Monday, August 30, 2010

I Can Find Thinkies Even In Non-Scary Horror Movies...

I went and saw The Last Exorcism this weekend. Not bad. It could have been so much better though, and it wasn't really scary. Though everyone elses' level of tolerance for this sort of thing may be lower than mine.

The basic premise, for those who don't know, is that this is a documentary that this preacher, Cotton M_____ (I can't remember his last name) is making with a two person crew. The man has made his living, since he was, as a preacher in his father's church, and he performed his first 'exorcism' when he was ten. After the birth of his son, however, Cotton has a crisis of faith, realizing that, in the hospital having found out that his preemie son will live, his first instinct is not to thank God, but to thank the doctors. However he continues to be a preacher and an exorcist until he sees an article (seven, eight years later, maybe? The son is sevenish, it looked like to me.) about an autistic boy who is killed during an 'exorcism', and this gives him nightmares. So he is having this documentary made to expose himself, and all the other 'exorcists' as frauds, to try and keep another child from being killed.

He picks out a request for exorcism at random, and (given that this is a horror movie) of course, it turns out that this is the one exorcism where the girl really is possessed. The whole time, Cotton and the crew think that it's abuse going on, and they're trying to rescue the girl, but that doesn't end well for them. I know, contain your shock! I think the film was trying to be Blair Witch-y, but sort of failed at that, and while it had creepy moments, and the girl playing Nell (possessed girl) did a really great job at being just slightly off, most of the time, and completely eerie and creepy at others.

There's this one scene where she's been locked into her room, alone, and they hear a conversation going on in there. And it really sounds like two different people talking. So they open it up, and she's just sitting there, in the same position she was when they closed the door, staring, dead pan, slack face. Of course, she says she wasn't talking, and so they slip out and as they're closing the door, you get this really quick flash of her whole face changing, and there's this slick, half-smile that's there and gone and I can't describe everything that changes on her face, but it goes from dull and sad and helpless to evil and creepy in like...two seconds.

Anyway. Cotton, at one point in an interview, says that, 'if you believe in the Bible, you have to believe in demons'.

Do you think that's true?

I tend, as we all know, to take a far less literal interpretation of the Bible than a lot of people. However, it's not even a question to me that demons and angels and the like exist. I can't prove it, I just know that it's true. But do you *have* to believe in supernatural beings if you believe in the Bible? Does it take away from your faith if you remove all the supernatural elements from the biblical stories and just rationalize them away? If you do that, what are you having faith in?


  1. Didn't Thomas Jefferson take all the supernatural parts out of the Gospels? I think from what I've read, he was definitely a Christian and that was important to him, he just couldn't take the "myth" parts seriously from his perspective. And a theologian called Bultmann did a lot of work about the myth of the Gospels and the need to return to a historical Jesus. It's been awhile since I read him, but I think his point was that Jesus was a real person who lived like we all do, and that in itself was enough to be the focus. The supernatural parts were elements of the culture of the writers, and didn't have a place in the modern, rational world. To him, what was necessary to be a Christian was that you believe Jesus was crucified, because that was the sacrifice that saves people.

    The churches I went to as a kid were very strange on this topic. Because they believed in Satan and demons, would describe all non-Christian religions as evil and demonic, and talk about the demonic elements of modern culture. And yet, I was always taught that demon possession in the Bible was just the way people of the time understood mental illness. None of the Baptists I have known would even consider the possibility that someone was literally possessed. The same way other religions were seen as demonic, if you believed possessions happened, you were being fooled by demons. *shrugs* It makes no sense, but there you go. I'm not sure what they meant when they used the word "demonic," since they specifically disagree with the only way it's used in the Bible. Very strange.

  2. Good God, the company you keep, Sanil! Seriously, Amber, you rightly point out a certain problem in your last sentence there. And yes: the New Testament does teach that if Jesus did not rise from the dead - which sounds pretty supernatural to me - then the Christian faith has nothing to stand on and its adherents are the most pitiable of all humanity. The thing being, among other things, that the resurrection is the proof of the pudding that the sacrifice was accepted - because anyone can die on a cross, after all. But under normal circumstances it will not redeem humanity from bondage to sin and death. And that's just the thing: the aim is not just death, but new life. That's where the resurrection comes in.

    Yeah, those Baptists sound pretty strange all right. I think the Bible does teach that there is a supernatural realm, that it is not morally neutral and has both good and evil elements.

    I don't know if it is material to one's salvation to believe in demons, but my point here is that the supernatural is in general material to salvation - at least enough so to accommodate a God who takes on human flesh, dies and rises again.

  3. I grew up Baptist and we believed people could still be possessed, influenced and oppressed by evil spirits. A pastor I respect very much, in fact, told us of his own encounter with a teenager who was possessed.

    As for the culture being demonic, I think perhaps this has to do with the influence of evil in it. The Bible speaks a lot that it's not flesh and blood that we battle, but it's a spiritual battle. Elisha wanted his servant to have a glimpse of the spiritual element around him and prayed for God to open his servant's eyes. See II Kings 6:17.

    I know you were not debating whether or not demons existed however. I think the supernatural elements are important to the Christian faith as Caraboska said, especially the resurrection.

    Enjoyed your post and the thinkie attached to a movie review! :)

  4. sanil,

    You know, that does sound familiar, about Thomas Jefferson. And I'm going to have to look into this Bultmann gentleman. It sounds interesting.

    I don't understand how, though, if you remove all the supernatural elements, Jesus' crucifixion, that sacrifice, would save anyone. If Christ wasn't anything more or less than a man like everyone else, then killing him didn't do anything except make him a martyr and a victim. But I might be reading more into what you said about Christ being a real person who lived just like we do.

    Hmmm...interesting. So they believed that there were demons, but that they didn't do things like possession, etc. because those were just ancient understandings of mental illness, but they did interact with reality enough so that if you believe that they affected things, then you were being fooled by the demons. What would be the end goal of the demons fooling people into believing that they could possess people? What's the gain for them? I don't expect you to know the answer to those, of course. It just seems odd. If I were a demon, and I wanted to create havoc and despair and pain, I'd run around possessing people.

  5. caraboska,

    I didn't mean to imply that belief or otherwise in demons or even angels affects ones salvation. More along the lines, I guess, of that if you begin to discount the supernatural aspects of the Bible (in spite of the fact that I personally do discount many of them...) then you run into the danger of not stopping, and removing *all* of them, including belief in the Resurrection, or Christ's divinity.

  6. Susanne,

    I think the belief (or disbelief) in the supernatural elements varies a great deal from denomination to denomination, and individually, besides. The Southern Baptist run school I went to discounted the existence of demons, at least from the pulpit, but there was (I discovered later) some widespread belief among the staff that I was a dark and evil influence, and possibly trafficking with demons. *cocks eyebrow* Which is funny, since at that particular time, I really wasn't!

  7. WHAT???????????????????? Where the h*** did they get that idea from? And how did you end up an SBC-run school? I'm confused...

  8. caraboska,

    I can only speculate, but I know that my questioning of pretty much anything religious set them on edge, and I was in a very dark place, mentally. My mother was still married to my stepfather, and we were being abused. So, rather than recognize that, they thought I was evil.

    Makes perfect sense, yes? /end sarcasm/


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...