Updates: Demonic Influences, Ministerial Exception, and those Pagan Olympics

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 30, 2012 — 59 Comments

Just some quick updates on stories previously discussed here on The Wild Hunt.

More Discussion on Exorcism and Demonic Influences: Last week I took issue with Patheos Catholic columnist Fr. Dwight Longenecker, who made the argument that Aurora, Colorado killer James Holmes may have been demonically possessed. Now, Religion News Service has picked up the story, bringing this controversial view to a much wider audience.

“Longenecker dismissed the range of explanations for what might have motivated Holmes — a bad childhood, mental illness, social awkwardness, extreme political or religious views, or exposure to violent video games or to the Batman movie that was showing when he allegedly opened fire. The real culprit, he says, was spiritual, and malign.”

Meanwhile, other Catholics, like  About.com’s Scott P. Richert, are doubling down on the demonic “infestation” scenario, referencing Ouija board use in the 1973 film “The Exorcist” as an accurate portrayal of how possession begins.

Troubling Expansion of the Ministerial Exception? At the beginning of this year I wrote about the Supreme Court of the United State’s decision in in Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissionwhich centered on the question of whether an employee of a religious organization could be fired without recourse to anti-discrimination laws if they were ordained within said faith. The ruling established that a ministerial exception from federal discrimination laws does exist. Now, Religion Clause reports on two linked ruling from the Kentucky Court of Appeals that says the exception applies even when faculty at a seminary aren’t even of the same religion.

“Because Kant’s primary duties involved teaching religious-themed courses at a seminary, his position was one that prepared students for Christian ministry…. Given his position as a faculty member teaching at a seminary, Kant’s personal views are not determinative of the function he served. Rather, we review the function of his position: teaching future Christian ministers primarily on Judeo-Christian subjects and culture. Kant’s personal faith and beliefs do not clash with the actuality that the classes he taught at LTS were for the purpose of preparing future church leaders of the Christian faith.”

So a Jew can be considered a “minister” of a Christian seminary, so long as his role supports the institution’s goals. One wonders how this interpretation could be abused by organizations who want to evade litigation over a firing. More on this particular story, here.

The Olympics and Religion (and those dualistic Greeks): I recently linked to two articles that looked at the ancient (pagan) history of the Olympic games, now underway in London. Now, USA Today spotlights an editorial by Pastor Henry Brinton that also looks at religion and the games, specifically the Christians history of the modern games, and how “muscular Christianity” saved us from the dualism of the ancient Greeks.

“Ancient Greeks are partially to blame. While they provided the inspiration for the modern Games, they also created a dualistic philosophy that included antagonism between the physical and spiritual. Christians embraced this approach for many years, until muscular Christianity came along and people began to reclaim the ancient biblical truth that human beings are created with a unity of flesh and spirit. […] As for the Olympics, perhaps the opening ceremonies should have had a celebration of religions as well as a parade of nations. Most of the world’s great faiths honor both body and spirit, and encourage health and vitality. This would correct the error made by the ancient Greeks, and would pay tribute to the religious leaders who made the modern Olympics possible. It could even inspire a few religious people to get off the couch and into the gym.”

I wish I could stamp a giant “citation needed” on these claims, because it sounds like revisionist triumphalism to me. Ancient Greeks may have believed in a physical world and a world of spirit, but that didn’t create an antagonism between the two realities. It sounds to me like Christians blaming Greek philosophy for their own shortcomings in how they adopted and adapted pagan thought. I’ll leave it to my philosophy and ancient Greece buffs to let me know if my suspicions are correct, or if Greek dualism really did create this antagonism Brinton claims.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=518736223 Brendan Myers

    I’m afraid Hentry Brinton’s article is based (partially) on a straw man. For the ancient Greek notion of the spirit was not the dualism he suggests. And the idea of “a unity of flesh and spirit” is also a Greek idea.  I’ll prepare a blog post on the topic if you are interested.

    In the meanwhile, this might interest you:
    http://www.brendanmyers.net/blog/2012/07/why-i-love-the-olympics/

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I would love that Brendan, thanks!

    • Chris

       This is why I like Brendan, While iTunes “has an app for that,” Brendan “has a blog post for that.”

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    The Christian spirit of the modern Olympics didn’t protect them from being hijacked by the Nazis in the 1930s.

