Quiet Deliverances
Jon Bialecki

In anthropological and sociological literature, charismatic Christianity is often thought through in experiential and embodied terms; this is particularly true of writing on the Vineyard, a Southern California– originated, worldwide denomination that sees itself as combining the best of both pentecostal and evangelical practice. Tracing its roots back to the “Jesus Movement” of the 1960s, the Vineyard is now a denomination that rejects its denominational status, presenting itself as a church-planting “movement.” The Vineyard, however, has effects that exceed its own body (denominational or otherwise): the Vineyard is seen as playing a vital role in the “Californianization” of American Protestantism (Shibley 1996), and in acting as a vital “way station” for the global propagation of neocharismatic and Pentecostal Christianity (Martin 2002: 38) (see generally Bialecki 2008: 369–70). Primarily (but not exclusively) middle-class, educated, and white, the members of the Vineyard, with their strong interest in spirit-filled, supernatural religious practices, almost seem as if they were made-to-order to refute the theory of modernization as disenchantment. In light of this charismatic activity, it is not surprising that commentators on the Vineyard often see the visceral and immediate aspects of both practice and (unmarked) ritual as the key to understanding this denomination’s particular appeal (see e.g., Luhrmann 2004a, 2004b, 2005, 2006;1 Miller 1997). While this is not always stated openly, this focus on embodiment is often subtly put forward as running contrary to models that see the power of theologically conservative religion as emanating not from its use of the body, but rather from its distinctive, everyday ritual uses of language and rhetoric (Lurhmann 2004; see Crapanzano 2000; Harding 1987, 2000; Meigs 1995; Stromberg 1993) to at once raise and assuage anxieties, and to allow access to a set of transcendent referents that can be deployed to grant an imminent authority in the here and now. 249


Jon Bialecki

Like many other discussions, this debate occurs because the opposing points are both correct—Charismatic linguistic and hermeneutic practice is indeed complex and powerful in the Vineyard (Bialecki 2009a) as well as in American charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity generally (Bielo 2008, 2009; Csordas 1997, 2001; Shoaps 2002), and few who have witnessed speaking in tongues, charismatic healing, or ecstatic worship could deny the sensory and embodied aspects that seems to be a vital part of the thrall that this form of religiosity is capable of producing (Csordas 1994, 2002). In point of fact, this debate has been productive in fleshing out the contours of charismatic Christianity, and to the degree that one can imagine that a sense of self and the capacity to represent are imbricated with, if not actually an aspect of a unified semiotic ideology—a point lost on none of these authors— these seemingly cross-cutting analytics are perhaps more tightly connected, and easier to harmonize, than the previous discussion would make it seem. But even if we do think that these processes may not be at loggerheads, it still leaves unexplained instances where neither category seems to be fully apposite. What are we to make of, say, social charismatic ritual in which there is no special language indexing any extraordinary status, in which the vital body movements are unmarked, and in which the two parties involved may have radically different understandings of what has transpired? That is the question that this chapter will take up. Here, this specific improvised ritual serves as a limit case against which embodied and discursive narratives of charismatic religious practice can be tested, and while they shan’t be found wanting, what will be discovered is that in the end, both of these practices must be thought through as partial explanatory frames, and that ideational material—that is, the charismatic cosmological imaginary—also has a vital role to play.

Quiet Deliverances
The ritual that this chapter concerns itself with is deliverance from demons—the removal of evil spirits who can have influence (though only very rarely complete control) over fully professed, born-again Christians. We will first discuss them in prototypic form before we turn to the variant that actually concerns us here, if only because that is the only way that the variant is even understandable as a variant. While akin to exorcism in many ways, deliverance rituals differ in that they are often spontaneous, and can be (in theory) conducted by anyone

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who is operating “in Jesus’ name.” In the most striking cases, they are triggered by someone’s sudden violent, abusive, or obscene reaction to Christian language or practice—particularly when such a reaction appears to be at variance with the person’s previously stated religious commitments. Because of their improvised nature, deliverances can occur almost anywhere—at a prayer session in a home, during a religious conference, or in the church office. These rituals can be rather florid and dramatic affairs at times, requiring the demonized subject to be forcibly held down while the person or people conducting the deliverance shout prayers, encouragement, and exhortations in an attempt to loosen the demon’s hold (for a description of what a fully developed, fully elaborated deliverance looks like, see Bialecki 2009b: 89–100). But—and this is vital to our discussion—not all deliverances are like this. Rather than being showy and striking, they can be modest, and often times so quick as to occur without others in the room noticing—including, often, the object of the deliverance. In fact, they are so slight, so unmarked, that they can be folded into other quotidian charismatic practices, such as intercessionary prayers over a person during a meeting. In fact, I had observed this “quiet” ritual numerous times before its particular nature was brought to my attention. Sitting in a sunny court outside of a Southern California coffee shop, (a common occurrence during my fieldwork) a church smallgroup leader2 was recounting how she has had to, at times, pray over people who seemed to have something “unclean” and “not of Jesus” in them. After discussing rather florid instances, in which she could intuit the presence of a demonic alter in some inarticulable, wild aspect of the eyes of the people she was praying over, and how after casting these beings out “in Jesus’ name” the sufferers would report a sense of freedom, she stated that there were other, similar kinds of prayer practices that she engaged in as well. Sometimes, she reported, she would get a sense that when people she was praying over were “in a rut,” where the person is getting the same prayer every week, where things were just not getting better, and especially where it seemed that people were being held down by feelings of shame, fear, and guilt, she would prophylactically cast out demons. The form this would take was simply a prayer asking for the emotion or psychic state to be gone “in the name of Jesus” or “in Jesus’ name.” When this was mentioned to me, it was a bit of a shock; during my time in the Vineyard, I had often heard prayers of this sort being uttered, but I had never paused to consider that these prayers for emotional relief were envisioned as doing anything other than requesting a


