Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Expensive Exorcism

A interesting court case that had gone on for 32 days recently came to a close here in Singapore. A woman who describes herself as a Christian who practices Buddhist chanting and who also believes in Sai Baba went to the popular Catholic Novena Church because she believed she was possessed by evil spirits. The priests at the church offered to exorcise her and she claimed that during the exorcism she was harassed, assaulted, partly strangled and confined against her will. The priests denied the accusations. All sorts of weird (to me as someone who is more comfortable in the 21st century than the Middle Ages) details emerged during the trial. While the woman was possessed she had 'slithered like a snake', marched up and down like a soldier and had said in a deep voice that she was Lucifer. Other details were more 21st century. Troubling inconsistencies turned up in the woman's testimony and her sister testified that she had once spoken about a plan to fake an illness in an attempt to get $200,000.
Eventually, the judges threw out the case saying that they found the priests' testimony more convincing than the woman's and that they could find no evidence that she was traumatized by the incident. The woman has now been ordered to pay costs and damages of $300,000 to the church workers she tried to sue, $72,000 to the priests and other costs amounting to nearly a million dollars. It seems unlikely that she will be able to pay this amount which means the defendants and the church will be stuck with huge legal bills. On her part she may have to sell her house to pay some of the costs. Beelzebub must really be laughing.
Materially Singapore is very much in the third millennium - it is a glass and steel, computerized, air-conditioned, economically top-notch society. Psychologically you would think it is in the Dark Ages. Belief in ghosts, evil sprits, black magic, good and evil omens, curses, etc is widespread. And a good science-based education system doesn't seem to have diminished this. When people are traditional Chenist/Taoist/Buddhist, as most Chinese are, they accept the Chinese version of such things. When they convert to Christianity, and many well-educated ones do, (often because they see it as being more 'Western' and 'modern') they get the fundamentalist/evangelical/Pentecostal version of the same thing, i.e. Satanic influences, exorcisms, miraculous healings, speaking in tongues, ghosts, holy rolling and belief in the imminent 'Last Days.' Whereas in the West (at least that part I come from) the 30 or so references in the Bible to demonic possession are passed over in embarrassment, here in Singapore they are taken very seriously and very literally. The recent court case shows that such beliefs can also end up being very expensive.


Ser Ming said...

Science is only man's way to explore and understand nature. Science has its limitations and it's ever-changing as well. Not mentioning about the different school of thoughts as well.

killerAdobo said...

dear Venerable,

I hope that you can contact me via, I need a guide,and an advisor for going forth. or novice initiation. Thank you very much,with lots of metta,Richard