‘Spiritual abuse’: Christian thinktank warns of sharp rise in UK exorcisms

Exorcism

Source: The Guardian

By Harriet Sherwood, who is the Guardian’s religion correspondent. She was previously Jerusalem correspondent, foreign editor and home editor 

Report by Theos says vast majority of exorcisms within evangelical churches are carried out on people with mental health problems

Exorcisms are a booming industry in the UK, partly driven by immigrant communities and Pentecostal churches, according to a new report from a Christian thinktank.

However, the vast majority of people being exorcised have mental health problems that require psychiatric assistance, says the report, published on Wednesday by Theos.

The report calls for an analysis of “the burgeoning exorcism scene in the UK in the light of concerns over how it is being used and its possible negative consequences”.

The Theos report – Christianity and mental health: theology, activities, potential(pdf) – does not reject the possibility of demonic possession. It says: “Certainly there is a biblical warrant for the dangers of demonic forces, and Jesus’ great commission to the disciples includes the explicit command to ‘cast out demons’. However, there is also need for serious caution.”

One danger was “Christian over-spiritualising” – a “tendency to ascribe anything and everything to spiritual causes when other medical ones may exist”. Another was possible overlap between “demonic possession” and mental health issues.

One chaplain who described themselves as a “Bible-believing evangelical” told Ben Ryan, the report’s author, that “in all their experience with a mental health trust they had ‘never seen anything I would say that looked like demonic possession, but I’ve seen plenty of people who have been told that’s what they’re experiencing by other Christians’.”

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