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providential uplift in the person’s emotional state, or perhaps at most a miraculous change in one’s subjective experience of self. Indeed, prior to her statement, I had paid these kinds of prayer no mind, other than to note that there was something odd about the implicit physicality and agency of addressing and casting out psychological states. Only after our conversation did I realize that what was going on in these small moments was something other than what they appeared to be, and that it was the naming of the unclean object of deliverance after an affective state that allowed it to be couched in what appears to be a psychological idiom (Csordas 1994: 165–99); rather than being the expulsion of an agentive entity that is manifestly present, it is put forward as the banishing of a subjective and ephemeral state. Because it is articulated in this language, the person being prayed over may have no idea that the frame being invoked is that of the demonic, and because the person conducting the “deliverance” is not presenting any exegesis (as opposed to other instances where there is a disparity of knowledge between the patient and healer, such as Hanks 1996), someone not versed in the details of the Vineyard’s demonology (and there are many casual members of Vineyard churches who fit in that category) may only retroactively, if ever, come to an understanding of what occurred. Indeed, though in my later discussions about this phenomenon no one actually put it forward in exactly this language, there is a sense that, since less charismatically experienced church members tend to effectively overreact to the presence of evil spirits, in some ways it may be best that they do misapprehend what has transpired. There is certainly nothing that would make it stand out; because this occurs as part of the prayer process, the physicality of this intervention is identical to that of other forms of intimate prayer—hands touching or extended towards the head, back, or, where not sexually suggestive, the chest— and from the times I have seen small group leaders or other “ritual specialists” conduct this prayer, the prosody used does not stand out as different either. Given that the person who is being prayed over often has no conception of this as an exorcism, and that this could alternately be thought through as a form of psychic healing—a common charismatic activity (see Csordas 1994: 109–40)—instead of as an instance of thwarted demonic attack, without there being any apparent change in outward practice, it seems natural to ask why this is even framed as a moment of demonic attack. What kind of work is being done by this framing, and for whom? To understand this, we have to follow the understanding of the deliverance, both in the Vineyard and in the greater American Protestant community, and see what other associations are ensnarled

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with this idea; only then can we understand this odd “improvised ritual” that at once stands for something different than quotidian prayer, while not being outwardly discernable as being different in any way. My argument is this—given the almost covert nature of this activity in comparisons to other exorcisms, and the fact that this differs in form in no way from other forms of charismatic prayer, we can understand these improvised quiet deliverances not by a close reading of the situation in which they occur, nor by paying attention to the microphysics of the body, the aesthetic experience of the rite, or the interpolative or contagious power of the language used, but rather by seeing what the prototype on which this practice is based stands for in the imagination of these practitioners. Only then can we see how elements from that initial object are redeployed in this new setting, where instead of the thrashing demonized, we have simple emotions quietly being kept at bay.3

The Demonological Prototype
But what power does both demonization and deliverance have in the imagination of the Vineyard such that it is the frame through which some members understand some otherwise quotidian prayers? Despite the fact that deliverance and demonization are not regular occurrences, the answer is that, for at least those well steeped in the Vineyard, deliverance is a strong motif through which to think through what is special about the Vineyard in particular, and Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity in general. The fact that demonization is not peripheral to either the Vineyard’s self-conception or its image in the wider culture is evidenced by the fact that Vineyard members are often seen by people external to the organization as being in effect “ritual specialists” in the demonic.4 According to pastors, exorcisms are the service most requested of the church by both nonparishioner believers and by non-Christians; the list of those who have requested deliverance at the particular Vineyard I spent the most time with, for instance, includes Hindu immigrants who reportedly felt that their native religion had no means of coping with “evil presences,” and patients referred to the church by secular psychological counselors. The exact number of exorcisms held at a mid-sized church (around 150 to 250 members) is difficult to determine because of the nature of demonic deliverances, which are informal, uncertain, and often private affairs, and by the fact that records are not kept as a matter of course,5 but there is some evidence by which one can gauge


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the frequency with which the demonic is battled. The current head pastor of the aforementioned Vineyard church—who had held the position there for merely two years at the time this research took place, and had served as associate pastor for only two years prior to that— estimated that he had engaged in well over a hundred deliverances over the course of his career. Many other individuals I spoke to, particularly vocal group members or ones in a leadership position, also had experiences of either assisting in or being the subject of deliverances (or, in a twist that resembles many classical narratives of shamanic initiation, both). Given that we’ve already observed that demonic deliverances can be performed by any member of the intercessionary group, labeled the “prayer team,” that stands at the front of the church during the end of services; by home group leaders through the medium of the small groups that stand at the center of the Vineyard’s structure; or even by anyone who has either the institutional or personal charisma necessary to gloss resistance during an emerging prayer encounter as a demonic confrontation, we can assume that deliverances are common—and this is not counting the frequent, unmarked “cryptodeliverances” discussed above.6 That deliverances should be common is surprising. The surprise is not because of any general rarity of possessive states worldwide (Boddy 1994), nor because of any lack of an ecstatic tradition in American folk religion (Taves 1999), but because over the past century, the demonic affliction has not always been regarded as something that should be focused on, or at times even acknowledged as possible, by many religious practitioners. Ever since the fundamentalist/mainline split in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the “modernist” (or mainline) Protestant wing has distanced itself from the outright endorsement of any explicitly supernatural activity, especially contemporary supernatural activity; this was a part of the mainline attempt to reimagine itself as a religion compatible with modernist standards of naturalism and rationality (Mullin 1996). On the theologically conservative side of that Protestant divide, demonic possession was also denied, though for different reasons. Starting in the early twentieth century, most North American fundamentalist Christians adhered to “premillennial dispensationalism,” a theological creed centering around the “end times” that holds that in the current age, most of the supernatural activity that is found in the Bible, such as demonic possession, has been foreclosed by divine decree. While dispensationalism grants that the supernatural occurred historically in biblical times and in the early church era, and will be seen again during the upcoming apocalypse, it is held that God’s over-

