Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Kristy Bamu Murder in Context: Violent Exorcisms and Non-African Christians

The horrific murder of Kristy Bamu has resulted in some amazingly wrong-headed reactions. For example, a great deal of attention is paid to the fact that the murderers are African immigrants, while very little or no attention is paid to the fact that the murderers are both Christians, and that they were acting not on the basis of "traditional African superstitions", but on the basis of the teachings of a modern sect of Christianity that originated in the United States: Pentecostalism.

Some will try to argue, and just for the sake of argument I'll allow that they might be right, that Magalie Bamu and Eric Bikubi were not acting like "good" Christians or "typical" Christians when they tortured Kristy Bamu to death on Christmas Day, 2011. But there is no getting around the fact that they are Christians. The distinguished social anthropologist Jean Le Fontaine made the point very clearly in her March 1 editorial in the Guardian in which she stated bluntly: "Christianity is at fault here". (link)

In order to put things in context, it is absolutely essential to emphasize the fact that violent exorcisms, including exorcisms that lead to death, are not some peculiar feature of African Christianity.

For example, for his book American Exorcism, author Michael W. Cuneo interviewed "Pastor Mike", a Baptist minister (with strong Pentecostalist leanings) who recounted how he personally went through "at least a hundred" deliverances which were sometimes "very violent, with four or five men holding me down." These violent "deliverances" were conducted under the auspices of Win Worley. Worley, who liked to refer to himself as a "Baptecostal", began performing exorcisms in a small church on the South Side of Chicago in 1970. According to Cuneo, by 1978 "visitors from as far away as Florida and California" were coming to Worley's church "looking for treatment."

According to one of Worley's disciples, "He believed that you should force the demons to manifest. This required a team to hold people that became violent." That quote is from the "demonbuster.com" website page on "How To Do Deliverance". The church that Worley founded, the Hegewisch Baptist Church, eventually moved to Highland, Indiana, and is now headed by Pastor Mike (Michael Thierer). One of the slogans of the Church is simply: "Attack! Attack! Attack!"

Below are several examples of documented cases of violent exorcisms, none of them involving Africans:

Arizona man tased by police while performing violent exorcism on 3 year old child:

22 year old Japanese American (raised by Quakers in Indiana) arrested for physically abusing a 14 year old autistic boy during exorcism:

Russian parents accused of killing their daughter during exorcism:

Young boy "slapped, scratched and hit" during exorcism in Seattle church:

Swedish pastor accused of conducting "violent exorcisms" in his "cowboy-themed church":

Two London preachers kick woman to death during exorcism in 1980:

Violent exorcism of gay 16 year old boy in Connecticut (the church was so proud they posted a video of the exorcism on youtube):

Police called to violent exorcism in Alabama:

Related posts from this blog:
"Christianity is at fault here": Jean La Fontaine on the Kristy Bamu case
The Origins of Pentecostalism: Azusa Street
"And these signs shall follow them that believe": An overview of Pentecostalism
"A new Frankenstein religion"??
Christianity & the Invention of Child Witches in Africa
Pentecostalism, Spiritual Warfare & The "Witch Children"