August 2012

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Aug. 4th, 2012

Exorcism, Demonic Possession, and The Aurora Shooting, An Ongoing Conversations

For the past two weeks there's been a discussion regarding whether the Aurora shooter (his name left off intentionally thanks to a interesting suggestion from Steven T. Abell http://www.patheos.com//Pagan/Wallowing-Obscurity-Steven-Abell-08-02-2012.html) is possessed. I have been reading the articles but trying to hold back from writing anything in the conversation. There are some very good and talented bloggers who have thrown their two cents in. They've brought there perspective to the table, and it's taken me some time to realize that while I appreciate their writing there perspective is not a better articulated version of mine on this occasion. I actually have some considerations that I haven't read yet. I was still hesitant to write and post my thoughts on this topic, but it seems all my other ideas on what to write won't come out until I've dealt with some of my concerns on this topic.


I have several problems with the Catholic version of possession and exorcism in general. I think Jason Pitzl-Waters explains very well in his article, “Why We Should Reject The Demonic Possession Narrative” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildhunt/2012/07/why-we-should-reject-the-demonic-possession-narrative.htmlrejecting, why an exorcism narrative considering Catholic possession is dangerous to minority faiths, especially an that practice magic or divination. He sums of my feeling of foreboding generally regarding both accusing people of demonic possession and exorcisms. Pitzl-Waters as always gives lots of connecting pieces that show the many different ways this practice and the attitude it demonstrates is dangerous in he present in the west and in other parts of the globe. To name one more, I'd like to point out the case of Anneliese Michel http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anneliese_Michel and how these good intentions to drive evil out can and do directly hurt or kill the people they are trying to help.


While I admire Pitzl-Water's work and find his article well written and informative, I don't find it applies as directly to the Aurora situation as I would like. There is no question that the shooter is guilty of terrible crimes, unlike his examples of innocents who've been hurt through Christianity's hunt to destroy a perceived evil. There is definitely evil going on in the shooting of innocent Aurora movie goers.


I found Mark Shea's response to Pitzl-Waters' article titled “Interesting Conversation about Demons” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2012/07/interesting-conversation-about-demons.html

hostile, aggressive, offensive, and intentionally obtuse but it had one specific excerpt that speaks towards a difference between the other connections Pitzl-Waters makes and the current conversation regarding the Aurora shooter. Shea writes “Seems like the sensible thing, when confronted with an obviously demonic act, is to ask people familiar with the phenomenon of the demonic (ie. exorcists) if there might be a reason to do an exorcism.”


To be clear: I don't agree with Shea that there is need to look into exorcism or possession but I do agree with him that the presence of a violent, cruel act we do not understand committed by a person who seems to have been fairly ordinary until this point is jarring for society as a whole. It's not something we understand right now and are struggling to come to terms with. Accusing this shooter of demonic possession is difference specifically because of the the evidence of violent crimes and this aspect of the story is not covered in Pitzel-Water's article.


So here are my additional reasoning to reject considering demonic possession in the case where an evil act has been committed.


First, if one is possessed by demons or under demonic influence then one is in theory not in control of his or her actions and therefor not guilty of any crime. I have a hard time coming to terms with releasing someone from responsibility for an attack that was so clearly premeditated and thought out. Even if the man had a psychotic break of some kind this sort of planning (from how he executed shooting to how he booby trapped his house suggest both that he had an intent goal and he knew others would try to stop him). I would and do reject the idea of demonic possession simply because I believe he is responsible for his actions and possession would liberate him from any form of that in a way even mental instability would not.


Second, we've only just scratched the surface of the Auroa shooting. We know what happened, but we're still trying to piece together why it happened and what to do regarding what happened. There is real, honest, and solid investigations going on that to me, need to be exhausted before we turn to the supernatural. Why are we jumping to the unseen when we haven't finished exploring the tangible?