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arching plan has no room for such activity in the “church age,” as the current temporal dispensation is understood (Boyer 1992; Harding 1994, 2001; Weber 1979). Because of this denial of the demonic from both wings of Protestantism, most practicing evangelicals are skeptical of the demonic—as stated by a pastor in one of the Vineyard Handbooks, demonic affliction was something that did not accord with their seminary training (Springer 1988: 206). Even much of miraclefriendly Pentecostal theology, while acknowledging the existence of the demonic, discounts it as an issue for true believers, on the logic that, having submitted oneself to Christ, one is inoculated against demonic assault (MacNutt 1995: 72). Since its initial days, though, Pentecostal and Charismatic practice has taken quite a different tack. For early Pentecostals, the demonic was a real presence that could be found in “swarms” and “herds” throughout the landscape (Wacker 2002: 91). Under the revival tent, demons could be found assaulting not just the unsaved, but their Christian brethren as well. As described by Grant Wacker,
demons enjoyed the ability to torment Holy-Spirit baptized believers along with non-Christians. Sometimes they disrupted Pentecostal meetings by prompting erroneous or even vile messages in tongues. On occasion “religious demons” caused “professors of holiness” to do nonsensical things such as running around the house screaming or climbing trees for no good reason. Sometimes saints speaking in prayer found that a demon had slipped in and taken control of their jaws. Everyone knew that evil spirits caused most illnesses. Therefore in many cases divine healings involved exorcism of the tormenting spirits, which required placing one’s hand on the “afflicted part” and in the name of Jesus commanding the demon to depart. Dramatic contests ensued. (Wacker 2002: 92)

The Vineyard, as an evangelical church that has adopted Pentecostal practices, has genealogical links to exactly these sort of early Pentecostal preachers that Wacker discusses.7 As we shall see, there is more than a passing continuity between these early Pentecostal demonic events and the current Third Wave/Vineyard model of how the demonic functions. Given the Vineyard’s charismatic roots, it shouldn’t be surprising that, despite the injunction against the idea of possession found in both fundamentalist and mainline Protestantism, the existence of demons and of their capacity to cause harm to believing Christians is accepted by many Vineyard believers. Mainline arguments against the demonic and demonization are dismissed out of hand—as one pastor said, it’s ridiculous to think that just because people can make airplanes now,


Jon Bialecki

demons have gone away. Dispensationalist arguments regarding the church age have been swept away, in part due to the weakening of the hold of dispensationlism, and in part to dispensationalism being adopted by Pentecostal groups such as the Assemblies of God.8 The challenge posited by the classical theological ban on the demonic possession of Christians has been met through a more carefully crafted folk-theological sublation: Current Third Wave demonological folk theory takes a stance between the absolute denial of the demonic, on the one hand, and a feeling that one is utterly and continually open to the demonic, on the other, by reformulating one’s openness to the demonic from a binary system—you are either possessed or you are not, you are either vulnerable or invulnerable—to one in which the extent to which one is “demonized” is measured across a continuum. In short, they have reimagined the common American folk model of pure possession as one of a range of influence. Given that possession-type phenomena are usually seen as a complete overwriting of the possessed agency by a supernatural alter, it is worth noting that one of the chief results of this rearticulated demonization/deliverance model is that the afflicted individual would seem to never be entirely without any measure of agency, even if that agency is impure and waning. In the words of the Vineyard’s founder, John Wimber, “I do not believe that demons may own people absolutely while they still live on earth; even when demons gain a high degree of control, people are able to exercise a degree of free will that may lead to deliverance and salvation” (Wimber and Springer 1987: 109). Of course, as in classical models of possession, issues of free will can rapidly become problematic. Evidence for free will comes from the fact that individuals often request prayer. Many of the narratives related to me started with the afflicted individual willingly submitting him- or herself to prayer (though often this submission is not without significant resistance, and in many narratives, this resistance only grows exponentially as the process continues). This request for prayer can include requests to rid oneself of demonic affliction; the amount of free will that can be attributed to the demonized individual is evidenced by the fact that at least one of Wimber’s books states that an individual possessed by demons can perform a “self-deliverance” by immediately taking a series of steps of moral reformation, religious rededication, and, most vitally, commanding the spirits within to leave through invoking Jesus’ power (Wimber and Springer 1987: 124–25). Even during assisted deliverances, the turning point in many affliction narratives is when the individual makes a decision of one sort—usually a decision, as in the case above, to either directly accept Jesus, or, indi-

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rectly, to renounce either a particular evil (such as, say, pornography) or evil in general, through the medium of accepting Jesus. At the other end of this spectrum of control, however, are forms of demonic afflictions marked by an individual’s apparent loss of agency. The classical case of demonization is the instance where the demons speak through the mouth of the afflicted individual, where the afflicted person seems to be speaking in the plural. Use of plural language such as “We will kill you” is often the sign of demonization (MacNutt 1995: 17) because this language seems to suggest that more than one set of hands are on the body’s metaphorical rudder. Subjectively, individuals who are being demonized report that when the demon comes to the fore (which typically only happens in the prayer confrontation between the person offering interceding prayer and the demonized person), a feeling of being alienated or disconnected from the acts and words emanating from their bodies occur (Bialecki 2009b: 100–111). In one possession tale, a victim reported that “she felt like a spectator during the experience, as though she had no control over what was happening” (Wimber and Springer 1987: 98). Alternately, an individual may find him- or herself acting for no apparent reason whatsoever, with the usual causal chain between volition and action being severed; in such an instance reported to me, an individual suffering from demonic attack suddenly tackled someone near him during group prayer for reasons that were mysterious, even to himself. There are times, though, when the question of one’s agency is less clear, and the issue of whether an individual is exercising his or her will is difficult to resolve. Not all these cases are as florid, however—which allows us to see the connection to the quiet deliverances that started us out on this exploration. In these less-extreme cases, the inner working of possession may make its outward appearance as a shift in mood or an imbalance of physical or sensual appetites. For these forms of demonization, it is only outward signs that have nothing to do with selfcontrol (such as expert opinion from someone with much experience in spiritual warfare, or at other times, unnatural coldness, a common sign of supernatural evil (MacNutt 1995: 79) that finally point to the true state of affairs. In short, as a loss of will that can be conquered by an exercise of will, demonization is not always clearly on one pole or the other of agency, but instead stands at once for agency’s obviation and triumph. It is this twilight state that leads to the problem of how to properly identify whether one is demonized. In the prototypical example, there are several ways that this can be done. The easiest way is to judge by external indexes evidenced by behavior—one account lists them as be-


