A man who claims he was possessed by demons was “delivered” in a televised exorcism broadcast live on British television, yesterday.
The subject, a man in his 40s identified only as Colin, was monitored by neuro-imaging technology that showed the audience what was occurring in his brain while Rev. Trevor Newport, a Pentecostal minister, prayed for him.
The UK’s Channel 4, which carried the program, has earned a reputation for provocative broadcasting of medical procedures, having shown an abortion in 2004 and an autopsy two years prior.
The procedure was observed by 20 religious and scientific observers that included clerics from the Church of England and local mosques, psychologists, neuroscientists and psychiatrists.
Dr. Jonathan Bird, a neuro-psychiatrist from the Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, said he observed “very little activity in the parietal region of the brain” on the attached electroencephalograph. “We also saw some asymmetry in the temporal lobe,” Bird added. “Whether that is a brain process or a spiritual process, I leave to the experts.”
Following the exorcism, Colin told Channel 4, “I feel that I have had demons in my life and that they have been delivered. I believe there is a merciful God and this country needs to know that Jesus cast out spirits and still does.”
“I was a bit nervous beforehand but after I was prayed for the nervousness just went” Colin said. “It was the most relaxed deliverance I have ever had.”
Rev. Newport, of Life Changing Ministries, has conducted numerous exorcisms in his 25 years as an ordained minister. “Colin was very agitated beforehand and now he is completely relaxed” he told the audience. “A lot of people were perhaps expecting a more graphic demonstration – this is quite a normal deliverance.”
Normal or not, the two-minute televised ritual and “scientific experiment” has drawn criticism.
Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe told the London Evening Standard, “An exorcism is not an appropriate thing to be shown on television. Anything that you put on television even if it is in the name of science is seen as a form of entertainment.”
“It’s interfering in something very personal.” added John Beyer, director of Media Watch UK. He accused Channel 4 of sensationalism. “Is this a legitimate investigation or just some stunt to create controversy and ratings? People who need ‘exorcisms’ are nearly always mentally ill. The channel is likely to get loads of calls from people saying they are possessed too because they haven’t had proper help for their problems-from doctors.”
Simon Andreae, Channel 4’s head of science programming, responded to the criticism leveled against the broadcast: “We are delighted to have been part of one of the first scientific investigations into the neurology of possession. I hope that the program will form part of a wider debate about the relationship between science and religion.”