The opening of Fr. Dwight Longenecker's article “The Aurora Murders and Demonic Possession” (http://www.patheos.com/Catholic/Aurora-Murders-Demonic-Possession-Dwight-Longenecker-07-24-2012.html) is offensive to me where he takes urban legends and common technological failings and holds it up as proof to consider demonic possession. I reject even considering that a fictional character, the Joker, has demonic influence that may have killed Heath Ledger and now influenced another person. I reject that a suicide which happened after Ledger starred in a Batman movie and the shooting which unfortunately took place during a showing of a different Batman movie could in any way be connected via some supernatural evil that feels what, kindred perhaps, towards the persona of the Joker.


Worse Longenecker goes on to ask rational thinking people to consider possession because: “There was a weird phone message with bizarre guttural voices and moans.” Welcome to every stereo typed horror movie or supernatural thriller that involves possession or communication with the dead/ the otherworldly. Static or some form of signal interference or background noise clearly indicates something “other” being present and every time I have bad reception I should consider whether there's something rotten in the state of Denmark so to speak.


I'm being snarky and sarcastic, but I seriously do wonder about the stability of people who suggest otherworldly evil on these terms and who ask others to consider it. When Mark Shea derides others, specifically Pitzl-Waters and his pagan audience, for not keeping an “open mind” to possession based off of the evidence Longenecker presents, I can' help by goggle a little. Whatis there to consider but that some people would prefer to consider anything other than the idea that ordinary people can and do horrible unexplainable thing?


Beyond entertaining an absurd idea simply because it's one the United States majority faith wants us to, what is “sensible” in contemplating possession? Beyond that, the exorcism that Shea wishes the state would do if necessary (but as we aren't “civilized” enough for that he urges a grieving family to pursue tat end), brings us to unpalatable outcomes. It could easily lead to a possibly traumatizing/deadly results for someone who's mentally unsound. Or, if the USA were as “civilized” as Shea wishes, it could lead to a priest lighting incense, chanting/praying and releasing a sociopath back out into society. I bounce between the two extremes because we do not know why the shooter did what he did or what his mental state is. I only see bad possibilities going down this road though regardless of the surrounding details and therefor see no reason to consider possession. I am truly baffled as to what Shea and other Longenecker supports wish to gain in pushing a demonic agenda on us.


The third reason I reject a possession narrative is because of where it will lead. By this I'm asking: What will we do if we decide the shooter is possessed? Do we respect that person's right to participate or not in religious rituals as he may not agree to an exorcism, or do we steam role him because the “demon” is controlling him? Do we allow the man to have an exorcism and then release him back into the world or is this a practice only for his spiritual good where he will remain in prison either way. How can you be sure his motives to agreeing or disagreeing and do those motives matter? If the shooter really was possessed how did it happen and after exorcism how do we keep an already weak man from falling victim to evil again and doing something equally terrible?


If the shooter is deemed incapable of making a yes or no decision, do we turn that control over to his parents? Do we have to stand by and watch groups exert pressure on the family for the rights to exorcise their son? Will we see if they crumble to a false promises of returning the quite smart kid they loved to them if they would just let them kick out the evil that controls him now? Will they parade out a panel of “experts” they have that include both priests as well as doctors and psychologists who will pretend there is good science here as well as spiritual healing? That's cruel and manipulative in the highest degree. Even if one can't get worked up about the trauma the shooter might endure, who's cruel enough to do that to a family that's grieving and reeling from shock?


What part does the state play in this whole possession narrative scheme, and if they allow for this, what does it say about other minority rights? I know we're talking about a violent offender now, but if the Catholic church can make a case that static and the possible involvement of a fictional character makes someone “possessed by evil” and in need of an exorcism, then what other activities would be enough to qualify one to be “possessed by evil”? I don't want my country to begin sanctioning one religion's world view of evil or possession even if it's only in the case of someone who commits a violent crime. It's a slippery slope I'd just as soon keep off of.