Jon Bialecki

ing “altered voices, eyes and facial expressions that weren’t normal, stiffening up of the body, shrieking, etc.” (Wimber and Springer 1987: 187). In explaining how demonization is identified, one pastor gave a generic example—that while being prayed over at the end of a service or during an evening revival or seminar on prayer, an individual will start to moan or growl, often in an animalistic way; the individual will give a particularly bad reaction to the mention of either Jesus or God. Alternately, the equivalent of a spiritual symptom may occur—with the afflicted person complaining of an apparently physiological symptom, such as heaviness in the legs. This symptom may be something visible to the observer, but unnoticed to the individual who is bearing it: the most common example of this would be a clouded or “off” look in the eyes. Under all these approaches, detecting the demonic is a process of deduction based on obvious, public, and consistent signs, which makes it merely another act of verification through reproducible sense evidence of an otherwise invisible phenomenon, like magnetism. However, there are other ways of uncovering demonic presence. Some individuals will have the “gift” of discerning demons. An example of this would be the wife of Francis MacNutt, the charismatic-Catholic author of the book that many members of the Vineyard consider to be authoritative on the subject of demonic deliverance; that book bears the wonderful name Deliverance from Evil Spirits—A Practical Manual (1995).9 MacNutt’s wife is capable of visually determining the presence of unclean spirits, not by inferring them from the outward behaviors of those they attack, but by directly observing them through the supernatural assistance of the Holy Spirit. Others can similarly intuit the presence of demons through their senses, though not always visually. One pastor has told me that he can sense darkness in individuals through bodily proximity, a darkness that pretty reliably points directly to issues of demonization. This sensation was often perceived through incidental contact—for instance, the casual contact that occurs during a baptism.10 In what is important for us to keep in mind in our consideration of “quiet deliverances,” this direct, intuitive sense is triggered by proximity, but not by the overt behavior of the demonized. MacNutt reports individuals who can sense the presence of demons through their tactile (the feel of the hairs on ones neck in one case, a familiar tingle in an earlobe in another) or olfactory (an “unpleasant, unfamiliar” smell) senses (1995: 82). Others have this gift, as well—and whom these others are is an important point in understanding Vineyard discourse regarding modernity. The Vineyard discourse is full of accounts from “the mission field” of “non-Westerners” who have an easy access to the supernatu-

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ral. In general, short-term mission trips are often imagined to be opportunities for confronting temple-ensconced demons through prayer, or for miraculous healings of natives suffering from crippling disease; this is particularly the case among younger (college to mid-twenties) believers. When some Vineyard church members left for a mission trip to visit Christian Burmese hill-tribe refugees, more than one member expressed an anxious expectation that they would see miracles on this trip—miracles being the natural provenance of the poor, marginal, and non-Western. This is often presented not as a sign of native backwardness, but rather of an atrophied openness of moderns to the supernatural—a lost capacity that is concomitant with a hyperrationalization that has without justification foreclosed an important supernatural aspect of the world. These accounts are often derived from the works of Christian anthropologists, who are taken quite seriously in the Vineyard literature (and increasingly so in the evangelical world, given the global growth of Christianity). This Third Wave material often uses their accounts of non-Western supernatural powers as an incentive for North Americans to stretch their own supernatural senses to the limit in order to recapture this lost ability, as exemplified by the following passage from a series of “conversion stories” of traditional ministers who have come over to “Spirit-led” Vineyard style spiritual practice, in this case a secondhand recounting and analysis of a story by a missionary anthropologist:
He had been working with a primitive tribe in East Africa. One day he had an interesting exchange with his native informant. “You must be very lonely,” the informant told him. “Oh? What makes you think so?” the anthropologist replied. “Well, when I have a problem I talk to the spirit of my father, and the spirit of my grandfather, and they talk it over with the spirit of my great grandfather. Then they give me their advice. It comforts me.” “So what makes you think that I don’t talk to the spirits of my father and grandfather?” “You don’t. I can’t see them. They’re not around you.” As I listened the penny dropped. The identity of the spirits with which the informant conversed is neither here nor there; most Christians would say he was talking with demons. But I saw that a “primitive” East African retained an ability to perceive the spirit world, even though his perception was distorted and misleading. I had no such ability. Demons could be all round me … yet I could only deduce their presence occasionally by a process of logic. I could not perceive them. Had I as a Westerner lost the capacity to perceive the supernatural, a


Jon Bialecki

capacity largely retained by non-Westerners? (Springer 1988: 76 emphasis in original)

