Last Friday we ventured out to the River of Life Church in Wareham, MA to witness Jay Bartlett perform an exorcism service. Although I am Catholic and only believe that priests have the ability to perform exorcisms, I entered the service with excitement and an open mind. To start off Jay read passages from the Bible to validate that exorcism and possession have existed for thousands of years. This really helped build my excitement because I began to truly believe he had the power to exorcize or at least use god’s word to exorcize people, that the whole thing was real. However, once the service really got going and Jay started to fish for demons out of every single person in the audience, I thought the entire service was a brainwashing show. With the exception of my class, many people, if not all, had clear mental illnesses. A woman sitting next to me claimed to have 22 demon voices in her head and I truly felt bad that she was not at a mental institution or at least receiving more innovative therapy. The rest of the audience was a group of elderly who had been sold on Jay’s exorcism powers.
Jay does a really good job convincing his audience that they have demons and that he can exorcize them. He makes it very clear that demonic possession could be as small as a mind control demon, that doesn’t let you think clearly, or a Jezebel, a demon that can cause immorality, sin, and idolatry. As soon as Jay mentioned a mind control demon I questioned his authenticity. It was funny because a mind control demon presented itself when one man in the audience exclaimed that he did not feel like one of Jay’s prayers helped him feel more relaxed. Every time a member of the audience did not connect with what Jay preached or prayed, Jay declared that the person had mind control demons that needed to be cleared. Sounds more like a tool to use in brainwashing if for some reason it is not working and you need to grab the persons’ mind back in.
Jay had other tools to capture his audience. He preached that most demons worked like genes and ran in the bloodlines of your mother and father. This means that Jay had hundreds of generational history he could utilize per every member of the audience. If someone appeared to be angry, Jay could point out that his great, great, great, great grandfather had anger problems and invited anger demons into the family blood line. For audience members looking for answers to their every day problem Jay’s technique works amazingly well. There was one member of the audience who became possessed and expressed symptoms how they are depicted in movies. This woman was the first person to show symptoms of demonic possession as she began contorting her fingers and making strange facial expressions from the beginning of class. Jay super soaked her with holy water and “the blood of Christ” as she squirmed around on the ground yelling. Eventually he learned that she had trouble submitting to her husband. As he commanded to say “I submit to my husband” the woman freaked out even more. When she finally gave in and said the words, Jay acted as if she was cured. However, when the woman went sat back down in the back of the room she quickly started contorting and screaming again.
Do Jay’s exorcisms really work? I have no idea. On one hand I think he is preaching to an audience of mentally ill who are looking for any answer to be normal. On the other hand, if Jay’s audience truly feels better after each exorcism than who is to say he is not helping them. At one point in the service I even felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. Maybe Jay did pull an evil demon out of me with one of his prayers? Or maybe I was so relieved to watch others in the audience feel better after he exorcized them that I too felt good. In the end if you truly believe in something who is to say it really is not true. Jay clearly believes in what he is doing is god’s true work and I am not going to be the one to tell him to stop if he is helping people with similar beliefs feel better on a regular basis.