    • BryonMorrigan

      Well, it’s not as if the Nazis weren’t Christians themselves…with the exception of a few officials.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        And even those few officials were at pains to demonstrate that they were not anti-Christian, despite whatever interest they might have had in non-Christian things.

        Here is a quote from Dietrich Eckart, who was responsible for recruiting the young Adolf Hitler to what would become known as the Nazi Party:

        “In Christ, the embodiment of all manliness, we find all that we need. And if we occasionally speak of Baldur, our words always contain some joy, some satisfaction, that our pagan ancestors were already so Christian as to have an indication of Christ in this ideal figure.”

    • Hotstreak12

       because the Nazis had the “christian spirit” in spades!

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

         In the sense that they bastardised a load of Pagan symbology and then started a big ‘convert or die’ campaign, yep.

  • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

    “Ancient Greeks are partially to blame. While they provided the inspiration for the modern Games, they also created a dualistic philosophy that included antagonism between the physical and spiritual. Christians embraced this approach for many years, until muscular Christianity came along and people began to reclaim the ancient biblical truth that human beings are created with a unity of flesh and spirit. ”

    This and other passages can be found in the upcoming book: The Complete Idiot’s Guide (TM) to Making Up History to Further Your Ideological Goals.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

       “This and other passages can be found in the upcoming book: The Complete
      Idiot’s Guide (TM) to Making Up History to Further Your Ideological
      Goals.”
      All proceeds go to the ‘Starts at Home’ charitable trust!

  • WhiteBirch

    Hmm. I grew up in Fundamentalist Protestantism, and if you want to see antagonism between physical and spiritual, you need look no farther. 

    • Malaz

       Ditto.

    • CrystalK

       That’s exactly what I was thinking, WhiteBirch.  Anything to do with the human body or our surroundings was evil.

  • http://thehouseofvines.wordpress.com/ thehouseofvines

    What bullshit. Even Plato, whose philosophy could arguably be considered the most dualistic of the ancient Greeks’, advocated a regimine involving music, dance, sports and other physical activities to train the body along with the mind. Hell, in the Symposion he argues that love must begin in the flesh before it is capable of ascending to pure divine contemplation. Even at his most Orphic Plato pales in comparison to the revolting sarcophobia you find in the likes of Symeon Stylites and the Desert Fathers, men who let their flesh go gangrenous from standing in place on pillars to demonstrate their absolute indifference to the physical. 

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      “Even at his most Orphic …”

      Yes, that puts it perfectly. Hellenic “dualism” is epitomized by Orpheus, the great poet and lover, and also, as one of the Argonauts, a great adventurer.

      Orphism and Platonism are “dualistic” only in the same sense that Daoism is. To recognized two principles (whether they are called “Spirit” and “Matter”, or “Yin” and “Yang”, or what-have-you) is very different from supposing that these two principles are at war with one another.

      As an ancient Chinese Zen poem says:

      “the light and the dark oppose one another,
      like the front and back foot in walking.”

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Talk about projection, Mr. Brinton is a metroplex.

  • PurplePagan

    Muscular Christianity?  Nothing homoerotic there.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

       Muscle Pope is Muscle Wizard’s arch nemesis.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I prefer Battle Pope.

        • PurplePagan

           Mecha Pope versus Mecha Streisand!

  • Kilmrnock

    What we outta do is let our Catholic/Christian freinds keep pilling on  all this demon possesion/exorsim nonsence anyone w/ a brain will understand how much crap it is .All the church is realy going to do is alienate even more people with this stuff, in the long run loose more of the flock. As far as the Olympics go , gotta love Christian revisionism ,now they are trying to take credit for the ” Olympic Ideal ” ………….historians will call them out on this one too.Go for it , Brendan .    Kilm

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Why is ‘all this demon possession/exorcism nonsence’ crap?

      Christian mysticism is no less valid than Pagan mysticism, is it not?

      • sunflwrmoonbeam

        Because it’s a “mysticism” imposed on others and can be applied fairly indiscriminately. The 4 stages of demonic infestation easily apply to me as a teen through my (abusive but thankfully non-religious) mother’s eyes. Interest in occult? check. Obsession/fixation? check. Depressed, foul language, sexual activity (perversion)? check. And finally living only for myself  and the darkness (pagan religion)? check.  In my view I was a depressed pagan teen in an abusive household. According to some I was possed by a demon.

