the Silicon Valley, where the computer industry was born. Murder is rampant in Oakland, which has one of the highest crime rates in the nation. New Age thought permeates Marin County, north of the city, and drunkenness spills over the boundaries of the city's Richmond District. The well-publicized homosexual community here is centered in the Castro District and Noe Valley. But Lea, Bernal and other pastors are quick to separate the sin of homosexuality from the sinner, saying God loves every person. "We are not against anyone," says Bernal. "We are against the spirits that influence sin." Setting the Stage for War Lea has held Prayer Breakthroughs in several other major cities, including Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago. He's taught the principles of spiritual warfare at Church on the Rock, where he formerly pastored in Rockwall, Texas, and at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was dean of the school of theology. Teaching an idea that's finding increasing support among charismatics, Lea says demonic territorial spirits have particular characteristics and strong influence over a region. Each of these spirits gained entry to the region at a particular time--- for example, the spirits of greed and rebellion would have come to San Francisco during the Gold Rush. Bernal agrees, adding that Native Americans of the area long ago held powerful ceremonies that were demonic in nature, setting the stage for future demonic activity, such as the white witchcraft of Wicca that Eric Pryor practiced. The media showed an interest in what Lea and Bernal had to say. But what reporters latched on to were the military terms used to explain the reason for coming to San Francisco and the militarist-sounding advertisements Lea ran on television announcing the meetings. The phrases "spiritual warfare," "prayer army" and battling for spiritual control over a city" have one meaning for Christians who have heard Lea's and Bernal's teachings. But to Pryor, homosexual rights activist Mark Pritchard and others, it meant that Lea was coming to town "to burn witches and hang gays." It didn't help that a group of ministers had announced that Christians would march through the Castro District on Halloween as a demonstration of spiritual power. At the advice of local pastors, that plan was canceled. Police feared there would have been violence if it had taken place. Vineyard Christian Fellowship pastor Michael Brodeur agreed, saying that he has encountered violent reactions from certain homosexual rights groups as he has ministered in the city. The military terminology is also what caught Eric Pryor's attention and raised his ire. "I wasn't about to let anyone else have any spiritual control in this city," said Pryor, who openly was a Wicca witch but secretly was involved in the occult. "I was known somewhat as a general, and I was going to guard my territory." Pryor quickly rallied the support of homosexual activist and pagan groups, who are closely aligned. A planned Halloween night pagan meeting was canceled so adherents could picket the Prayer Breakthrough. Both sides insisted they did not want violence, but Pryor now says some of the protesters would have easily crossed the line. As it was, they tossed rotten eggs at Christians entering the Civic Auditorium and prevented one busload of people from disembarking. Security was beefed up, and the police had to escort participants in. Pryor told the media that the curse he placed was one of "binding" by which "the evil energy of Larry Lea would come back upon him threefold." "Larry Lea better be careful that he doesn't fall off the stage and break his leg or something," Pryor told reporters. His comments were picked up by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the wire services. Pryor was a bit stronger when he called Bernal's church and left a message on the answering machine. He said, "You Christians had better know how to pray because we really know how to curse." Another Kind of Power Nearly a year later, Pryor winces with embarrassment as the tape of his telephone threat is played back to him during lunch after a church service. "I can't believe it," he says, wide-eyed and mouth agape. "Did I say that? So much has changed!" He'd made that phone call while submerged in the oils of a pagan ceremonial bath. "My feet were propped up on a huge crystal, I was burning incense, and I was very incensed at the nerve of Larry Lea." The next day, Pryor had arranged to be on the same local television talk show as Bernal, called "People Are Talking." After the show, Bernal, who was given a full opportunity to explain territorial spirits, invited Pryor to lunch-just to talk. While Bernal and Pryor dined, the spiritual warfare was intensifying back at Jubilee Christian Center. Bernal's wife, Carla, was praying for Pryor, believing God would transform his life. That prayer was interrupted by a phone call from C. Peter Wagner. Wagner didn't know about the message or about Pryor's meeting with Bernal. He didn't even know who Eric Pryor was. But Wagner said he believed one of Satan's generals would be won over during the Prayer Breakthrough. Before he and Bernal had finished lunch, Pryor had accepted an invitation to attend that evening's meeting as Bernal's guest. He agreed that he should at least listen to what Lea had to say before condemning the man. Besides, as an advocate of equal rights for all, he didn't mind people praying as long as he wasn't the target of their prayers. Little did he know... Pryor arrived at the civic auditorium in full Wicca priest garb, complete with a huge pentagram around his neck, a ring in his nose, and black clothes from head to toe. Bernal, having no idea that Pryor was carrying the hidden pistol, escorted him to the front row, close enough to see the whites of Larry Lea's eyes. But Pryor didn't hear a single word from Lea that upset him. No gay bashing; no calls to burn witches; no threats to torch the city. In fact, he kind of liked what he was hearing and feeling. It reminded him of his days in Sunday school as a child. He heard Christians singing about love, grace, mercy-the very attributes he had futilely tried to espouse as a pagan priest. "The music really touched me," Pryor would later say. "On the dark side (his term for pagan practice), there is an evil power in the music they sing. Music has a large role in pagan services. But this was different. There was another kind of power in this music." He liked it enough to return the next night with his fiancee, Sandra. He even had her go forward for healing of repeated headaches. But he was prayed for, as well. Carla Bernal had her hand on Pryor's head and was interceding so hard that he was shaking. By this point, Pryor knew he was halfway home, but it was such a dramatic change he didn't know what to say or do. Pryor was still shaking when he and Sandra got home. "I told Sandra that those Christians really messed us up," he says. "I'd been involved in the occult since I was 12 years old. I know how it feels when demons are present. That night there were demons in out apartment. They were not very happy with what was happening. And