Monthly Archives: June 2010

Deliverance Is Evil

I came across a harrowing post at Thoughts in a Haystack the other day, and followed John’s link to an even more harrowing item. You’ll be thrilled to learn that Pentecostals can no longer be regarded as a one-trick pony. No, sirree, Bob. Not by a long shot. Now, in addition to speaking in tongues, Pentecostals have a lock on the ministry of deliverance: exorcising demons. Unlike speaking in tongues, though, which any spirit-filled believer can do, deliverance requires special training in a field called Spiritual Warfare.

Where and how, exactly, do Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance education take place? Is such education available via correspondence or online courses, or is on-campus class participation required? Are such courses offered by Pentecostal Bible colleges? At all of them, or just a select few? Or – here’s another possibility – are courses in Spiritual Warfare and/or Deliverance offered in weekend seminars held in church basements? When a candidate completes the training course (can it be done in one course, or are multiple courses required?), does he or she receive a certificate or degree? Can one get certified in Deliverance only, or must one be certified in the field of Spiritual Warfare in general?

How does one become a Spiritual Warfare and/or Deliverance educator? Are instructors certified? Do they hold collegiate or advanced degrees in these fields? Are there entire degree programs devoted to the field of Spiritual Warfare? Is Deliverance a sub-field of Spiritual Warfare, or a discipline in its own right? Can you imagine attending college and enrolling in the Deliverance program because what you want to do for the rest of your life, more than anything else, is exorcise Homosexual-Causing Demons from gay people? My God, is that the stuff dreams are made of or what? Quick, show me where to sign my name!

This deliverance stuff would be hilarious if people weren’t being hurt by it. Unfortunately, some lunatics who take these ideas and rituals very seriously are tormenting others. Consider Kevin Robinson’s story:

The prophet placed her hands on Kevin and began to pray over him. “Come out, come out!” she shouted. “In the name of Jesus, I command you to come out! You gonna free him right now!”

Kevin closed his eyes, thinking to himself, “There’s something wrong with me; I need to change.” A part of him believed this prophet could do what no one else had been able to do during previous deliverance attempts—make him heterosexual. But the prophet was loud and she looked at him with disgust and contempt as her chants became more and more belligerent. Even now Kevin can’t bring himself to repeat the most hurtful things she said. He soon began to cry. And then, with the prophet still exhorting the demons in him to depart, he blacked out and collapsed. When he regained consciousness, he stood up and returned to his seat. His shame was turning to rage. He searched his mind and thoughts and found he was unchanged—he was still attracted to men. In the past it had been family members—his mother, his aunt, or his uncle, the church’s pastor—who performed deliverance on him. This time it was a stranger, and she had pushed him beyond the breaking point. Never again, he decided, would he allow himself to be treated this way.

It was, by Kevin’s count, at least the 10th time since he was 16 that he’d subjected himself to gay exorcism.

Every time I read that passage, I can’t decide whether I want to cry or cuss out the stupid “prophets” who tortured Kevin. If you have a queasy stomach, you may want to skip Peterson Toscano’s account:

Peterson Toscano, a gay Christian activist, underwent three exorcisms before coming to terms with his sexuality. One took place in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, another in an apartment on the West Side of Manhattan owned by Joanne Highley, who runs L.I.F.E. Ministry. During the latter exorcism, Highley had him lie down on her bed, then she sat beside him and began to press on his body, commanding the demons to exit through his mouth and rectum. Before the rite was complete, Toscano, who says he felt increasingly violated by Highley’s actions, stopped the ritual and left her apartment. Highley did not respond to requests to be interviewed, but she has previously stated that her process is to “cleanse and bind demonic powers . . . out of genitals, of course out of anal canals, out of intestines, out of throats and mouths if there’s been ungodly deposit of semen in those areas—we cleanse with the blood of Jesus, and we cast out the demonic powers.” Some practitioners of deliverance believe that a demon has a physical as well as a spiritual form and can be purged through the orifices—thus an exorcism can be judged successful if the subject vomits, coughs up sputum, or, in rare cases, evacuates his bowels.

