Monday, February 21, 2011

Is “The Rite” Right?

Question. What’s the difference between paranoid schizophrenia and demonic possession? Answer. Catholicism. My wife and I went to see the film, “The Rite” with Anthony Hopkins (I think it’s the best of all the demonic possession movies) and as we were leaving she asked, “How come only the Catholics do exorcisms?” Good question.

In the past, up until fairly recently, The Catholic Church charged money for doing an exorcism (imagine my surprise). Now, of course, exorcisms are done for free, as kind of a loss leader in the total marketing scheme of the Church. That explains part of it. But the bigger reason, in my opinion, is that other churches in the Abrahamic monotheistic tradition (most of which believe in Satan) take a different view of what the devil’s work looks like to the untrained eye. The evangelicals believe that Satan is so devious and powerful that he would never betray his presence by outwardly changing the personality of some lowly mortal. Evangelicals believe that Satan is too clever for that, and this opens up a landscape where Satan can be anywhere at any time. That’s the whole idea, of course, since this is supposed to bring people to Jesus who can also be anywhere at any time. There’s an old saw, “No Satan, no God.” For evangelicals, insane behavior is a sign of insanity and nothing more. For Catholics, insane behavior is a sign of possession which requires Church intervention. It’s all in the interpretation.

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