Power in the Name of Jesus

Our experience at the River of Life Ministries was definitely one to remember, even if the service did feel a bit uncomfortable or questionable at times (disorientation). If anything, I left the service with more questions and criticisms than I had coming into the exorcism.

Most of us in the class were able to call out some of the problematic language used during the exorcisms that night. I think most of us felt uncomfortable when Sandra couldn’t complete the sentence “I submit to my husband/Jesus Christ,” bringing to mind (at least to me) negative and abusive images of men and maleness (of patriarchy), of the possibility that Sandra may be a victim of abuse; I also really didn’t like how Jay Bartlett talked about other cultures and religions, placing Christianity and Jesus Christ above all in terms of power and holiness all while demonizing other ancestral spirits and family ties–such language reeked of colonialism (or something of the sort), of a white savior complex I am not in favor of. But what was I to expect from a deliverance ministry? I came in expecting to a see an extreme form of Christianity and indeed I saw it.

My thoughts and criticisms of the River of Life Ministries are meaningless, of course, especially to those like maybe Sandra who actually benefit from the exorcisms. I do not doubt that exorcisms can be beneficial to people; I do not doubt that the River of Life Ministries have delivered people from evil with the word and power of God and Jesus Christ; but I no way do I think such a church can save me from my demons, if I had them. My spirituality/faith is already too different – too queered – to fit in a space where power and salvation are found infused in the words of “Jesus Christ” and “God.” I simply do not lend power to those words (Jesus Christ/God) because I choose too (and in some ways it’s been an experiment to see what happens when I take away power from them). If anyone is going to expel demons out of me, let it be a woman, let it be someone who understands what non-violent, true, divine love is…

No demons attacked me that Friday night for playing with the words of scripture and God under my breath; no demons attacked me for my own Mother/Goddess worship and prayers; no demons attacked me for my queerness–but that does not mean demons don’t exist for other people.

There is no doubt in my mind that the words Jesus Christ and God are power words in an exorcism, especially in this setting, but I’d be curious to see how difficult/easy it would be to exorcise someone by empowering other words with the same air of holiness/strength/faith/determination that is used when Jay Barlett speaks of Jesus Christ. I think demons are afraid and thus are expelled by human faith and power (our own magic) in a higher being and doesn’t need to be so specific to God or Jesus. Certainly an interesting idea to think about…


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