Photo: Youtube/ Vice
Rape victims are highly prone to catching sexually transmitted demons. Not metaphoric demons, but genuine soul-dwelling incarnations of Satan. That’s the message being peddled by the ‘teenage exorcists’ , three highly marketable home-schooled bible-bashers from Arizona.
The pretty trio, who have drawn inevitable comparisons to Buffy, are the latest gimmick from controversial evangelist and exorcist, Bob Larson. The youngest, Brynne Larson, is his daughter and the other two, Tess and Savannah Scherkenback, are her friends.
A recent VICE documentary followed the teenage exorcists, as they tour the world banishing evil spirits. And yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds.
A feature story on the 'teenage exorcists' from UK Marie Claire. Photo: Steve Schofield/ UK Marie Claire
I’ll let Brynne, who performed her first exorcism at 13-years-old, explain how demons get their claws into people:
‘‘Satan can’t just randomly go into anybody that he wants to. He has to have a legal right. And so what happens is, it’s like a little umbrella, and when you step out from under the umbrella of God’s protection when you sin... Satan’s gotcha," she told reporter Charlet Duboc.
To protect themselves from demons, the girls say they avoid Harry Potter, Twilight and ‘‘sexual stuff’’.
Their queer ideas are obviously very funny. I had assumed exorcism was all but extinct by the 18th century, replaced by a more sophisticated and scientific understanding of mental illness.
But it still being practised on the fringes of society, even in Australia.
And what’s disturbing about the ‘teenage exorcists’ is that their target market appears to be victims of sexual abuse, who they say are prime candidates for demonic possession, along with drug addicts.
‘‘If you were abused, you can’t help it,’’ Brynne acknowledges. ‘‘But because of that abuse, because of the feelings that it brings, because of the hate and the hurt and the shame, Satan can attack you.’’
Attributing the pain of sexual abuse to the work of ‘‘demons’’ is not only offensive but it oversimplifies a serious and very real trauma.
Watching the sexual abuse victims literally screaming for help throughout the documentary is confronting.
Perhaps there is some brief placebo effect. But what these struggling people need, clearly, is the help of medical professionals. Not a few vacantly smiling teenagers promising to set them free from the bondage of Satan.
While Larson and his sidekicks don’t claim to be medical professionals, they do claim to be ‘‘qualified’’, presumably from the International School of Exorcism he founded.
The school’s online courses, which are recognised by no one whose recognition is worth anything, range from an apprenticeship to ‘‘exorcist level’’.
Becoming the most advanced spiritual warrior costs a little over $2500.
For those not able to see a ‘‘certified’’ exorcist in person, you can take the online Demon Test for $10. Obviously I did, as it seems a measly price to pay to learn if you’re demonically possessed.
As I don’t spend a lot of time under the umbrella of God’s protection, I expected to be a prime candidate.
But the 21 questions developed from ‘‘more than 30 years of research’’ seem to identify symptoms of mental illness more than demonic possession.
It asks ‘Have you ever attempted or contemplated suicide?’ ‘Are you sometimes overwhelmed with feelings of severe depression and hopelessness?’ ‘Do you indulge in self-abusive behavior such as anorexia, bulimia, cutting or self-mutilation?’
Others questions seemed to measure biblical discipline (Are you significantly hindered in prayer, worship, Bible reading and church attendance?). And some were just bizarre (Have you asked Satan to take your life in exchange for something?)
There is a disclaimer on the website, clarifying that the test is not scientific ‘‘but a rather broadly determined gauge of potential demonic activity’’.
Regardless, based on an analysis of your results, they will kindly sell you books and DVDs to ‘‘better educate and equip you to wage spiritual war against the enemy of your soul’’.
Learning I am at ‘‘low risk’’ of demonic possession was comforting, only in that it suggests I’m probably not depressed.
And my $10 was not entirely wasted. I can now add the results to my arsenal in the defence of my decision not to read Harry Potter.