News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: The Devil in the Script

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Devil in the Script

During the past few weeks, many Americans have shown their continuing belief in demons and demon-possession. Whoever thought that the Enlightenment principles of reason and free inquiry filtered down to the masses may wish to rethink their assumptions. The film, _The Possession of Emily Rose_, was the highest grossing attraction in the theaters for several weeks.

As the following article remarks, demon posession and exorcism of demons is an accepted practice of the Catholic Church. Indeed, the church updated its manual of exorcism in 1999. Recent news reports from the Vatican indicate that the church has performed more exorcisms in the last 20 years than it had in the preceding century.

Spirit posession is documented by ethnographic and anthropological studies. The question is how to understand these "documented" cases. The reductionistic psychological approach would see these cases simply as cases of a form of personality disorder. Religious interpretations vary from one end of literality to rationalization based on scientific models. The view I see as most meaningful within a religious and psychological persepctive is that they are psychological phenomena with spiritual content that relates to limited understandings of self in relationship to the divine.

Suffering anything physically is a terrible experience. When these times occur some want to believe that they originate in evil entities or sources opposed to God. The Bible, however, speaks of sufferings and trials brought by God. This is something very difficult for people to accept: how can God, who is good, bring pain which is bad. Yet, this way of putting it sees pain in very simplistic terms. Pain and suffering may indeed be something good if they lead to inner spiritual growth. God may bring these things on us to help us understand that to live according to his will means more than only following his ways in the good times--during the bad times, we must also stay in our faith and not give way to despair.

Film's devil is in the details
By Sarah Price Brown

Jennifer Carpenter stars as a college student who is convinced she's possessed by demons in "The Exorcism of Emily Rose."

LOS ANGELES — Does the devil exist? And if so, does that mean God exists? Where does science fit in?

Those are the questions director Scott Derrickson hoped audiences would ponder after viewing the new film "The Exorcism of Emily Rose."

"I wanted the audience to leave the film with the feeling that they must ask themselves what they believe. Specifically, what do they think about the existence of the spiritual realm?" Derrickson said.

His intent, he said, was to pose, not answer, questions, but for some, the film's position is clear.

"Even though he plays it close between science and faith, he's obviously saying, 'If you don't believe in the devil, you're doing so at your own peril,' " said Sister Rose Pacatte, director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Culver City, Calif., which offers educational workshops on Christianity and the media.

The movie is based in part on a true story. ....

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