The narrator’s reaction to this is to pray for this discernment, so that he can take up his part in “fighting evil.” This belief in the spiritual potency of the non-West is tied to a certain low regard for modernity, one of the few traits that the Vineyard shares with its more fundamentalist cousins (Ammerman 1987; Harding 2001; but see Percy 1996 ). In his books and talks, one of Wimber’s favorite punching bags was what he called the “Western World View,” which comes off as a mélange of secularism, self-reliance, materialism, and rationalism. For him, all these are negative categories. The scientific method has become elevated to the position of “Holy Writ,” and reason has become “the only and highest authority”; at the same time, moral and spiritual ideas not being treated with the same rigor as “relativism” becomes the rule of the day (Wimber 1985: 95–98). In this account, the usual narrative of modernity as progress has become inverted, and instead of an ever-increasing knowledge and technical mastery, modernity is characterized by a constantly growing blindness to both the spiritual and supernatural. It is because of the supposed miraculous nature of Christian belief, in addition to its Judaic roots, that some Vineyard members (particularly ones exposed either to seminaries or the Vineyard’s in-house replacement for seminaries, VLI) sometimes refer to Christianity as a “non-Western” or “Eastern” religion. This points to another important aspect of discernment: that it is attainable, through training, and thus is a sign of someone who is well integrated into the church. An individual who wishes to acquire this ability must, of course, pray, but he or she must also learn to monitor his or her senses carefully. This training is to enable the person to identify not just the presence of the often idiosyncratic sensations that point to the proximity of evil spirits, but also to be able to distinguish the sensation from the sensory equivalent of day-to-day mental and physical white noise. As John Wimber stated, “Over the years I have learned to recognize when these insights are from God and when they are a result of my imagination—or indigestion” (Wimber 1985: 80). Given the fact that the Spirit speaks in “half a whisper” (Springer 1988: 148), this distinguishing is a careful act indeed, and must be honed by a mix of taking chances—letting oneself be “led by the Spirit” in Vineyard parlance—and careful practice. One of the skills that must be learned is to work through the complex relationship between demonic possession and the category under-

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stood as “mental illness.” At first, these two categories would appear to be antithetical. An illustration of this is a chart in a Vineyard book that contrasts “Public” (that is, secular) beliefs, with the “Private” beliefs considered to be peculiar to Evangelical culture. Alongside such public/ private oppositions as “Science::God,” “Politics::Morality,” and “Relative values::Absolute right and wrong” we find “Modern Psychology” and “Angels and Demons” as contrasting explanatory models (Wimber 1985)—an odd opposition, given that, as will be pointed out, demons are essentially presented as at once agentive beings and as characterological or psychological states. Oftentimes the process of diagnosis simply seems to be determining what evil spirit is making the individual act insane, and removing the spirit so that the demonized person can return to a normal state. One example is that of a lesbian bipolar psychiatric patient who was cured of both “conditions” after a demonic deliverance by her psychiatrist; since the demons have been cast out, her Christian psychiatrist insists, she had not needed any medication at all for her “supposed” mental illness (Springer 1988: 75). The relationship between these two categories, however, is much more complicated than that of simple opposition. Demons, which usually have names that indicate their chief characteristics or mode of afflicting their victims, often take their monikers directly from affective states, psychological modes, or diagnostic categories. Since demonic names are not arbitrary, but titles that reveal the core nature of those that bear them, we can see that differentiation between the demons and the diseases that these demons are named after is an unstable one. Demons are not just the true cause of phenomena thought to be mental illness; in many cases, the very essence of demons is that of mental illness. Furthermore, while often mental illness can simply serve as a mask, a false diagnosis covering the true demonic condition, one must be careful to determine whether mental illness actually is also present, and if so, what link it may have (if any) with demonization. A person acting peculiarly may be demonized, may be simply insane, or may be suffering from both conditions, with either demons or madness being the primary causal agent. At times, it may be impossible to separate the two causal strands, as in the case of one early twenties-aged victim of demonic attack who, it was believed by some his friends, was too narcissistically and pathologically attached to the attention his demonic attacks brought him to be able to effectively renounce them in the manner required. A particularly difficult psychology-rooted problem for someone attempting to determine the presence of a demon is the possibility of multiple personality disorder (MPD), which can mimic demonization


Jon Bialecki

in many of its external aspects. The possibility of confusion is more than just an inconvenience; it is a risk to the well-being of the candidate for deliverance. MacNutt warns that attempting to deliver a person’s “alters”—which he views as being a psychological mechanism provided by God to deal with extreme trauma—can be a mistake that will result only in more splitting of the ego, since in some MPD cases there is no demonic presence to be expelled (MacNutt 1995: 79–81, 230–31). It would be interesting to think through the reasons why Third Wave Christians have apparently accepted MPD, a process that is of debatable clinical validity and certainly with its own odd intellectual history and personal practice centered on fixing and stabilizing identity. (See Antze 1996; Hacking 1995.). As we shall see, the reason may lie in the way in which MPD suggests a radical contingency and openness of the subject, while still maintaining the overall foundational importance of the subject qua subject, a dynamic we will also identify in the Renewal/Third Wave supernatural subject. Even when there is a causal relationship between demonic activity and mental illness, removal of the offending supernatural entity may not result in an immediate cure. Wimber cautions that the aberrant behavior may continue for a while after deliverance, and that additional conventional support and counseling may be required to make the person whole (Wimber and Springer 1987: 97). I have even heard hearsay that one of the fruits of deliverance is that demonized individuals with mental health disorders will begin to be able to respond to their drug therapy once demons have been expelled from them. The causes of demonic attack are just as important to the work that the original prototype does when it is invoked in the form of quiet deliverance. The importance here lies in the answer to the riddle of how it is that a Christian can fall into a state of being demonized, and whether there are any means of inoculating oneself against demonic activity. The answer to this is something that may at first seem obvious, but upon further examination becomes cloudy. All sources are unanimous on this question: the cause of demonization is sin. The complexity arises in who must sin for demons to be present, and how the contagion of sin is passed to the demonized individual. The most clear-cut source for demonic activity is traffic with the occult, where one willingly engages with the supernatural. While that is the most sure-fire way to become demonized, moral failing is without doubt the most common. Again, in the words of John Wimber, “Unrighteous anger, self-hatred and hatred of others, revenge, unforgiveness, lust, pornography, sexual wrongdoings, various sexual perversions (like transvestism, homosexuality, bestiality, sodomy), and

