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”.