And the other morons who slew innocent children
Today my brother brought to my attention a site called Fundies Say the Darndest Things, which – as you can guess – is a compendium of quotes culled from Christian fundamentalist forums, blogs, and whatnot. I normally avoid this kind of thing. I’ve had many fundie friends over the years, and I’ve had quite my fill of being told things like:
- Putrefying basking shark corpses are actually plesiosaurs.
- Jesus led So-and-So to a sale at Kohl’s because he wanted her to have a nicer coat.
- I’ll go to hell if I don’t stop listening to the Beatles.
After years of hearing this sort of malarkey, I thought I was far beyond being troubled, annoyed, or even amused by the loopy notions that religious extremists of the evangelical/Pentacostal/charismatic variety can get into their heads.
But I was so wrong.
The #1 rated quote on Fundies Say the Darndest Things comes from an Illinois plumber who goes by the screen name “nautical999”. It’s a story posted to the Ministering Deliverance forum, of which Nautical is actually a moderator, in August 1999.
Basically, Nautical and his wife were chit-chatting with an angel at a fast food joint while on vacation. We’re not told if this angel had a fleshly form, or if they were just talking to an empty seat, or what. I guess it doesn’t really matter once you reach this level of WTFery.
Anyway, the spirit of Leviathan showed up to join the party.
In the Bible, Leviathan is an unspecified aquatic beast that defies capture. In Job 41, God tells Job, “Any hope of subduing him is false; the mere sight of him is overpowering. No one is fierce enough to rouse him.” In other passages, Leviathan is a many-headed snake or serpent. Explanations of just what this creature might have been range from crocodiles and hippos to plesiosaurs and giant octopi, but aside from the literal animal in Job, the Leviathan references in the Bible all seem to be metaphors for a powerful foe, like the seven-headed beast of Revelations.
Whatever Leviathan is, Mr. Nautical decided to kick its ass. He asked the McAngel to bring the spirit to a “predestinated” location. Specifically, his hotel room.
The angel and a companion obliged. For half an hour, Nautical engaged in sword battle with the spirit of Leviathan in his hotel room bathroom, an exhausting but highly gratifying experience that he saw fit to share with his community of demon-fighters.
The Leviathan-in-the-bathtub tale is weird enough, but the rest of the forum thread is equally absurd and far more disturbing. Commenters exchange information about various snake demons they have expelled, blame ADD/ADHD on demons, and inform a confused young woman that “deaf and dumb” demons can cause autism. On another Ministering Deliverance thread, Mr. Nautical tells us that all disease originates from sin, and “Elijah2” tells us that his brother’s 9-month-old child has autism because a cell phone “cooked his brain” (he goes on to explain that while not all diseases are the result of the sufferer being “demonised”, many childhood conditions like autism can be caused by “masonic spirits” and other demons).
Now my concern here is not that people believe this kind of hooey. Stupidity is a right, not a privilege. Sometimes it’s even unavoidable. But I am very, very concerned that this particular community of superstitious, scientifically illiterate folks is engaged in casting out demons (“deliverance” is the fundie term for exorcism). Not only are they teaching their children that evil spirits cause illness, they’re probably performing improvised deliverance rites on “demonised” children. Without proper training and guidance, such DIY exorcisms can be a highly dangerous undertaking. Take a look at this (short) list of the children who have died during unsupervised exorcisms:
- Guyana, 2005: 15-year-old Roger Bosse was severely beaten for three days, then crucified, by members of the Celestial Church of Christ. Roger’s mother believed the boy’s epilepsy was caused by demons.
- Wisconsin, 2003: 8-year-old Terrance Cottrell, Jr. was suffocated to death in an unlicensed storefront church by Ray Hemphill, a high school janitor who had recently been ordained as an evangelical minister. In accordance with James 5: 14-16, Hemphill and several church members, including Terrance’s mom, were attempting to exorcise the demons that supposedly caused Terrance’s autism. Hemphill pinned the boy to the floor with his knee while a grown woman laid on top of his chest. To their great surprise, Terrance couldn’t breathe. Under Wisconsin law, ministers and caregivers cannot be prosecuted for an injury or death resulting from “treatment by spiritual means through prayer”, so Hemphill was charged only with child abuse. He was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.
- Ontario, 1995: 2-year-old Kira Canhoto died of water intoxication after her parents and grandmother forced her to drink massive quantities of water. They were attempting to expel demons from the toddler.
- New Zealand, 1994: Like Terrance Cottrell, 12-year-old Dane Gibson was restrained during an exorcism, beaten on the head with a brick, and suffocated to death. His parents were in the grips of religious mania and had been torturing their three children for several days.
I would advise Nautical999 and his cohorts to read their Bibles more carefully before proceeding with any more deliverances or bathtub battles. Jesus and his followers expelled demons from people without actually touching them, and did not engage with spirits or demons unless it was absolutely necessary. Even within your own belief system, you guys are way out of line.
Also, please learn to spell “Leviathan”.
Glad I could be of help. 😛
Keep up the good work. You know, the work of mentioning weird shit on Facebook.
You have the right to be stupid so long as you don't hurt anyone. Although I don't understand what you meant by stupidity is unavodiable. Some people are just stupid or circumstances force them to be stupid?
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Ignore this one, just leaving it so follow up comments are emailed to me.
This reminds me of Caligula's attempt to go to war with Neptune by bashing a sword at the ocean. Of course, Caligula was insane, unlike these totally stable and productive citizens. (I'm just saying that to keep them away from the ice in my bourbon.)
Sometimes circumstances of birth lead you straight to stupid. For most people, though, it's a willed effort.
As a pastor of a real Church, I am often annoyed and downright frustrated at the harm people like this do! I've had members in my congregation who were not well made to feel guilty because they haven't 'claimed their healing', and a friend and his wife made to feel guilty because their son was afraid of the dark, "and so he must have a spirit of fear." This is not Christianity, it's 'Power Religion', where everything is turned into a matter of good and evil spirits fighting each other. I can imagine few things further from the New Testament.Thought there was talk at one point of my being asked to perform an exorcism on a supermarket. But that's quite harmless. It's a building, after all.
A possessed supermarket? Do tell!
Really it was a haunted supermarket. In the 1970s the factory next to our Church was demolished, and a supermarket chain bought the site in order to build a store on it. During construction their workers got a bit greedy and decided to pinch a piece of Church land that appeared to be unused. It wasn't, it was part of the burial ground. As they dug into the burial ground they accidentally exhumed the coffin of the young daughter of one of my predecessors (by all accounts it was rather amusing in a macabre way, the coffin fell out of the wall of the excavation and plopped into the trench). While she was reburied in the burial ground, the story is that her ghost has been seen in the supermarket. The supermarket closed last year, and there was talk of having me perform an exorcism in order to make the place more saleable. So what it comes down to is that a burial ground was disturbed during building work.
Interesting! My hometown coffeeshop was a former butcher shop, and some of the employees were convinced the butcher haunted it. One refused to open early in the morning without a spotter.
There was a rumour that the house I grew up in was haunted by a fighter pilot from the nearby airbase who died in the Battle of Britain. The house was a pub at the time, and popular with pilots. Story went that this man had finished his pint and promised to return, but was shot down the following day. So his spirit returned, and kept on returning. None of the family have ever seen anything, though. My mother did once see a Roman soldier marching down a road locally, but she concluded that this was like the Celtic warrior I once saw on a railway station – a man coming home from a re-enactment.