These are rituals that require specialized training? How does this work? Does one complete supervised professional internships in verbally berating and physically assaulting people in order to be acknowledged and/or certified as a Deliverer or Spiritual Warrior? Can one who is especially skilled at this continue on to post-graduate studies? The mind boggles.

Is behavior like this any more civilized than that of African witch-hunters? I think not. Is it coincidental that many of the Africans labeled as witches and many of the Americans undergoing deliverance are minors? I think not. Minors are emotionally, psychologically and intellectually vulnerable, often physically weaker than their tormentors, and easily victimized; they’re easy pickings for bullies. American exorcists may wear silk instead of cotton, but they’re just as deluded as their witch-hunting counterparts in Africa. All of them are equally willing and eager to take out their fears on those who are least able to resist them.

Defenders and practitioners of deliverance insist that the ritual is an act of “love and care” aimed at delivering gays “from the clutches of the Devil.” But some people, including some Pentecostals, wonder if deliverance rituals cross the line into abusive behavior. Duh! Gee, ya think? There haven’t been any cases “challenging gay exorcism in the United States to date, nor, apparently, has there been any research into the psychological impact of the practice, without which prosecution remains unlikely.” All that’s a convoluted way of saying that, until someone formally studies Deliverance and issues a scholarly declaration that it may be problematic, religious nuts will continue getting free passes on activities that would be deemed unacceptable, and probably illegal, in non-religious circumstances. Given the USA’s traditional kowtowing stance toward Christianity, authorities won’t pay any attention to this stuff unless people start dying during or shortly after deliverance rituals. Even then, it would probably take multiple deaths to spur any action; one death would simply be dismissed as a tragic anomaly. In the meantime, people like Kevin Robinson and Peterson Toscano will continue suffering at the hands of those who are supposed to love them the most.

— the chaplain


Notices & News

This is just a quick post to let you know of some recent events.

First, I’ve added another bookshelf in my Reading Room. If you’ve got some time on your hands and are looking for something to read, check out some of the stuff that keeps me occupied when I’m not blogging, working, cooking, eating…

Second, I should have posted this last week, but here it is now: the 143rd Carnival of the Godless is available. My piece, Gawd Said Let There Be Irony – And It Was Good, is included, along with several other good posts. If you haven’t read this latest carnival installment yet, do yourself a favor and correct that shortcoming today.

Third, my Masters of Disaster & Irony post has been included in Sunday in Outer Blogness. If you’ve never read this blog carnival, you’re in for a treat. Most of the posts here deal with issues pertinent to ex-Mormons. These posts give readers a peek at some facets of faith and life that are unique to Mormonism. Nevertheless, as I read posts written by Ex-Mos, I often see similarities between their deconversion experiences and mine. That’s not surprising, really. Regardless of where one begins the process, outgrowing childish fantasies and entering intellectual adulthood requires working through similar phases of belief, doubt, searching, disillusion and resolution. As the inclusion of my non-religious post indicates, the host likes to include material that reaches beyond religious interests and is pertinent to humanity as a whole. My post is one of four BP-themed posts featured in this week’s carnival. I’ve been included in this carnival before, and I’m always gratified by that acknowledgment.

Fourth and finally, the most recent Humanist Symposium (#55) is up. I don’t have any pieces in that carnival this week, but there are several posts that you may want to read if you haven’t seen them yet.

— the chaplain

1 Comment

Posted by on June 13, 2010 in announcements/news, carnival


Masters of Disaster & Irony

British Petroleum, the company that is responsible for what may be the most catastrophic man-made ecological disaster in human history, has spent nearly two months trying to persuade the world that it bears little or no responsibility for the devastation that is currently going on in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s why people find notices like these, posted at BP gas stations around the USA, ironic.

