Is Exorcism Going Mainstream?

March 6th, 2014
Father Sama'an Ibrahim | YouTube

I was catching up on the news today and happened to run across a remarkable piece from last week’s TIME: “At Weekly Exorcisms, Egypt’s Muslims and Christians Unite Against the Demons”. (How could I not read an article with a headline like that?) To summarize, a popular Coptic Orthodox priest has gained fame throughout Cairo and the rest of Egypt because of his effectiveness as an exorcist. Even Muslims are coming to his church to have demons expelled.

I’d expect to see an article like this in Charisma magazine. But TIME? I had to read it a second time to make sure I hadn’t missed the part where the the writer ridiculed belief in the supernatural. (It’s not there.)

Rather, this article seems to be written from the perspective that a belief in malevolent supernatural beings is reasonable. Imagine that! TIME magazine, of all publications, has run a story that many mainstream Christian publications probably wouldn’t even go near.

One of the most remarkable details in the piece is the fact that Muslims are coming to a Christian priest for help dealing with evil. My favorite quote is from the Muslim woman who took her mother to Father Sama’an for help: “We went to a mosque first for healing, but the demons who harm her are more afraid of the Christian priest.”

Boom! It’s hard to argue with results, I guess.

I work in Christian publishing, and we often speak of how loyalty to a specific publisher or denomination is becoming the exception rather than the rule. Apparently even loyalty to a religion has its limits when a person finds something or someone that’s more effective at delivering them from evil.

Another notable observation in the article was from the taxi driver, who explained why he thought most of the exorcism candidates were Muslim, not Christian: “Christians rarely get possessed, because they are baptized young.”

I’ve read accounts from others who have observed a link between baptism (including infant baptism) and lower rates of demonization among Christians. Charles Kraft, former anthropology professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, has written about this in some of his books.

Sadly, most Christians I’ve encountered in the United States either don’t believe in demons at all, or they believe demon possession is such a rare occurrence that it’s something most of us don’t need to be concerned about. Many avoid the topic of supernatural evil altogether.

I predict that if the United States continues to become more secular, and young adults continue to disengage from churches, we will see an increase in both demonic possession and mental illness. (They’re not the same thing, but it’s not uncommon to see one where the other is present.) In a less “Christianized” culture, there’s less church attendance, fewer conversions, and fewer baptisms. At the same time, the influence of the occult in our society seems to be growing. So we may be facing a scenario where more people are open to belief in supernatural phenomena, but fewer of those have a Christian worldview. That could be a recipe for an increase in demonic manifestations and more confrontations between good and evil.

If exorcisms do become more commonplace in the West, I wonder how (and if) news outlets will report it. The TIME article suggests more openness to supernatural topics from the mainstream media. Will the mainstream Christian media follow their lead?

Shane Raynor is an editor at Ministry Matters and editor of the Converge Bible Studies series from Abingdon Press. Connect with Shane on Google+Twitter, and FacebookSign up to receive Shane's posts free via email.

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