• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Devil in the Detail

A report from the London Evening Standard:

Channel 4 has provoked outrage by showing the first exorcism ritual on British TV.

Except it’s not. I’ve seen two over the past decade or so, although I’m afraid I can’t recall the exact details. The first (I’m sure was in 1991) was an American documentary about a church in Oklahoma where the pastor had persuaded his congregation that most of them had been abused as children as part of a Satanic conspiracy: I definitely remember a meek-looking middle-aged lady swearing her head off while being rebuked by said pastor. The second (probably 1992) was a “fly on the wall” profile of a small band of British Charismatic Christians, and featured a guy being held down at a table as he shouted out “we’re staying in him”. Plus there was a BBC piece just a couple of years back that featured a house being exorcised of a ghost (and, apparently, exorcisms on a British Christian satellite channel which led to a rebuke from broadcasting authorities in 1998).

However, this one was slightly different:

Channel 4 broadcast the programme “as live” hours after it had taken place in front of a panel of experts at the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane. Channel 4 said it was a “scientific experiment”. It was broadcast at 11.05 last night.

Unfortunately, now being based in Japan I wasn’t able actually to see the “experiment”. However, a reviewer noted:

Doctor [Jonathan] Bird, who was monitoring the EEG machine, revealed that some small tremor had been recorded in Colin’s brain just at the moment when Satan’s henchman did a runner, but that it was not significant enough to constitute a definite exorcism or similar flight of the evil one.

So who was the exorcist? None other than Trevor Newport, who has been featured on this blog before. Newport is a bit of an exorcist pundit, having been used several times in the past by the BBC (most recently, as a preview to the C4 programme, here). He is also, somewhat unlike Father Merrin of The Exorcist, a Word of Faith “Prosperity Gospel” Charismatic with links to Kenneth Copeland (A chap called Mark who claims to have been involved with Newport’s church left a rather negative comment about him on my original entry).

UPDATE: See today.