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drug and alcohol abuse commonly open the doors to demonic influence” (Wimber and Springer 1987: 118). At another point, Wimber states that the only way to be certain to avoid demonization is to “walk in faith and live righteously” (Wimber and Springer 1987: 116). If one fails to comport oneself properly, there is a danger that the situation could snowball, with the demonized individual further tempted by his or her supernatural invisible interlocutors, thus inviting an even more heightened level of demonic activity. “The world, the flesh, and the devil work in concert to tempt us. They have a diabolical interrelationship that seeks to trap men and women in sin and death. When we yield to the temptations of the flesh and the world, we become more vulnerable” (Wimber and Springer 1987: 107). Demonization is part of the wages of a dissolute life, and the greater the dissolution, the greater the demonization. However, demonization is not necessarily the wages of the sufferer’s dissolute life. Demonization can result from the bad activities of others. When it comes to diagnosing demons, Wimber knows that one must ask about the activities and affinities of one’s friends and families—especially the latter. Family ties to the occult, which has a capacity to openly and purposely invite demons into this world, is particularly suspect. As John Wimber states, “So when I pray for people who I suspect are afflicted by evil spirits, I always ask if they or a close relative have been involved in the occult or false religions, particularly Eastern religions” (Wimber and Springer 1987: 118). However, other sins can work their way through the family, being passed down from parents to children in a way that seems reminiscent of a genetic disorder. Demonization can even be the result of a violation of a person, with the arc of demonic affliction passing from violator to the violated. “For example, people who have been sinned against sexually usually have serious demonic problems. Seventy percent of all children of alcoholics become alcoholics; I believe in many instances demonic influence contributes to their problem” (Wimber and Springer 1987: 119). Even trauma caused without malevolent intent can be the opening for a demon. McNutt recounts the story of one pastor whose small daughter wandered off, only to be found playing in a neighbor’s garage after her parents had ransacked the neighborhood. The pastor’s wife exclaimed that she had thought she was never going to see her child again; this opened the way for a “spirit of fear” to enter the child, which the father would have to cast out later that evening (MacNutt 1995: 91). This link between trauma and demonization is so strong that, during a small-group meeting that occurred after a full-blown demonic deliverance, one group member’s statement during a discussion re-


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garding the demonization that had occurred could transition, without any external markers, from being a discussion regarding the awesome nature of the supernatural manifestations that had been seen to one on human relationships. One group member mentioned that she was really affected by the thoughts that human beings had “inflicted” that kind of hurt on the victim, that the victim was tormented as a result of the other’s “relational malfunction.” It is equally telling that for her, the aftermath of viewing an instance of demonization was not a renewed vigilance towards the supernatural, but instead, a heightened concern of day-to-day interactions: she then stated that one of the biggest things that we can do as Christians is to concentrate on healing broken relationships. While it appears that demons work entirely in a psychological realm, that is not always the case. Demons can exert their energies on the body, as well, and can produce a broad range of symptoms and disorders. Pain, partial or complete loss of bodily functions, misshapen limbs, and even serious diseases such as cancer can be the result of demonic activity. This results in the kind of inchoate, polysemous prayers that we see in instances of quiet deliverance, and other similar practices. Particularly, there is a blurry line between the demonic and illness in some ways; I have seen individuals “cast out” illnesses using the same formula used to cast out demons. While not the only way that illness is prayed for, it is not unusual to hear someone say while laying hands on someone during prayer something of the nature of “back pain (or chest cold, etc.), in the name of Jesus, I order you out.”11 When dealt with this way, the personification of illness makes drawing borderlines between demons, demon-created illness, and natural illness a difficult subject; it is not surprising that written works or conversations on this issue deal with this problem in an ad hoc and fuzzy manner. Here, due to our interest in quiet deliverance, it is important to note that at some point, it appears that any misfortune could possibly be related to, or actually be, demonic. Wimber, citing others, notes that “sins, unwanted habits, physical illness, emotional wounds, psychological problems, ‘bad luck,’ disunity in relationships, problems in relating to God, fears, and compulsions” are “just some” of the modes of Satanic—and hence, demonic—interference in Christian life (Wimber and Springer 1987: 102). I have heard a small-group leader complain about answering-machine malfunctions, general irritability, and marital bickering, all of which were read as incidents of “enemy attack” linked to upcoming small-group meetings. Vineyard leaders are not unaware of how odd this can look to secular eyes, and even at times try to make use of this apparent oddity of their world-

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view for the sake of humor—one Vineyard pastor, speaking against the backdrop of a recurrence of the wildfires that periodically darken Southern California skies, jokingly tried to explain the difference between the Vineyard and Pentecostals this way—a Pentecostal would automatically assume that the fires were caused by the devil, but a Vineyard pastor would wait to see if the fires were a bad thing first, before making up his mind. The fact that seemingly quotidian or naturalistic problems, and not merely the histrionic spectacles associated with full demonization, unfold from supernatural origins is mirrored by the equally quotidian attitude that answers them. One of the points touched on again and again regarding demons is that they are “no big deal,” and that, since victory through Jesus’ name is assured, neither fear nor drama is called for. While this certainly matches the Vineyard’s laconic, understated style of speech and self-presentation, this also points to the fact that, if one is to allow a full range of phenomena to be demonic in nature, one’s response must be calibrated downward to the mundane, real-world level of the injury as well. Looking back on the depiction of the demonized subject, it may seem that the Christian body and psyche is one that is spectacularly open to demonic interference. Such a picture, while not inaccurate, would be incomplete if it did not include the ways in which Vineyard believers are also open to a series of voices and powers of a more beneficial nature. While there is not space here to fully explore the issue, we should observe that a host of divine gifts runs through the individual, including speaking in tongues, prophecy, discernment, and direct communication with the divine. Let’s take, as our focus here for a moment, speaking in tongues. While the public, highly audible act of speaking in tongues is something that has become slightly less common over time in the Vineyard,12 it does still occur and is not sanctioned when it appears. Even more common is the subvocal speaking in tongues, whispered or simply mouthed by individuals when they are engaged in intense prayer, both publicly and privately. Subvocal tongues are a particularly uncanny sound—to my ears, more unnerving in their raspy rushing silence than their full-throated cousin, which only comes out during conferences or special occasions—but for all that, they are easily overlooked, even by members of the church (I have had individuals who belong to prayer groups that feature as many as three or four subvocal users of tongues ask me what praying in tongues sounded like, only to be surprised by my answer that they themselves have overheard speaking in tongues numerous times already). The comparison here to quiet deliverances should be obvious.