Sep. 27th, 2007

Talking about Faith

So today I'd like to cover the nature of faith and belief. Coming from a Roman Catholic background I was raised to believe that either you were right or you were wrong in regards to your beliefs. Sure there were other faiths, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, other "Christians", but those were not THE BELIEFS. Those worshipers weren't going anywhere good fast, so it was best not to even consider them You either agreed completely with the church or you were wrong and going to Hell.

Of course until this past summer people at the church have said other wise. One particularly kind CCD teacher at my parish caught me crying for my friends fates when I was younger and told me that other Christians would be in Heaven too. They weren't worshiping correctly but their hearts were in the right places, so God would understand. She told me that Jews and Muslims would probably also make it to Heaven if they lived good lives. At the time this comforted me. I felt safe and secure in the world for both myself and my friends.

Now of course, I'm no longer Christian at all. I don't agree with an either you are right or wrong philosophy when it comes to religion. I believe X, but that doesn't have to be mutually exclusive from other beliefs. Also, even though I do belief X and I don't believe Y I acknowledge that these beliefs aren't solid facts. They are what I believe to be true based off of my experiences and other beliefs are what others think are true based off of their experiences. We could both be right or we could both be wrong or one of us could be right while the other is wrong and all of these are equally possible.

To me, acknowledging that what I believe could be wrong doesn't mean I don't have faith. I mean I do have beliefs and I do feel very strongly about them. I don't doubt that they are my personal truth and current reality based off of the experiences I have now, I am just aware that they are based purely in personal experience and that these experiences are subject to all sort of variables. I don't expect other people to follow my beliefs or to agree with me. Just as other people shouldn't expect me to follow their beliefs and believe them.

To me, being able to acknowledge that the world and knowledge is in flux is a strength. It is good to listen to others and to be open to experiences. These sort of tests/experiences will either strengthen my faith or it will void a previous belief and lead me to new and deeper insights. To my way of thinking, there is no down side to enhancing your wisdom even if it is through admitting that you are wrong.

My mother, of course doesn't agree with me. One of the few times she actually acknowledges that I'm not Christian in the slightest is to mock my lack of conviction in my beliefs. I tried to assure her that I was quite certain in what I believed due to my personal experience. I do feel quite deeply that what I think religiously is very true. I would have had to have felt that way to get over the extreme fear of Hell drilled into me at a young age.

My mom's counter was "But you acknowledge that when you die there could be a hell?"

Of course I couldn't say more than "I don't believe in Hell. But I can't deny the possibility that when I die there may be a Hell of some sort."

Apparently, the mere acknowledgment of possibility is weakness. It means one lacks faith and conviction. We can never hesitate or ponder other potentials beyond that which we believe because it means we don't really believe.

I thought it was an interesting way to look at faith. What I thought was more interesting though was that after I admitted that there might be a Hell, my mother tried to convince me that this possibility along is reason enough to be Christian. That's a contradiction from what she had said earlier though. I mean to be Catholic either I have to believe it all or I'm not doing it right, Possibility isn't enough. And, unless I've been out of the game too long, I'm fairly certain that doing good works has to be in thought, intention, and action. If I do then just because I fear, Hell there is no salvation anyhow. So as long as I doubt and can't believe the theology why not enjoy it now?

I don't know these are just some of my thoughts on faith. I just found the duality of what it means to be faithful or to have faith from my mother's view and from mine. Drop me a line if you have differing views on what it means to have faith too. After all, I'm sure there are other takes beyond mine and my mom's.

Aug. 25th, 2007

Its a bird, its a plane, wait no, its....

MANGA MESSIAH!!!  

No seriously, this is hilarous.  And it almost looks good.  I must really like manga though.  Or perhaps I just want to see how they glossed over all the porn in the bible.  But anyhow  thanks to the_flowergirl over at lj's DC for pointing it out for the win. Must say it looks really cool and very authentically manga-esque. I wonder if it reads from left to right or right to left?   And I wonder if its worth getting.  Can't say I'm not a little tempted...