In an earlier post I looked at the beauty of tiny miracles and that in turn feeds into a larger discussion about the spirit realm, particularly spiritual warfare.
The term itself can either ignite a serious conversation or stop it in its tracks. This is because of the divide I mentioned earlier between the modern rationalists (who may believe in cessationism) and those who continues to see miracles in everyday life.
The lines between who believes in what in this discussion are often confusing - one might even say non-linear.
For example, most diagrams of Christianity's various branches show Orthodoxy (by which I mean both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches) on one end of the spectrum with newer Protestant denominations spreading out and moving farther away.
In fact, this isn't always the case. The Anglican Church used to be very close to Catholicism in terms of doctrine and practice. I remember my very Catholic grandfather used to go to the Maritime Sailors Cathedral in Detroit from time to time because the their service was so similar.
The Anglicans have only veered away in the last 40 years or so, and much of that variation is in practice, not dogma. That is to say that like the United Methodists, the doctrines remain the same on paper, but they're simply no longer enforced by the heirarchy.
Rather than go through the messy (and divisive) process of rewriting canon law, they simply do what they do, knowing that there's no practical way to enforce any of it.
This leads to situations where Orthodoxy - with its traditions and hierarchies - is actually closer in doctrine to free-wheeling congregationalists than more nominally "mainline" Protestant denominations.
The topic of spiritual warfare is a great example of this. If one buys into cessationism, or is one of the increasing numbers of Protestant pastors who don't believe Christ was bodily resurrected, this belief seems backwards if not downright superstitious.
Telling one of these folks that you've seen an angel will likely get you a condescending look and perhaps a suggestion that you not use so many drugs. At worst, you might get a psychiatric referral.
However, there are a great many people in Evangelical circles who take this sort of thing very seriously. Pentecostals, for example, are about as anti-Catholic as any Protestant can be, yet they very much believe in the miraculous. They may distrust the Church hierarchy, regard the cult of saints as a pagan holdover, but when it comes to the spirit realm, they are fully on board.
Over the last few years, the Catholic Church has been turning back to this sphere. Our Diocesan magazine has more and more articles focusing on spiritual warfare, and its being mentioned more frequently in homilies.
As the same time, just about everyone I encounter of late has said that something feels "wrong." They can't put their finger on it, but there is a general uneasiness. Perhaps after a long lull - which many convinced themselves to mean that spirits didn't exist - the operational tempo is picking up again.