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What is interesting about speaking in tongues is that it displays some of the same problems of agency that can be found in the demonic. The widely understood model in the Vineyard holds that, contrary to some earlier Pentecostal understandings (Synan 1997: 87–92; Wacker 2002: 35–51), tongues are not instances of xenoglossy. They are instead words composed in an idiosyncratic divine praise language that is coming from the individual and made possible through the efforts of the Holy Spirit—or, as it was explained to me more than once, a private language between lovers. What is confusing about the ownership of this language, though, is that while the individual is the one who speaks, and the meaning of the speech reflects his own message of praise to the deity, he or she is not the one who is allowed to say what the meaning is, or to choose the form that meaning will be expressed in. When tongues are said out loud during worship, ideally immediately after the individual who has spoken in tongues has sat down, another individual will stand and “interpret” the message, allowing the broader worship audience to understand the import of the message. Depending on whom you talk to, of course, the original speaker often is understood to be unaware of the content of the tongues message until he or she has actually heard his or her own message in translation. Under this understanding of tongues, the origin and ownership of the speech act is as confused as is the act of a demonized person. The speech act is directed towards God, but it is also made possible by God; while it is the person’s own words of praise, those words cannot be communicated in a way that is sensible to those around him or her, and he or she must depend on others to understand what he or she is saying in the first place. There is no place where the individual can stand and say that the act is wholly his, or wholly other. The same can be said about one’s senses when one receives information from a supernatural source, an occurrence known as “words of knowledge.”13 When this comes to pass, the information will often be given through the alteration of one’s visual perception—the picture that one receives through one’s sensory apparatus will be changed, but in such an obvious and heavy-handed manner that the individual who receives it knows immediately that some sort of divine doctoring of one’s sensual input has occurred. The word of knowledge is often received literally as a word, either of a commandment of some sort—the sudden appearance of words written in fire, such as “ministry!” which was taken as an order to enter into pastoral work. The word of knowledge is often received literally as a word, often that of a sin written on someone’s face—examples include the word “pride” written on the face of a congregant who refused to admit his sinful activity to his pastor until he

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was confronted during a pastoral counseling session (Springer 1988: 114), and that of an airline passenger engaged in an adulterous affair who happened to be sitting across the aisle from John Wimber, who clearly saw the word “adultery” on the man’s face; Wimber quickly led the man to repent and then to accept Jesus before the plane flight was over (Wimber 1985: 53–55). One’s own ideation is vulnerable to divine influence, as well. When people talk about conversing with God, they may mean many things— one of which can include an audible voice, or at least a voice that appears to be audible to the recipient (while acknowledging the possibility that others in the room may not have heard or have been capable of hearing the message)—but it can also mean something more subtle. A sudden thought, an odd idea that does not seem to arise from the previous chain of thought or that breaks dramatically with one’s typical mode of reflection, or one associated with an extreme affect—sometimes even feelings such as panic—is often taken as an indication of divine will, even if it phenomenologically seems the same as one’s normal experience of reflection. It is only striking content of the thought, as opposed to its form, that allows the individual to know that it “is the Lord” and not merely another instance of quotidian cognition. Another notable commonality with all these phenomena is the fact that, like demonization, at no time is the agency of the individual completely erased. Whether it is the prophetic eruption of some words of knowledge, with the “heart-attack”–like physical indicator, visions, or the sudden upsurge of tongues, the person experiencing the gift always maintains the possibility of a certain level of control, even if it is merely the passive ability to hold back on communicating the divine message. Given this, it seems that it is unfair to state that the demonic marks some sort of special threat to the mental or physical boundaries of the Third Wave Pentecostal. Rather, it appears that any intercourse with the supernatural, be it malevolent or benign, risks a certain overrunning of one’s corporal and psychic barriers (Luhrmann 2007). The difficulty does not rise in keeping these barriers intact, then, but instead in correctly identifying the nature of whatever has come across them. As one practitioner has said, there is no supernatural caller ID that tells you if a message is from God, Satan, or merely the Flesh. One must simply be vigilant in questioning one’s senses and thoughts, looking as much for signs of the provenance of their alterations as for the alterations themselves. Considering the fact that most Americans imagine themselves as being oddly resistant to influence, with their thought and their will under their own control and immune from outside sources (Myers 2002), these particular charismatic sensibilities seem to stand apart.


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Conclusion—Quiet Deliverance as an Ideal Practice
Having reviewed demonization and deliverance as a set of related prototypes, we can now think about how they are being invoked when the everyday improvised ritual of praying for the emotional (and, as we have seen, physical) health of others is understood as a form of deliverance, rather than merely as intercessionary prayer. First, though perhaps not in prominence, framing prayer as deliverance in this way is a reflexive act of self-classification, of seeing oneself as someone who is knowledgeable about charismatic activity and skilled in its practice. As we saw in our discussion, while the power to handle the demonic heralds ultimately from the divine, the practice of deliverance is not an unskilled one. Discernment is a capacity developed over time, and one needs to know how demons operate in order to cast them out. As we also saw in our discussion of prototypical deliverance, among those expert in the field, this skill is also joined by enough experience with the demonic to take the Vineyard viewpoint that demons are “no big deal.” Therefore, to view one’s own habit of prayer in this manner demands a bit of bravado. What greater sign could there be that one is no longer impressed by demons than believing that they can be prayed out of someone in a way almost sub rosa, with no attention brought to exactly what kind of act you are engaged in? Second, this small, quiet deliverance is also a small, quiet moment of resistance to a secular, modern hegemony. As we saw, deliverance and demons are seen as at once a factual occurrence that stands as an empirical refutation of the tenets of modernity. In the Vineyard, then, to invoke the demonic as a framing trope is to invoke a trope that is “willfully antimodern,” a phrase used by Susan Harding (2001) to show how dispensationalism undoes the modernist narrative of secularization and progress by positing its own inverted timeline. In a sense, demonization and deliverance is the platform for the Vineyard that Bible prophecy was for Harding’s fundamentalists, an opportunity to sum up and refigure modernity, progress, morality, and human agency in a single compelling thought. Thus, just as dispensationalist narratives serve as a reminder of, and a technology for, a kind of radical antimodern subjectivity, emotion-banishing prayer-as-exorcism exists as an interpretive possibility that serves the same antimodern purpose. Even if it does no work for those who are being prayed for, this alternate way of framing this practice serves as a tacit reminder to the one praying of the cosmology that enables that prayer to exist in the first place. Here, though, while belief and practices regarding both demons and demonization stand as a challenge to the concept of progress in

