Exorcise Regime

The BBC World Service has a new documentary series on exorcism. The first 15-minute episode was an informative introduction, although running time obviously limited the analysis. The programme begins with a Charismatic deliverance service, and then introduces us to Benedict Heron, London-based Benedictine and “unofficial” Catholic exorcist. Heron’s book I Saw Satan Fall is available on-line; the programme failed to identify him as a Charismatic Catholic, which makes him a bit different from the norm.

The presenter, Richard Johnson, also tells us that the Catholic Church is the only Church to have an official exorcism handbook, recently updated from the 1614 edition. Actually, the Church of England does have a kind of handbook, the booklet Exorcism: The Findings of the Commission convened by the Bishop of Exeter, albeit long out of print since publication in the 1970s (although I have a copy). It might also be worth noting that the new Anglican Common Worship liturgy includes the Christaraksha, an Indian prayer that mentions “the assaults of evil spirits.”

A bit of historical context is provided by Dr. Marion Gibson, and we also hear about Jim Peasboro, a Savannah-based preacher who supposedly believes that any computer built after 1985 has the capacity to become possessed. Alas, it looks like Rev Peasboro, and his book The Devil in the Machine, is an urban legend.

UPDATE (7 November): I’ve checked out some of the other figures featured in the later programmes.

The second programme concentrates on Ghana. We meet Matthew Addai Mensah (or Matthew Addae-Mensah) of the Gospel Light Church, who burns down witches’ shrines and claims to have raised the dead. Back in March the Ghanaian Chronicle (via Ghanaweb) reported that this Pentecostal Bishop is in a spot of bother:

The General Overseer of Gospel Light International Church, Bishop Addai-Mensah who has been accused of committing adultery with a female pastor of the Church, has described the allegation as a fabrication…the charge [is] by a member of the church choir and husband of the female pastor, Mr. Kwamena Ofori.

…The Chronicle’s information was that Bishop Addai-Mensah had been seen several times with the lady pastor in her bedroom at odd hours under the guise of conducting deliverance.

The programme also features a Dr Opoku, who believes that he can diagnose a woman as being demonised if she wears trousers…However, there is also serious analysis of the attractions of deliverance in Ghanaian society, and what can happen to a woman when she has been denounced as a witch.

The next programme features Trevor Newport, who runs Life Changing Ministries in Stoke-on-Trent. Newport practises Charismatic deliverance, and seems to be a bit of a favourite for BBC journalists – more about him can be found here. His church’s website appears to be down, but looking at an archived site identifies him as a Prosperity Gospel “Word of Faith” preacher with links to Kenneth Copeland.

In the last episode, which considers exorcism in relation to mental illness and what can go wrong, two mainline figures are introduced: Granville Gibson, a former Archdeacon in north-east England; and Canon William Lendrum. Lendrum is a Church of Ireland minister based in Belfast, and has been a media subject before. According to the Belfast Telegraph (via Religion News Blog), Lendrum apparently only became interested in the subject during his career:

As a minister in the early 70s he began “to feel a kind of perverse plan working against me. Things kept going wrong just when they’d cause most damage, like before I ran a mission. The edge would be taken off my sword, if you like

“I began to have an open mind about what was the cause of it.”

In swift succession he was loaned a book, Spiritual Warfare – “something I’d never thought about before” – and then met a young woman in an alcoholic hospital where he was chaplain. He refers to her by the pseudonym ‘Alice’ and what he witnessed chilled him to the core…”Alice started being argumentative and truculent. She talked about herself in the third person. Then it dawned on me that someone else was using Alice’s lips to speak to me about Alice. It was an evil spirit talking, it was in control of her life…Eventually I prised out details of how she’d been initiated into something called the satanic Ulster Assassination Cult in a blood-letting ritual.

I can’t find any other reference for this supposed group. The transcript of a BBC phone-in with Lendrum can be read here.

Anti-Gay Groups Hit the Mall

Crosswalk reports on the recent “Mayday For Marriage” rally against gay marriage in Washington DC:

On Oct. 15, an estimated 200,000 people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in response to a call to protect the endangered institution of marriage from what U.S. Ambassador Alan Keyes called “the arrogant elite.”

In addition to Keyes, Christian leaders such as Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Dr. Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church spoke at the rally.

However, the ungodly at the New York Times dispute the figure:

Organizers put the attendance at the rally, called Mayday for Marriage, at close to 200,000, but others said it appeared to be far less than half that. In any case, it fell short of organizers’ projections, which ranged from a million last month to about 400,000 earlier this week.

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the event was conceived by Hutcherson, who is a protégé of Tim LaHaye and Howard Hendricks. According to Crosswalk, Dobson made an anguished call for someone to “please think of the children”, and the Times notes that he also gave an explicit endorsement of Bush, warning that people who watch “propaganda” on MTV are also being encouraged to vote by the music channel. Charles “Watergate into Wine” Colson added:

[Same-sex ‘marriage’] separates parenthood from marriage. It says that it doesn’t matter if you’re married to raise children, but it does matter because those children need a male and a female – a mother and a father.”

Not only do homosexuals want to raise children, they want to raise them within the context of being married! How has America sunk so low? But there’s more, from the hellhole that is Scandinavia:

Colson warned that if we fail to protect marriage in the United States, the nation could end up like Norway and Holland – where marriage is so diminished that few, regardless of rights, bother to marry anymore.

This bizarre non-sequiter, that gay people wanting to get married causes less people overall to want to marry, has its origins with conservative anthropologist Stanley Kurtz, writing in the Weekly Standard in February. Kurtz was debunked by M.V. Lee Badgett in Slate in May:

The main evidence Kurtz points to is the increase in cohabitation rates among unmarried heterosexual couples and the increase in births to unmarried mothers. Roughly half of all children in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are now born to unmarried parents. In Denmark, the number of cohabiting couples with children rose by 25 percent in the 1990s. From these statistics Kurtz concludes that “… married parenthood has become a minority phenomenon,” and—surprise—he blames gay marriage.

But Kurtz’s interpretation of the statistics is incorrect. Parenthood within marriage is still the norm—most cohabitating couples marry after they start having children. In Sweden, for instance, 70 percent of cohabiters wed after their first child is born. Indeed, in Scandinavia the majority of families with children are headed by married parents. In Denmark and Norway, roughly four out of five couples with children were married in 2003. In the Netherlands, a bit south of Scandinavia, 90 percent of heterosexual couples with kids are married.

Kurtz is also mistaken in maintaining that gay unions are to blame for changes in heterosexual marriage patterns. In truth, the shift occurred in the opposite direction: Changes in heterosexual marriage made the recognition of gay couples more likely. In my own recent study conducted in the Netherlands, I found that the nine countries with partnership laws had higher rates of unmarried cohabitation than other European and North American countries before passage of the partner-registration laws. In other words, high cohabitation rates came first, gay partnership laws followed.

Also at the rally were Dennis Rainey of FamilyLife, speaking against divorce, and Alan Chambers of Exodus International. Crosswalk failed to note the presence of Rabbi Daniel Lapin, who heads up Toward Tradition, and Gary Bauer.

And, according to the Seattle Post, it all cost only $4 million!

(Some links snagged from Christianity Today and The Revealer)