        People take this stuff seriously. I’ve seen peopke seriously suggest a 7 year old boy I know was possessed. I’d post a link to fb mocking this crap but the hardcore Catholics on my list  would take it seriously.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           I’m unsure I get your argument.

          As a believer in numerous spiritual entities (including malevolent ones), I can see the potential for a possession situation. I don’t really see a personal possession as much different to a locational one.

          There are enough Pagan banishment and cleansing rituals for removing negative energies/entities from locations, why not ones for people?

          Of course, I am not saying the way that some go about inflicting their beliefs on others is to be condoned, merely that the belief itself is no more nonsensical than Pagan mysticism.

          • sunflwrmoonbeam

            Because the crazy Christians I know would tell their children they’re possessed by a demon and in some cases perform an exorcism on them. They recommended as much to a friend of mine whose 7 year old was having anxiety attacks. 

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             That is a response to belief, though.

            How is believing that the child is possessed any different to believing that a house is haunted (for example)?

          • Amanda Cook

            The problem isn’t in belief itself. You can believe in the concept of demonic possession all you like; it’s a free country. 

            The difference is in the procedures and the level of consent. A Pagan who believes they are being attacked by a malevolent force or possessed is usually cogent enough to seek out that help and is informed of what that entails. Any practitioner with a conscience would not perform an “exorcism” on an unwilling participant, especially if that participant isn’t in full ownership of their faculties. Also, most Pagans will seek the medical explanation first.

            Many of these Christians with a literal view of possession have no qualms about inflicting pain (in some cases life threatening levels) on not only the unwilling, but unwilling minors who cannot defend themselves. And, if the victim is cogent enough to refuse, it’s simply viewed as “the demon talking” and the exorcisms are performed anyway.

            Also note that in less developed countries, treatable medical conditions like seizures are viewed as demonic possession. All the exorcisms in the world are not going to be as effective as a well-measured dose of anti-convulsant. But, that doesn’t stop people are young as five from being subjected to procedures that we in this country would instantly label as child abuse of the highest order.

            THAT’S where the difference is.  Pagans believe in informed consent with a humane approach, and for the most part, not inflicting physical harm, especially to a minor. Extremist Christian exorcists will consider none of the above.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Yet their belief is what gets called ‘nonsense’.

      • Em

        I think the issue many take with Christian exorcism is that it often causes psychological and physical trauma to the potentially possessed individual.  Perhaps they feel that they have to reject the possibility of possession when they reject Christian exorcism?  I’m not sure, as I am open to the possibility that possession exists.  

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           Quite possible. Even if it is a case of throwing out the baby with the bath water.

          I believe in the veracity of spiritual possession, as well. I just think it is not quite so easy to diagnose as some others would like to presume.

        • Fvrnite

           One of the many problems with Christian exorcism is that it is not the same thing to the “exorcist”. There are Catholic exorcists but there is also a Charismatic sect of Protestant Christianity called Deliverance ministry that is rife with exploitive people claiming to be exorcists and people with serious problems thinking  ( wrongly) that all they need to do for, say having MS is get ” exorcised”. There are people who think certain emotions come from demons and that they have “generational curses”, the proof of which they accept on faith of the self-proclaimed ” exorcist”,  not on actual fact.

           People seek supernatural answers for natural causes and get caught up in spiritual manipulation, even predation, by so-called “exorcist”.

      • Kilmrnock

        Well ,  my biggest concerns are our [pagan] mystisim isn’t harmful .The whole Demon Possesion bit in most cases is quite harmful to the person victimied by the exorsism . And in most cases w/o the persons consent . Many people have died from being exorcised.Even using resonable numbers the dark times , the European And American witch hunts were a form of exorcism are a quite dark episode of Christian history .In the eyes of an inquisitor the accused witch was devil or demon possesed . From my understanding  most of the accused weren’t even pagan , alot of it was greed and politicaly motivated .Most modern pagans wouldn’t engage in dark , harmful , magick due the rules of return or on moral grounds and will not even do white magic w/o the persons consent .I can say most who are the victums of exorcism where not asked or even gave consent, where unwilling participants .These are my main concerns about this current upswing , thought we had moved beyond this crap.   Kilm  

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          You may not see it as harmful.  Others do.

