There's an article in this month's Open Mind magazine about attitudes to mental health problems within UK faith communities. Hardly an academic piece, it's essentially a hospital chaplain's reflections on a survey he completed of 70 Anglican and Catholic church ministers.
Now, I've heard of the author before - he is one of the good guys. Apparently his "heart's in the right place" - in between his lungs I'd guess. That said, I'm not about to draw any firm conclusions from his 'research'.
There was one statistic that made me sit up however. Let me quote;
"...half the number [of respondents] thought that Deliverance Ministry might be a positive thing for people in mental distress, providing all the right processes and alternatives were in place."
For those of you unfamiliar with the term Deliverance Ministry let me fill you in. It's exorcism; the removal of evil spirits, demons or jinn through prayer and ritual. And yes, this survey was completed in 2007 not 1607.
Fifty percent of responding clergy felt that exorcism may be of use to treat people with 'mental health problems'!
Now, I can imagine some of the caveats respondents made to this. The article alludes similar;
"Respondents wrote more on this subject than any other question. It is still an issue that evokes quite a strong and, in the main, a very careful response."
I imagine responses were as carefully worded as the Diocese of Worcester statement of Deliverance Ministry - "The purpose of deliverance ministry is to make real to those who feel possessed, oppressed or afraid, the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over all that is evil, so that his living presence may bring peace. "
Notice the clever wording - to make real to those who feel possessed...the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, let me get this straight. Jesus Christ (God) is real and right to believe in, yet demons are not? Yet another example of linguistic gymnastics to validate magical thinking methinks.
Oh, and did you know that every Diocese in the UK has an official exorcist?