Reading Details‘ account of the gay demon exorcism performed on 20-year-old Kevin Robinson in Georgia sounds less like a calling out to the devil and more like the taunts Ricky Martin received: “Come out, come out! In the name of Jesus, I command you to come out!” Oh what fun these exorcisms can be! They’re also less effective than the twenty things BP tried to stop the oil from flowing. Man, that’s got to be frustrating for exorcisms’ cheerleaders.
We’ve already seen the horrors that are gay demon exorcisms. And we’ve heard how these rituals amount to “spiritual rape.” For Kevin, it was his 10th exorcism in four years. None of them took. But why not?
The obvious answer: Being gay has nothing to do with being inhabited by a demon. And it’s nothing you can really change. But that’s the explanation rational people, like yourselves, deliver. For the irrational folks who seriously place their faith in transforming a gay to a straight via exorcism, it must be terribly infuriating to see the torture yield some pretty unimpressive results.
Childhood trauma is often blamed for a person turning gay. That’s what the brilliant minds at NARTH and Exodus International and the Catholic Church often point at to explain same-sex attraction. (That, and not enough love from your father.) For the believers of gay demons, then, it’s less about trauma and more about an evil spirit. So how come calling out to the devil, and demanding he leave the physical body of a gay victim, keeps turning up empty? Is it because the exorcists aren’t trained well enough? The devil is too powerful a force? Homosexuality must be treated like cancer, with repeated therapies to ensure remission?
Or maybe it’s because exorcisms themselves are traumatic events. And trauma never brings about “positive” change.
Peterson Toscano, a gay Christian activist, underwent three exorcisms before coming to terms with his sexuality. One took place in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, another in an apartment on the West Side of Manhattan owned by Joanne Highley, who runs L.I.F.E. Ministry. During the latter exorcism, Highley had him lie down on her bed, then she sat beside him and began to press on his body, commanding the demons to exit through his mouth and rectum. Before the rite was complete, Toscano, who says he felt increasingly violated by Highley’s actions, stopped the ritual and left her apartment. Highley did not respond to requests to be interviewed, but she has previously stated that her process is to “cleanse and bind demonic powers . . . out of genitals, of course out of anal canals, out of intestines, out of throats and mouths if there’s been ungodly deposit of semen in those areas—we cleanse with the blood of Jesus, and we cast out the demonic powers.” Some practitioners of deliverance believe that a demon has a physical as well as a spiritual form and can be purged through the orifices—thus an exorcism can be judged successful if the subject vomits, coughs up sputum, or, in rare cases, evacuates his bowels.
Many of those who undergo gay deliverance are minors, and critics like Herrington and Toscano question whether child abuse is taking place. “For a young person, being told that you house evil, that you’re basically a mobile home for evil spirits—that is a very, very damaging concept,” says Toscano. “It’s one of the most extreme manifestations of the anti-gay rhetoric within the church.”
Is it illegal? Perhaps it should be, but cracking down on exorcisms would mean government authorities are cracking down on “religious expression.” Details‘ account tracks a handful of exorcism victims, who, notably, still have same-sex attractions; they also tell of foaming at the mouth, blacking out, and speaking in tongues during the rituals.
It reminded me of the upcoming film The Last Exorcism, which has nothing to do with homosexuality, but everything to do with the devil, the human spirit, and how exorcisms almost always end poorly.