          “Most modern pagans wouldn’t engage in dark , harmful , magick due the
          rules of return or on moral grounds and will not even do white magic w/o
          the persons consent”
          Yeah, the whole ‘rules of return’ is really not that universally accepted (A modern/eastern implantation, really) and morality is rather subjective. Plus, I’ve known more than a few curses be thrown around (and more asked for).

          I still don’t see why harm immediately makes it ‘nonsense’ or ‘crap’.

          • Kilmrnock

            Yes this is true , but exorcism in the Christian sense is always non consentual , many times violent and many times deadly . Many die being released from possesion and many more are physicaly and mentaly wounded just for being different, poor , ,sick or scapegoated.    This is a major problem in the developing world where Christian influence mixes w/ native beliefs .The other big problem i have is many large American and European churches support these activities. Recently a so called Apostle came to America to gain support and money for her cause from American Churches . This  woman is a well known Exorcist most of her victims are children and many die from what she does .That is the problem i have with possesion claims and exorcism . Just b/c it is a strongly held belief does not mean such activities are acceptable today . Our ancestors  and even the the monotheist beliefs once did animal and human sacrifices we don’t do that now[most don’t] . Is not acceptable or even necesary by modern standards as is the case with Exorcism . We now have a better understanding of the human condition , such things as Devil/Demon possesion/exorcism  where born of less enlightened and fearful times . There is no need for such things in modern times .I also believe atleast in the pagan community the laws of return and or high moral standards are more common than many allude to .Most pagan paths emphesise some form of moral standard or code of conduct /honor or both.Most modern people understand and feel this way .   Kilm

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Exorcism is not always non-consensual. I have (personally) known of requests for exorcism.

            Not all exorcisms are as extreme as the ones that get highlighted in the media, after all.

            I’ll not get into the sacrifice argument. Suffice to say that blood sacrifices are still undertaken in various religions. (It can be argued that Halal slaughter is a form of ritual sacrifice, after all.)

            I didn’t say that the laws of return are uncommon. Just that they are not universal. Also, they are pretty modern inventions (adapted from eastern concepts of Karma.)

            Don’t forget that ‘high moral standards’ really depend on the morals. What is moral for one, may be heinous for another.

            I honestly cannot think of one ‘absolute’ moral.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Lexington Theological Seminary is a class act. In an economically driven downsizing they fired their Jew and their Black, and used the ministerial-exception dodge to get away with it.

    Any Pagan who ever gets a Christian seminary faculty job had best negotiate a codicil to the employee handbook specifying that s/he is not a minister for purposes of the job.

  • http://wp.wiccanweb.ca/ Makarios

    Re. the “demonic possession” schtick, I must say that I’m pleased that Fr.Longenecker’s deluded rubbish is now being exposed to a wide audience that will accord it the scorn and derision that it justly deserves.

    Upon rereading his piece, and the supporting one by Mark Shea at “Bad Catholic,” I am reminded of Bender laughing at Leela:  “Hahahaha. Oh, wait. You’re serious. Let me laugh even harder. HAHAHAHAHAHA!”

    • WhiteBirch

      I think Mark Shea is at Catholic and Enjoying It. Unless he’s both. :P 

      • http://wp.wiccanweb.ca/ Makarios

        Yup. Sorry for the error. Thanks for the correction. I would link to the post, but why give him traffic?

        • WhiteBirch

          Indeed. 

  • The Real Jersey Girl

    I’m surprised that I have not heard an outcry regarding all the pagan symbolism in the opening ceremonies.  Maypoles, Morris dancers, Glastonbury Tor, the British Olympians in their Druidic garb……..of course I loved it.  

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Maypoles and morris dancers are both embraced by British Christians. (The amount of Church ‘May Fayres’  I have seen is testament to this.)

  • http://twitter.com/thesilverspiral Naya Aerodiode

    Christians are accusing others of being dualistic? That’s rich.

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

    The problem with certain Christians is not that they believe in spiritual warfare. The problem is that they are on the wrong side.

    • Kilmrnock

      My problem with spiritual warfare is that it exists at all …………that some people believe it’s neccesary.Our witch wars were bad enough , but that was basicaly flaming others or thier beliefs online .  This stuff involves a spiritual element that if nothing else is distracting and bothersome .Any strong pagan can fend this stuff off , the problem is that we would have to .Those who do this spiritual warfare are doing it without incitment . No  one has attacked them to the point they must defend themselves . Only in their own wee minds are thier own narrow views or way of life is being attacked or dispaced and must be defended .The  whole concept of waging ” spiritual warfare against those who have not done anything directly against you boggles my mind , as to how this works . And why we have to deal with the misgivings of someone elses weak, deluded mind .  Kilm

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        My problem with warfare in general is that it exists at all. But it does, and everyone needs to consider how to respond.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I attack Christianity. Frequently.