I couldn't sleep all night." The next morning, Pryor met with Lea. In that encounter, it became obvious that pryor was moving quickly toward wanting to accept Christ as his Savior. But Lea cautioned him to count the cost. "He told me that I needed to be sure that making the commitment was something worth dying for." On the final night of the meetings, Pryor's fiancee went to the altar to pray for salvation. But Pryor waited nearly a month, finally committing his life to Christ during a service at Jubilee Christian Center in San Jose. That high, Carla Bernal stayed up with him and Sandra, praying until Pryor was baptized in the Holy Spirit. "I was ready for all of God's power," says Pryor. "I had seen what Satan could do. Now I wanted to know all that God could do. I found out that Satan really is a lion roaming about seeking whom he can devour. But he is a toothless lion of you have the power of the Holy Spirit!" From there things changed quickly. Without prompting from anyone else, Pryor decided to burn publicly all of his occult books and smash his witchcraft crystals and artifacts. He estimates that he destroyed tens of thousands of dollars worth of materials that had been part of New Earth Temple. The Pagan Community His old friends weren't sure how to react. Some denied having ever known him. Others fidgeted in their own commitments to paganism. A few thought Pryor was setting himself as a plant they could use to disrupt Christian churches. But all of the top brass from New Earth Temple have now accepted Christ and denounced their former practices. Pryor maintains that about 30 percent of the pagans are in it just for the money or the power over people, about 40 percent don't know what they are searching for and only about 30 percent have any real demonic power. He recalls, for example, that as a pagan priest he would provide counseling to people. If they could be duped, he would perform a fake curse, then charge an outrageous fee, perhaps in the thousands of dollars. "Sometimes I had to go into the kitchen and laugh because it was so absurd," he says. "But they usually came back and paid more money." At other times Pryor conducted real ceremonies, such as the one he did when Sandra first came to him. She had been oppressed by spirits since childhood. Prayers to God had not seemed to work. Neither had secular counseling. But when she came to Pryor, he was able to assuage the demons and keep them from harassing her. Ironically, it was shortly after her "deliverance" that she went forward to accept Christ at the October Prayer Breakthrough. Pryor and Sandra have since been married and moved to San Jose. He has started a ministry called Christian Gladiators that operates out of Jubilee Christian Center. Pryor speaks at a few select churches, providing his testimony and teaching about spiritual warfare. A Spiritually Dead City Though he looks forward to this year's Prayer Breakthrough, Pryor is also a bit apprehensive. "Moving to San Jose has been culture shock," he says. "There really is a different spirit sown here." Most pastors in San Francisco would agree. While churches have boomed in the San Jose area, in Contra Costa County to the east, even in San Mateo County between San Jose and San Francisco, the city itself has been as spiritually dead as any city can be. Larry Huggins, pastor of San Francisco's Gateway Family Church, agrees. Before coming to San Francisco, Huggins was co- founding pastor of a large charismatic church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He also conducted huge missionary crusades all around the world that drew thousands of attendees. "You just don't know how strong the principalities are here until you have lived here," says Huggins. Since being in San Francisco, Huggins has seen family tragedy, a failed church-building project and slow membership growth--- about 100 attend his church regularly. In fact, in this city of nearly 800,000 residents, it would be hard to find a Protestant church service with more than 1,000 people. Bernal is quick to point out that San Francisco has never seen a revival of the proportions of Azusa Street of the Great awakening. Nor does it have the spiritual roots that the Bible belt has. Major evangelists have come here in the past. But they've been few and far between. Billy Graham was last here 30 years ago-few people even remember that event. Luis Palau conducted a crusade two years ago that drew fewer than 500 people. "People just don't go to church," says Michael Brodeur of the Vineyard. Brodeur grew up in San Francisco. He can remember the Jesus movement and its impact in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Glad Tidings Assembly of God was larger then. First Covenant Church was active. Dick Keys led a revival among hundreds of hippies. And Moishe Rosen started Jews for Jesus. But today, Glad Tidings has dwindled in attendance down to a few hundred. The Covenant pastor, who was charismatic, has moved on to the denomination's hierarchy. And Keys has left the city. Only two major ministries have their international headquarters her: Jews for Jesus and Nora Lam Ministries. Even so, there are signs of life. More non-traditional churches--- such as the Vineyard, Gateway Family Church and Bethel Temple--- have shown growth and evidence of spiritual vitality. The leading candidate for mayor this year, Frank Jordan, is very supportive of Christian activities and has, in fact, asked Bethel's pastor, Jacobson, for prayer. Meanwhile, 30 Youth With a Mission missionaries spent three weeks this summer walking the streets, praying for repentance and revival in the city. "The signs are small, but we will take anything," says Brodeur. "You must understand that this is a very hard city. The rank-and-file citizen of this city has yet to have the gospel presented to them in a way that will correspond with the longings of their heart. The church hasn't made the gospel apply to people's lives in San Francisco." Is the spiritual climate better in San Francisco this year than it was last year? Every pastor interviewed who has a church in the city says no--- it's worse. Bernal agrees that this can happen when Christians come together in unity and become aware of spiritual warfare. "We should expect a response," he says. "The enemy will not sit still. But we must also remember that we have binding power over those spirits." After the Prayer Breakthrough last year, there were major drug arrests in the Bay area, and the largest pornography dealer was charged with murdering his brother, who was also his business partner. But everyone agrees the conversion of Eric Pryor was probably the biggest breakthrough. What will result from the spiritual warfare rally at Candlestick Park this month? Bernal thinks the region is on the verge of a great revival and that each time they return to pray it adds to the momentum. Pastors such as Brodeur and Jacobson hope for revival; they say every prayer meeting helps, and they will encourage their congregations to participate. But for tight now, they're just as concerned with survival as they are with revival.


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