Ever since our experience on Friday night, my mind keeps coming back to certain moments that occurred at the Deliverance. In my opinion, it was the perfect way to sum up the work we’ve done this semester. From bodily praxis to tradition to, ultimately, faith – we arrived at the whole picture.
I was particularly struck by Jay’s performance as a exorcist throughout the session. There were certain moments where it was apparent that the “demon” was getting pretty intense within the people he was delivering, but Jay would just turn to us and explain what was going on in a calm and dignified manner. As if he were the narrator of a nature documentary. These moments were really helpful as far as understanding what was going on, but I was surprised that the demon was willing to calmly wait for the explanation of its own tactics.
I was furthermore struck by the re-contextualization of the Bible as not only a holy book, but as a sort of holy knife or blade that Jay and the others would use against the demons throughout the evening. As was apparent in both the case of the Rage Demon, and the multiple Jezebels, Jay would utilize the holy object not in its intended form, but to cut the demonic armor off of possessed individuals. In an even more intense maneuver, he would use the Bible to mimic the slicing of an individuals neck, as a way to remove curses of non-vocalization.
Certain moments were also extremely uncomfortable. The first demon that surfaced in the woman, that was dealing with marital troubles, was not willing to vocalize a submittal to her husband. Time and time again, for a good 15 minutes, she would not say it. After a while it became really weird, and once Jay started reading from the Bible, I felt like it had gone too far. While demons may be “real,” old Christian rules may just not sync up with our current cultural placement. In Pedro, with the Rage Demon, I straight up felt like he was acting. Given the fact that Jay generally travels with this guy (which Jay fails to mention in the article), you’d think that Pedro’s gotta be pretty demon free at this point. Also, post-exorcism, Pedro just appeared generally non-convincing. His surprise at ending up on stage felt really practiced. It was hard not to be skeptical.
Although I’m not sure where I stand on the actual demonic, I did come to some conclusions. As the night finished up and the deliverance was concluded, you could feel the sense of close community that had come from being involved in the lives of others. In any other situation, a man creepily smiling and throwing up in a bucket whilst yelling etc. would not be cause for a celebration, but within the confines of this four hour period, the room seemed to acquire an outlook of positivity and good will.
I wonder if this is maybe the root of the exorcist or deliverance practice. Allowing an individual to put themselves and their deep emotions really out there in the world, to be spoken of within a public, takes some real bravery and faith. When all is said and done, your community is there to back you up.