        Why? Because I think it is wrong.

        • Kilmrnock

          As someone that lives by an Honor/Conduct code i don’t attack anyone or anything , unless i’m strongly provoked . Most of the time i let the typical bs just roll off , not worth my time and energy to deal w/ fools . Even when the necessity arises i will take a defensive  posture . Like most pagans i just want to be left alone to do my own thing w/o outside interferance.I will defend me and my family [tribe] but i’m not the type to look for or provoke a fight …………just a humble quiet Sinnsreachd Warrior/ADF Druid.    Kilm

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            My point was less about me, personally, and more about the fact that Christianity does get attacked.

          • CrystalK

             But you have to admit, Christianity is attacked a lot less than it has a tendency to claim.  In their minds they are forever persecuted, though that’s rarely the case.  What is a handful of athiests and a few Pagans really?  Not enough to incite “warfare”.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Crystal, I’ve had Christians tell me they were brought up on Sunday School stories of present Christian overseas missionaries being persecuted. (Of course, the locals would probably call that “cultural self-defense.”) It is factually based but induces a garrison mentality.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Perhaps we should attack them more, to give them justification?

  • Fvrnite

     This Harris as “demon possessed” needing an exorcism claim is right up the alley of my favorite ” Christian’  self-proclaimed expert on:  * cults and the occult * rock music  * satanic ritual abuse * exorcism billing himself as ” the real exorcist” Bob Larson who recently flopped big time with his “teen exorcists” attempt at a reality TV series.

     Larson is the shyster that claimed that Heath Ledger in his role as the Joker became demon possessed which he clams lead to his death.  Larson has made similar exploitive claims on other dead celebrities and noted people, including Steve Irwin and Christopher Reeve.

     AFAIK Larson hasn’t jumped at the  Harris has demons claim– yet– but he has made some stupid claims on his blog about the massacre.

    http://boblarson.org/blog/

    • Wdaytonking

      Steve Irwin? Really?? That man is a hero of mine. Oh wait; he did advocate respect for nature. I guess that would make him suspect. FOOLS!

  • Kilmrnock

    This  inquisitors , accusors usualy got the accussed property , money and holdings . the inquisitors got quite rich and added to church coffers during the dark times , the witch trials in New England were purly political , was odd most of accusers were from one group/family to victims from another . Only when some one accused the Governors wife did it stop.Greed and power plays into this .          kilm

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      “purely political” is going much too far. Puritans were deeply committed to Witch-hunting as a fundamental tenet of their theology. The manner in which the individual victims were selected should not be conflated with the ideological motivation that provided the overall justification. Witch-hunters then, as now, were “good Christians” in the sense that they were faithfully acting on a central teaching of their religion.

      • Kilmrnock

        I’ll agree the New England witch trials , started out as a religious situation , but towards the end it became politics , power and greed. The  other thing i heard was also the early parts of it may have been caused by a grain born illness , a fungus i recall.The Christian faiths have a long well documented history of physical and mental abused involving so called Demon/Devil possesion and exorcism .In ancient times b/f modern phycology and medicine this type of thing is sort of understandable , but today in modern times w/ our current understanding of the human mind and its many malodies , and even being used against normal teenaged rebellion and homesexualty is unconscienable and just plain evil . Wrong on too many levels and ways . The other thing that bothers me is who is doing it , supposedly loving , caring Christians .   Kilm

        • Kilmrnock

          pscology[sp?] …….sorry

  • Obsidia

    A couple interesting views on the “demonic possession” view:

    Article “Just Say No to Demons” by noted Parapsychologist
    Loyd Auerbach, who wrote a great book called “Reincarnation, Channeling and Possession: A Parapsychologist’s Handbook”

    http://mindreader.com/articles-info/short-pieces/

    Also, from a different point of view, some people feel that they can “liberate” spirits who get trapped in living people’s energy field.  Very similar to “cleansing” the energy field.  Here’s a good book:

    “Freeing the Captives: The Emerging Therapy of Treating Spirit Attachment” by Louise Ireland-Frey and William J. Baldwin.