Exorcism and evangelicals | Arkansas Blog

Exorcism and evangelicals

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Prompted by the Justin Harris adoption controversy, Amanda Marcotte writes in Slate about about belief in demonic possession among "fringe fundamentalists."

As we've written, numerous witnesses say Harris and his wife came to believe the 2- and 4-year-old girls they adopted were possessed by demons and gave them to another family after attempted exorcisms. Through a lawyer, the Harrises deny belief in demonic possession.

... the sad fact of the matter is that there are many pockets of evangelical Christianity that believe that bad or sinful behavior is caused by demons literally possessing or oppressing people which therefore need to be exorcised. There’s not a lot of information on how widespread this belief is, though it does seem to be fringe. The biggest proponent of it in evangelical circles is a man named Bob Larson, who can be seen, with his daughter and her “teen exorcist” friends, in this Vice video I posted at Slate in 2013. Larson is a classic charlatan—he even charges $295 for a demon exorcism via Skype—but it works because a lot of people really want to believe that destructive behavior is supernatural and can be done away with by praying. In 2001, Fordham sociologist Michael Cuneo even traveled the country and witnessed at least 50 exorcisms, most in evangelical circles, across the country, and published his findings in American Exorcism.

This belief has been endorsed from on high in fundamentalist circles. Pat Robertson of the 700 Club is forever warning viewers about the dangers of demonic possession and witchcraft. Some recent greatest hits include blaming homosexuality on demonic possession, warning that Dungeons & Dragons will cause demonic possession, and that even buying used clothes could bring demons into your life. Also, don’t put your sonogram pictures up on Facebook, because witches will curse your child. 

This reminds me of the story about the complaint in 2011 that led to a rule to make it clear that the Harrises couldn't teach Bible in their state-financed pre-school classes. They still do, one parent told a TV station this week, though it's unclear from his quote if it was during the school day or the supposed non-reimbursed time after school when staff is staying for free with children.

When the school was advertising its Bible-based schooling, it also warned parents that children's clothing "depicting characters that may be affiliated with witches, goblins, ghosts or evil content” is prohibited


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