The ministry of deliverance by
Father Michael Blain, Exorcist
for the Anglican Diocese
of Wellington, April 2001
of the Christian churches in the New Zealand culture (and in the
culture of other developed countries) means that many people grow
up without any idea of God.
of New Zealand kiwis lack Christian constructs with which to interpret
life and fit their confusing experiences into patterns of spiritual
meaning. In their ignorance, modern kiwis are very vulnerable
to manipulation by people who do know about spiritual forces.
So where does
the ministry of deliverance come in?
prays for the peace of God in our lives and where we live. We
pray in the familiar Lord's Prayer to be delivered from evil.
Evil is any trouble that pulls us off God's path. Evil is a destructive
social system, pressure, or person. Evil can be experienced as
a sense of personal spiritual oppression.
Evil is always
here, and there is always a spiritual warfare against evil. However
a secularised western culture has little need for talk of devil
possession. It feels like a regression to medieval superstitions.
Yet evil is
real, and evil is destructive.
evil is challenged by social justice programmes, or by democratic
protest. The ministry of deliverance works in a restricted arena.
The work is to free people from the personal spiritual bondages
which cripple confident human life. The ministry of deliverance
is in that sense an attention to the individual first.
really the extreme end of the spectrum of this Christian ministry
of deliverance. Literally it's about pushing out the devil or
other alien presence from a person. But I have not seen reason
to diagnose the need for exorcism of a person in New Zealand.
Why is that?
of Christianity have mopped up a lot of the spiritual undergrowth
of goblins, sprites, and devils. If they were there before, in
medieval times, they have largely gone up in a puff of smoke -
with the pervasive invocation of the Holy Spirit of God. Or, with
the change of our outlook on life which has come gradually but
inevitably with the spread of modern scientific learning.
Yet a sense
of bondage or oppression from alien spiritual presences can still
be a frightening reality for people today.
this sense of bondage, of oppression, or disturbed behaviour come
from? Often from abuse within the person's earlier life, particularly
from within the family. Often from damage done to the brain by
heavy use of drugs. Often from genetic predisposition to psychiatric
culture (as I have experienced in an African nation, and in Papua
New Guinea) may often have a strong commitment to a network of
spiritual realities. Notably ancestors, and wandering spirits
of dangerous and vengeful dead people, or of animals. The people
are convinced that these hostile spirits can jump into people,
particularly at night, or the friendly ones can be called upon
for useful purposes, particularly for family conferences.
Where a culture
does believe that these things are real, then the whole world-view
is shaped by that conviction. Meanings are given which interpret
according to the way of experiencing.
Life is experienced
in these very factual terms of spirits, possession, spirit mediums,
consultation with the ancestors. Such a culture then matches this
world-view with a whole range of devices. Much is peaceful and
friendly a family celebration will often have the ancestors
and family patrons expressing their opinions through spirit mediums.
People look for the re-assurance of these spiritual presences.
normality turns sour or hostile and people are being damaged by
something alien, the wisdom of the community is available to help.
Experts with their prayers and rituals work to remove the problem.
In our culture,
these traditional beliefs have disappeared, and the traditional
range of remedies has lost meaning too.
In New Zealand,
most people have little time for organised religion. If we are
pakeha (non native Maori people) and post-Christian, we are now
particularly vulnerable to spiritual confusion. It is not hard
to play on negative emotions, especially fear. Without any formal
Christian knowledge let alone any conscious experience of God
or of Christian beliefs with which to interpret life, people are
sitting ducks for damage. A tight group can mould an innocent
person's emotional reality and confuse their sense of meaning.
If these manipulations play into the person's deeper disorders,
then a lot of trouble can surface very fast.
is familiar: a distressed person, disorientated, unable to claim
their own identity, disturbed behaviour. Oppressed. Mental health
professionals are the people to see. Theirs are the tools that
our culture recognises as appropriate for dealing with emotional
and psychiatric distress.
our medical knowledge knows epilepsy is a medical condition. The
person with these symptoms needs medical care. It is cruel beyond
bearing when epilepsy (for instance) is labelled as devil possession.
By such attitudes, guilty vulnerability is piled upon the shoulders
of the person.
- I consider
that the Christian churches have an ongoing basic gospel commitment
to help people find God and the shaping purposes of God in the
world. Religion is about meanings for life.
- The Christian
churches need to help people find and know the Holy Spirit of
God. God's Spirit is the resource that we call on to enhance
and shape our own growing sense of self. Religion resources
our sense of daily being.
- The Christian
churches in their care of people need to help those who have
a sense of spiritual oppression or disturbance to find professional
help. This is normally medical or psychiatric.
- The Christian
churches need to offer personal attention to the distressed
person. Integral to this is prayer for their deliverance from
the sense of guilt, or of oppression. Not just to push off the
oppressive, but to call in the Spirit of God as protection and