When amateur theology goes badly wrong


Via reader Norm, I heard of this story from France where a young woman was subjected to a crucifixion-style exorcism by her former boyfriend and three others, all members of the Seventh Day Adventist church, because they thought she was possessed by the devil.

The young woman, referred to solely by the name Antoinette, was barely alive when police found her in a flat in a housing estate in the Paris suburb of Grigny.

Her tormentors are accused of tying her up like Jesus on the cross, and keeping Antoinette in the same position for seven days during 2011.

They believed that this would exorcise her from her sins, and get rid of the devil inside her.

In the meantime Antoinette was regularly beaten, and only allowed small amounts of cooking oil and water so as to stay alive.

They all shared strong religious convictions, and a thorough understanding of the biblical texts.’

The accused all deny any wrongdoing against the woman, claiming she consented to the exorcism.

The church denies that this had anything to do with the church’s teachings. But that is always the problem, isn’t it? Because all the elements of these teachings (devils, possession, exorcism, flagellation) are present in Christianity and you should not be surprised when people put those things together in all manner of weird ways.

When you preach about the devil and how he can possess people, you are going to have people who take it seriously enough to get crazy ideas like this. And the idea of torturing the body to purify oneself is all too common in many major religions so it is not surprising that they thought this might work.

Comments

  1. cswella says

    Preacher: SIN SIN LUST EVIL EVIL EVIL DAMNATION AND HELL! PURIFY YOURSELVES!

    Congregation: YES! PURIFY OURSELVES! *Goes out and does it*

    Preacher: Geez guys, it was a metaphor! I don’t know where you get these ideas.

  2. left0ver1under says

    When you preach about the devil and how he can possess people, you are going to have people who take it seriously enough to get crazy ideas like this.

    In this case, it’s fanatics who decided to take things one step further on their own. The religions may not have told people to do it, but they created the mentality. They shouldn’t act surprised when it happens because it’s not the first time.

    But in the case of violent extremists such as anti-abortion terrorists, religions are deliberately creating the mindset. They want it to happen, then wash their hands of it after it does. The only “religious freeom” they’re interested in is freedom from responsibility.

  3. blf says

    According to the report in Libération, the young lady’s (she was 19 at the time) torturers are also the usual sort of liars, denying that the obvious injuries on her body had anything to do with them and were instead (rough translation) “caused by the power of the devil”.

  4. mnb0 says

    “The church denies that this had anything to do with the church’s teachings.”
    You know, I would buy this – people have their own responsibility – if christians, including catholics, didn’t boast how christianity initiated modern science and the abolition of slavery and things.

  5. raven says

    Well the girl was lucky. She is still alive.

    These sorts of exorcisms occasionally kill the victim.

    There was a case in the UK not so long ago, where some self designated exorcist killed his nephew during a prolonged torture murder ritual. Last I heard, he was up on homicide charges.

    In Africa, something like a 1,000 kids a year are killed as child witches.

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