I didn’t know anyone was still buying gas from BP. I guess someone will have to do it, though, if we want BP to pay for cleaning up its mess. For some truly awful looks at the disaster that continues to unfold in the gulf, check out this photo essay. Some samples of what they have:

Americans missed an opportunity to start weaning ourselves from oil during the energy crises of the 1970s. Nearly 40 years ago. It sickens me to think about how far we could have come in the nearly half century that has passed if we would have made some efforts to change our ways then. I wish I could say that this disaster will be a wake-up call. But, I doubt that it will be. We’ll muddle through this, then continue doing the same irresponsible, wasteful shit we always do. What a confounding species we humans are; we can investigate the outer reaches of the universe, the depths of the sea and the structure of DNA, yet we don’t have enough sense to avoid fouling our own nest.

H/T to Think Progress and

— the chaplain


Posted by on June 12, 2010 in environment, photography, society


Freudian Slip?

I came across this typo at a fundy site and had to share it with you:

My opinion is that fundy heaven would be hellish. So, maybe fundy guy didn’t make a typo – maybe Jesus really does reside in Hell!

— the chaplain


Posted by on June 11, 2010 in humor


Book Note: Founding Faith

You may recall that a commenter, Joel Wheeler, recommended a book to me recently. I will share my thoughts about the book, Founding Faith: How Our Founding Fathers Forged a Radical New Approach to Religious Liberty, in this post.

The author, Steven Waldman, a co-founder of Belief.Net, took a fairly evenhanded approach in his examination of

  • the role of religion in the lives of several American Founding Fathers (Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison),
  • the role of religion in the American Revolution and the formation of the USA, and
  • the role of politics in shaping the USA’s fundamental legal documents, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Waldman’s evidence led him to conclude:

  • The five men underwent religious transformations throughout their lives. They didn’t receive their youthful catechisms and tuck them away to be drawn upon as needed for future reference; they questioned religious precepts all of their lives and, in some cases, ended at positions strikingly different from those they’d held as young men.
  • All five of them felt that some religion was necessary to protect the common folks from moral corruption and equip them to be good citizens; enlightened people could handle the truth about religious fables and live responsibly, but the common folks couldn’t be trusted to do the same. Yes, the founding fathers were elitists (but you already knew that).
  • All of them accepted the premise that the universe was created; this is not surprising when one remembers that their lifespans pre-dated the discoveries of Darwin and later scientists.
  • None of them held beliefs that conservative Christians today would consider suitably Christian; today’s Christian Right would excoriate the lot of them as heretics.
  • None of them ever intended that the USA would be a theocratic Christian Nation. They were thoroughly committed to religious pluralism, equality and complete freedom of conscience.

Waldman, reminding us that these five men did not found the country alone, provides some fascinating insights into the negotiating processes that went into shaping the nation’s founding documents, particularly the First Amendment. The Constitution and Bill of Rights were hammered out – word by word – by representatives from thirteen disparate states, and then sent to those states for ratification by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people. Not only was it the will of most Founding Fathers that the USA be a religiously neutral, pluralistic nation, it was the will of many ordinary Americans.

Waldman also notes the importance of remembering that the founding generation could not imagine the ways in which their visions would be realized. For example, since most states did not develop public school systems until the middle and late 19th century, the founders would never have imagined wrangling over school prayer. I suggest that, rather than trying to imagine what Washington or Jefferson would think about such issues, contemporary Americans could better spend our time pondering how Constitutional principles, such as pluralism, to take one example, can best be expressed in our contemporary context. The fact is, the USA is no longer the founders’ country, it’s ours. We need to respect the founders and be grateful for what they gave us, but it’s now up to us to use the tools in our hands. Fortunately, for us, the founders gave us good ones, so let’s use them wisely.

Near the end of the book, Waldman discusses what he sees as fallacies that contemporary Americans commit when discussing church-state issues. These are:

Conservative Fallacy 1: Most Founding Fathers were serious Christians
Conservative Fallacy 2: Separation of church and state is a 20th century invention of the courts
Conservative Fallacy 3: Advocates of separation are anti-religious

Liberal Fallacy 1: Most founding fathers were Deists or secular
Liberal Fallacy 2: The Constitution demanded strict separation of church and state throughout the land
Liberal Fallacy 3: Separation of church and state was designed mostly to protect religious minorities

Common Fallacy 4: The founders figured this all out.

