On the loose in Philadelphia: A spirit of debauchery (and yes, we’re talking a real demon, friends)

Debauchery is usually defined as self-indulgence of a sensual nature, but it can also refer to any sort of unrestrained exhibit of out-of-control nihilism.

But before debauchery becomes a behavior, it first operates as a demonic spirit. What we saw in Philadelphia on Sunday night was a stunning example of how such spirits can operate with charge over a city – provided the hearts of the people are receptive to their leading, and the circumstances permit the people to act accordingly.

My pastor preached a week ago that a man may claim to be a patient man, but that his kids caused him to be impatient. In reality, my pastor said, the man is not a patient man at all. He is an impatient man, and the kids simply bring that out in him.

Why? Because you can’t bring out what’s not in there in the first place.

After the Eagles won the Super Bowl on Sunday night, we heard all about the chaos and rioting that ensued on the streets of Philadelphia. Here’s just a small taste of it:

I have seen this before, up close and personal. I saw it on Sunday, October 14, 1984, on the streets of Detroit. That was the night the Tigers last won the World Series (I know, it’s long past time for another one) in five games over the San Diego Padres.

I was 17 at the time, and I’d actually gotten tickets for Game 4, which I attended with my mom and my brothers. I did not have a ticket for Game 5, but I went downtown anyway with a friend from school hoping to join in the celebration if the Tigers won.

They did, and what we saw next was very much like what happened in Philadelphia the other night. Within less than an hour of the game ending, more than 100,000 people had taken to the streets – and they were out there for one purpose, which was to destroy everything they could get their hands on.

The lowlight of the evening was the overturning and torching of a Detroit police car – and image that was sadly captured by the national media and for years served as America’s defining image of Detroit.

I was standing right there and saw everything. It happened literally at the renowned corner of Michigan and Trumbull, which was the location of Tiger Stadium at the time. Once two Detroit police officers exited their car in an attempt to bring some order to the scene, the crowd descended upon the car and began rocking it back and forth. As they gained momentum, you could see it would only be a matter of moments until they had turned it over.

The officers stood by helplessly. Unless they wanted to start firing their sidearms into the crowd – which they wisely did not – they were vastly outnumbered and there was nothing they could do.

As soon as the car was upside down, gas began pouring out of the tank and onto the red-brick surface of the road, prompting everyone to quickly back away because everyone realized it was only a matter of seconds before someone threw a lighter on it.

And just like that, the car was ablaze.

About 100 feet away, officers on horseback had just arrested someone for vandalism. As they held him, a large, angry crowd crushed in on the officers and chanted, “Let him go! Let him go! Let him go!”

The officers had no choice. They let him go and the crowd erupted into cheers.

These people didn’t care anymore about baseball than the Philadelphia revelers on Sunday night cared about football. They were out there to wreak havoc. Why? Because it was a rare circumstance in which they could do so with impunity. Safety in numbers would prevent them from being arrested or charge for anything they did.

And it was a spirit of debauchery that took the opportunity to spur these people to this behavior.

This type of spirit works alongside anger and heaviness. It is closely aligned with spirits of rebellion, as well as mockers and scoffers. It rejects the notion that anything is worthy of respect, or that societal limits on behavior are worth observing for the sake of the common good.

A person with a spirit of debauchery is likely to be directionless in his or her life, and to have few worthwhile personal goals – although a younger person might be susceptible to this spirit’s leading even while pursuing a college education or something along those lines, simply by virtue of immaturity.

Now, you also have to understand this: The demonic hierarchy assigns different spirits to territories, and there is a demon with charge over Philadelphia just like every other American city. That spirit will have sown certain demonic seeds for generations in that city, and will have particular kinds of spirits who operate under its charge to bring about a situation like this.

That spirit would have had an operation ready to roll if the Eagles won the Super Bowl, and a similar operation led by a spirit of anger if they lost.

A spirit of debauchery – or several of them – could easily jump from person to person in a situation like this precisely because people were willing to follow their lead and unafraid of consequences.

If you have a spirit like that, then in all likelihood any time you spend in compliance with the law or with societal norms are strictly self-preservation tactics. You really don’t care about others, their safety or their property. You just can’t usually get away with causing them damage, so you refrain so as to avoid ending up behind bars.

But given the safety of a mob and the inability of police to manage the situation, you’ll give yourself completely over to debauchery. And later on you’ll brag about it on social media and in personal interactions with others who also embrace this spirit

It’s the same type of spirit I saw in Detroit in 1984, and it had people on the rampage Sunday night in Philadelphia.

Now just to be clear, I am in no way suggesting that the individuals who rioted are less than 100 percent responsible for their actions. If you follow the lead of a demon, it’s because you want to, regardless of whether you really understand the spiritual ramifications of your actions.  Anyone on Earth with a spirit of debauchery could repent of it and come under the authority of Jesus Christ to be delivered from it.

The Philadelphia rioters freely chose to do the opposite on Sunday night. They’re responsible for their actions.

But we Christians are responsible for seeing events beyond what is visible in the natural world. We know from 1 Corinthians 2:14 that these things are spiritually discerned. If you follow Christ, then you’d better understand the nature of the powers we battle. They were running the show on Sunday night in Philadelphia.

Do you understand what you were seeing?

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When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear. Though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me. – Psalm 27:2-6