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Along with eleven Australians, I recently visited one of South Asia’s oldest and most “spiritual” cities. Hundreds of thousands of religious seekers and devotees visit it each year. It’s a city devoted to Shiva.

If you visit this city you’ll see more temples than Starbucks in Seattle and pilgrims and hippies in their flowing, dirty, mismatched garb. You can visit “the burning ghats” where dead bodies are openly cremated on pyres. You can take a boat ride in a holy river polluted by ashes from said cremated bodies as well as the flowers, cloth, incense and a million other things offered to the gods.

For several of the Aussies, this was their first encounter with an intense, cross-cultural spiritual environment. The city I live is not much different – the temples, the devotees, the sense of a fog of evil – and so I was neither surprised, nor gave it much thought.

So I was mildly surprised when several of the group mentioned it during our debrief time. Not because I wasn’t aware of it, but surprised in the way someone who’s lived for the past two years in a house with a breakfast nook might be when they move into a house without one. “Oh right, not every place is like that…” I thought.

Hindu god Shiva

Midway through the discussion, one of my colleagues asked me to comment. My slow introverted mind still trying to process, I think I said something about how the spiritual forces they felt are definitely real, but no more evil than the ones at work in our own home countries. At home, though, they just take on the forms of greed, self-justification, hypocrisy, etc that we’re much more comfortable with. The Bible has just as many unkind words to say about the love of money as it does about making offerings to idols. Just a thought.

As the discussion moved on, I began to question why I don’t experience more of the type of spiritual warfare they were most interested in discussing. I rarely to never wake up in the middle of the night with the sense something evil is in my room. I can walk into a temple and not feel sick. I don’t get creeped out by rows and rows of idols for sale on the roadside. Had I simply become numb to the evil forces around me? Was there another level of warfare going on that I’m not sensitive to and therefore not effective in?

I began to wonder…

What I’ve figured out so far will be in part two tomorrow. Until then, I’m interested in how your background influences your thoughts on spiritual warfare. Christian traditions tend to be all over the map on this issue. What’s your background and what do you personally believe about spiritual warfare?