Demons in the White House Rose Garden?

By Timothy Furnish Published on July 17, 2019

President Trump, and those of us supporting him, regularly deal with outrageous insults from the Left and the media. (I know — what’s the difference?) Even some on the establishment Right chime in: Trump’s literally crazy. And racist. As well as stupid. Those who voted for him? White supremacists, fools, and of course, deplorables.

But on July 11, 2019, at a White House ceremony no less, the slurs got kicked up a notch. Brian Karem, a journalist who works for both CNN and Playboy, brayed that conservatives present in the Rose Garden were “eager for demonic possession.”

This smear was overshadowed by the altercation that erupted afterwards between Karem and former White House adviser Dr. Seb Gorka. Gorka called out Karem for his apparent lack of objectivity. Bravo for the good doctor. But journalists’ leftist bias is now a given in America. Far more striking, and indeed disturbing, is Karem’s invocation of demonic possession.

Demonizing Your Enemies — Literally

First, what a weird thing for a member of the liberal media to say. We’ve been led to think a fundamentalist Protestant or hard-core Catholic might slander a Trump-bashing reporter as being in league with Satan. But not the other way around. As near as I can tell, Mr. Karem is — or at least was raised — Catholic. As such, he should know that the charge of seeking demonic control should not be made lightly. If ever.

Karem was taught by nuns. He should also know that demons are a very real problem in the New Testament. Jesus performed at least eight exorcisms in the Gospels. The Lord also gave his Apostles and Disciples authority to do the same. St. Paul used that power to expel a demon from a fortune-telling slave girl. Freelance exorcists also tried to get into the business, to their misfortune. In Acts 19:13-20, seven unbelieving Jewish men invoked “Jesus whom Paul preaches” and got beaten up by a demoniac.

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But more relevant here are examples of false claims of possession used to delegitimize enemies. This was done both to Christ and to his forerunner. Ascetic John the Baptist was accused of having a demon (Matthew 11:18, Luke 7:33). The Pharisees, more than once, charged that Jesus had power to expel demons only because He was working with Beelzebub, a satanic lieutenant (Matthew 12:22, Mark 3:22, Luke 11:14). Other groups also imputed demonic possession to Christ (John 7:20, 8:48, 10:20).

Karem’s vilification of conservatives should bother all of us. It’s not a long road from demonization to death and destruction. If certain folks are indeed evil and seeking succor from dark powers, then by all means they need to be eliminated.

Dark Spirits: All Too Real

Alas, demonic possession still occurs today. Author William Peter Blatty based The Exorcist on a true story, as researched by Thomas B. Allen in Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism. The Roman Catholic Church has increased its ranks of exorcists in recent years. (For more in-depth treatment, see Tracy Wilkinson, The Vatican’s Exorcists, or the older classic by Malachi Martin, Hostage to the Devil.)

Of course, many American Evangelical Christians claim to do exorcisms, often billed as “deliverance ministries.” (Some of these appear in Michael W. Cuneo, American Exorcism.) The phenomenon is also well-known, less flamboyantly, in the Orthodox churches. Even in my own rather conservative and stodgy denomination, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, demonic possession — both abroad and here at home — is a renewed topic of interest.

Notable non-clerics have testified to the tragic fact of demonic interference in modern life — in particular two renowned psychiatrists. The late M. Scott Peck, M.D., did so in his People of the Lie. And Dr. Richard Gallagher, the subject of a long CNN article in 2017, has a book on the topic coming out next year.

Stealing Election

Back to the Rose Garden, last Thursday: according to Karem, Trump supporters are, or yearn to be, in the devil’s camp. I suppose that makes Karem and his liberal compatriots sons and daughters of light. God’s own elect.

The President addressed two points at that Rose Garden ceremony. One was figuring out how many of the 330 million folks in American are citizens, since liberal judges won’t let the census find out. The other was calling out social media for demonstrated prejudice against conservatives. It’s demonic to bring up those topics. So says an award-winning journalist.

Apparently God, or at least the god of Playboy and CNN, blesses a country’s ignorance of its own population. At least that would seem to be Karem’s contention.

Maybe I’m being unfair to Karem. He might have Pope Francis on his side on these two issues, considering what the pontiff has said about illegal immigrants and certain perspectives expressed on social media. But while Francis has recommended and supported the use of exorcism in the Roman Catholic church, he has never accused his opponents of desiring demonic domination.

Trivializing the Demonic and Vilifying Fellow Citizens

Years ago, the late Charles Krauthammer opined that “conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.” Empirical research backs up the latter contention. And that’s the very definition of “demonization.”

But two things about Karem’s vilification of conservatives should bother all of us. First, it’s a short road from demonization to death and destruction. If certain folks are indeed evil and seeking succor from dark powers, then they need to be eliminated. History shows the intolerant Left every bit as capable of wiping out its enemies as the Right — if not more so. Mao killed far more than Hitler ever did. Stalin came in close behind him.

The second aspect of Karem’s seemingly offhand remark is perhaps even more disturbing: that one raised Christian would take the very real and repulsive problem of demonic possession so lightly that he would accuse his political opponents of desiring such a horrible fate. Karem thus regards people he dislikes politically the same way the Pharisees did Jesus. Ironic, and indefensible.

I will pray for Brian Karem. Please do the same.


Timothy Furnish holds a PhD in Islamic, World and African history (Ohio State, 2001). He is a former U.S. Army Arabic linguist and, later, civilian consultant to U.S. Special Operations Command. He’s author of books on the Middle East and Middle-earth, a history professor, and sometime media opiner (as, for example, on Fox News Channel’s “War Stories: Fighting ISIS“).

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