If the title above perplexes you then you probably don’t speak Afrikaans. It’s Afrikaans for ‘Clean your house’. It’s the title of a controversial DVD produced in South Africa. It’s in the genre of deliverance ministries. In a lengthy two-hour teaching the presenter on the DVD admonished Christians to clean their homes of objects that can become footholds for the devil. Curios from Zimbabwe, as well as masks, almost anything from the Orient, Christmas trees, dwarves and fairies, Disney movies and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ – these objects can bring misfortune into your home – but don’t worry this video will scare the hell out of you and help is just a phone call/deliverance prayer away! Last week I had to counsel some friends who were told that their son’s struggles with potty training might be linked to his Spiderman underwear.

By reading the above paragraph you can probably anticipate my sentiments regarding this matter.

Last week Lollie and Tayla had a mother and daughter day. One of their activities was to go to the video shop where Tayla could choose a story to watch. She chose, “The little Mermaid” – which coincidentally gets singled out in the ‘Maak jou huis skoon’ DVD for being satanic. So Lollie and Tayla watched it. Two things initially stuck with Tayla, and now a third.

Firstly, she loves the song ‘Kiss the girl’. Our broadband connection has had an almost continual link to YouTube’s rendition of the song.

Secondly, she constantly refers to the bad octopus who stole Ariel’s voice – she even went so far to call the octopus a ‘naughty grandmother’.

Since last Saturday she constantly initiated conversations like this …. “Do you know what the naughty grandmother/octopus did?” No … tell me. “She stole Ariel’s voice and placed it in a seashell!” Wow …. What happened then? “She was really naughty!” Oh …. And what happened then? “She stole the little girl’s voice!”

Tayla was stuck on the octopus in this story.

Like all good stories, good and evil struggled for dominance in the Little Mermaid. Tayla became infatuated with the “evil grandmother”. This is one of her first introductions to evil. As parents we are now in the responsible position to help her to discover the double-movement of the story, to get unstuck to move beyond evil into the country of victory and the person of good.

On Sunday when Tayla was at Sunday school, she retold the story of the “naughty octopus” several times … to the amusement of the facilitators.

Thirdly, she is now with almost a 50/50 hit rate telling the story of the evil octopus coupled with the story of the victorious king.

This week it dawned on me that Tayla’s journey with this Disney movie is a metaphor for Jesus followers. Unfortunately a lot of Christians, due to a sheltered existence, become totally infatuated with the evil of the story. When they live and relive a story they only see the “naughty octopus”. What freaks me out about this is that some adults are now training their children in this way of seeing. Here’s a typical scene:

A boy who loved his Spiderman outfit, toys and duvet is told by his parents that his behavioral struggles (like inability to use the potty) is due to Satan’s inhabitance in the toys/logos/fabric of the stuff his parents brought into the home in the first place. This ‘telling’ is on a scale from subtle (taking it away with an explanation that it’s evil) to overt (doing spiritual warfare and exorcisms). This boy now has to work through the questions of why his parents bought him the toys and how one of the symbols of comfort in his life (his duvet) is now evil. Coupled with this he also now wants to gain the approval of his parents and the new vibe they’re on. So when he visits his friend with whom he always had Spiderman games – he becomes the bearer of bad tidings and tells his friend all about the ‘evil octopuses’. I’m not exaggerating at this point.

I’ve had more than one conversation with concerned parents who are telling how some of their children’s friends walk into the playroom and the rest of the house pointing to items saying “this is evil” and “this is evil”. Apart from bad theology this raises huge psychological concerns. How would a child survive a world wherein the “evil octopuses” are the main characters?

It always strikes me how an aged John wrote in his first Epistle to the congregation and repeatable calls them “my little children” – I can imagine him talking to them like Lollie and I to Tayla – helping her to focus on the victory. John says,

“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, because you have conquered the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young people, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2:12-14, NRSV)

Here in this passage the battle between good and evil is starkly portrayed. What’s fascinating is that the group John addresses when he mentions the ‘evil one’ is the ‘young people’. The fathers have learned about the one who is from the beginning – the good. With maturity of faith comes a different emphasis, a movement from the “evil octopus” towards the victory of Good. This in no way takes away from the reality of Evil, it just knows that to get stuck in that part of the story is to negate the victory of good and to develop a reactionary lifestyle.

I can still remember the time when I was infatuated with the octopus. I read everything on spiritual warfare/demons/deliverance and ever so subtly it took my attention away from God. I’ve always enjoyed CS Lewis’ introduction to the Screwtape Letters where he wrote,

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased with both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

In this post (apart from your comments) I would like John to have the last word …

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

1 John 4.4