In closing, I’ll say that I enjoyed Waldman’s book. I appreciated the care he took in delineating the theological evolutions of the five founders he examined. I also enjoyed his discussion of the political contexts of the revolution and formation of a new nation based on what were, at the time, radical beliefs and principles. His bias toward religious belief is evident at times, such as when he frames the thinking of the founders as “spiritual journeys,” but this doesn’t prevent him from reaching the right conclusion regarding the Christian Nation verbiage that today’s religious right keeps hurling at our heads: it’s all bullshit (my paraphrase). I can’t help wondering, though, if his religious bias led him to downplay the influences of Deism and Enlightenment philosophy on the founders. His discussions of the religious and political contexts of the founders were thorough, but he did not discuss Enlightenment philosophy at all. While I’ll concede that secularists may be prone to over-emphasizing the philosophical trends of that era and downplaying the theology, that shortcoming is not best countered by emphasizing the theological contexts at the expense of the philosophy. The theological and philosophical contexts both need to be examined critically and thoroughly if we are to have any hope of understanding the ideas and ideals that motivated America’s founders. Notwithstanding this weakness, if you’re interested in reading about the religious and political contexts of the American Revolution and early republic, you’ll probably enjoy this book.

— the chaplain

NB: H/T to Atheist Cartoons for the leeches comic!


So, You Want to Be an Advice Columnist

I discovered recently that has a column entitled, Dear Prudence, which offers “advice on manners and morals.” Today’s headline boasted:

Lawyer Caught Red-Handed

I Walked in on my boss pleasuring himself at work. Should I Complain?

I suspect that many people besides me would have great difficulty resisting that bait. So, I read the post, which opened with a letter to “Prudie:”

Dear Prudie,
I am a young female attorney working in a small law office. Recently, I arrived at the office much earlier than usual. The partner for whom I work was the only other person there. His door was wide open, and when I went by to let him know I was in, I caught him with his pants down, so to speak. He was behind his desk, but I am 95 percent sure of what was going on from the waist down, considering his reaction when I appeared. If I report anything, it would be the word of a young, new attorney versus an experienced and valuable partner. I also cannot imagine even having the conversation with the middle-aged men in my office. For the sake of my career, should I just pretend it did not happen, even though I am totally grossed out and uncomfortable? Unfortunately, he’s not even the person who makes the pay decisions, so it is not as though I can leverage this in any lucrative way. What do I do?


Prudie’s prudent(?) answer follows:

Dear Yuck,
If the partner, thinking the office was deserted, decided it was a propitious time to squeeze in a wank, he should instead stick to double-espressos if he needs a morning lift. I assume when you came upon the scene, you beat a hasty retreat. I understand you’re grossed out, and rightly so. But let’s put this in perspective. It’s not as if the partner, hearing you patter around, called out and asked you to take a look at his briefs. As out of line as his behavior was, he was surely as shocked and mortified as you were. If you pursue this with the other partners, given the absence of evidence of his transgression, he would have a substantial incentive to say you are deluded. If you were grilled about what you saw, your 95 percent certainty might wilt to the level of reasonable doubt. I’ll take as a joke your musing that this presents a blackmail opportunity for you—an attitude that may work at the Glenn Close law firm in Damages but probably won’t go over at yours. So, since there was some ambiguity to the encounter, your best course is to act as if nothing happened and put it out of your mind. However, as Eve, Pandora, and Prometheus all discovered, sometimes knowledge results in unpleasant consequences. So, in case this partner decides to take retribution against you, immediately write up everything that happened and put it in a memo to file on your home and office computers—and keep a hard copy. That way, you’ll have your own record of why you may have suddenly fallen out of favor.


Here are some questions for you to consider:

1. What would you do if you walked in on your boss in a similar situation?
2. What would you do if you were the boss and your employee caught you in a similar situation?
3. How do you think the respective genders of the employee and boss affect the dynamics of the situation? Would the situation differ if the genders were reversed? How? Would the situation differ if both people were males, or both females? How?
4. Do you agree or disagree with Prudie’s advice? Why or why not?

— the chaplain


Posted by on June 3, 2010 in ethics, legal, sex, society


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