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the way that they suggest that medical and scientific models are fundamentally incorrect, they are also antimodern in their claims that human are essentially not autonomous and agentive but porous and vulnerable to injury from the associative social ties that modernity famously struggles to occlude and dissolve. This is the third bit of business that is done by framing prayer in this manner. At the same time that framing prayer as emotional healing acknowledges the possibility of a gap between responsibility and emotion, it also preserves the possibility of human agency by foregrounding the moment of decision. It is here, then, that we can see the other reason why prayer that is presented as forthrightly asking for providential emotional healing is internally read by some Vineyard believers as being an entirely different metaphysical procedure. As pointed out by Roy D’Andrade (1987) in his work on the folk model of the American mind, feelings and desires are the one internal category where one is understood as not in control; as opposed to intentions and beliefs, where agency and control is the norm, affects run ahead of the person, resistant to all but the more careful of reflexive management. Despite this lack of control, there is still an element of responsibility, as evidenced by the fact that people would “confess” about feelings of anger or jealousy during small prayer groups. Viewing prayers to banish emotions as merely a remedy for those emotions, as the literal and surface reading of these quiet exorcisms would lead us to do, would still leave the juridical guilt that the emotion has brought into being; further, the fact that one has had to turn to the divine to expiate the emotion further highlights the absence of agency associated with the internal tumult of feeling. Viewing these small prayers as an exorcism, though, changes the playing field for those who opt for that reading. By presenting the emotions as alien agents themselves, one stays true to the phenomenology of emotion as outside of conscious control. However, by seeing it as an intrusive force that is turned away by an agentive act, not only is the responsibility for the emotions removed, but to a degree agency is restored, as deliverance is so tightly associated with an agentive turning to God and rejection of evil, even if the decision is sometimes implied and not expressly stated. Framing prayers in this way also is a preservation not only of human agency, but, as we saw, of supernatural agency as well. Though given different moral charges, the idea of demonic influence is not formally unlike the kind of divine influence that occurs in certain prophetic moments. Supernatural influence on human will through means other than happy providential accident is vital to charismatic religiosity, and any way in which things can be framed so as to make


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that kind of intervention seem more reasonable strengthens that religiosity; so framing a prayers as an exorcism instead can be seen as either an effect of, or a way of producing, a charismatic sensibility. This charismatic folk model of the mind, though, does more than preserve human and divine agency in the abstract. In can also be seen as preserving relationships; let us refer back to the initial evidence that brought this tactic of quiet deliverance to my attention. The smallgroup leader explained to me that this act of prophylactically casting out demons was something that was done when she was praying over someone “in a rut,” someone who was bringing the same prayer request to the small group each week. Under normal circumstances in a prayer group, there is always the potential for prayer requests from someone that suggest a certain lack of responsibility, of agency, in handling their problems, particularly if it touches on characterological failures (as opposed to one that might be seen as the result of unfortunate circumstances). While no one ever stated that they were exasperated by the inability of a fellow small prayer group member to change their ways, framing the problem as slightly demonic is a way of coming to peace with the apparent repeated failures of someone with whom you will be spending several hours a week of your life, potentially, for years into the future.14 The idea of agency is preserved as it is overwritten—your friend is just afflicted. Just as important, of course, is the idea that this is a framing that, because it carries no outward discursive or performative markers that set it apart from other intercessory prayers, can always be later held at a distance as far as its supposed ontological framing: is it depression or the spirit of depression you are praying over, is it an unfortunate character trait or an autonomous, malevolent spirit who bears that trait’s name? In the “perhaps, it could” tone of voice that these prayers are analyzed post hoc, one suspects that even those who engage in these prayers don’t truly know. That unfixed nature frees these prayers not only from being “nailed down” as one kind of ritual act or another at the time; it also allows for future whitewashing of these events. As a battle against the demonic, these quiet deliverances can later be questioned, reimagined, forgotten, or denied, and they can even “occur” retroactively, read back into prayers that were not intended as deliverances at the time they were performed, should the severity of an issue that is prayed for later approach the dramatological heights associated with full-on spiritual warfare. Indeed, this open-ended indeterminacy, or irony, as put by Michael Lambek in a discussion of another (perhaps) purposefully ambivalent instance of spirit possession (2003), maybe be an element that in part allows this practice, and its practitio-

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ners, to “pass” in a Christian-inflected, but still secular-leaning, American modernity, a site that is willing to accept providential grace, but not willing to sign on to radical evil. Finally, this process tells us something about Pentecostal and charismatic ritual as well. As we have seen, there is nothing in the language used, nothing in the way that the “rite” is conducted, that would lead one to suspect that this prayer for someone to heal physically or psychically might be a form of deliverance. The kind of invocations used (“in the name of Jesus,” “order out”), while certainly not the most common formulation for a prayer of healing, is not so odd as to garner notice among most lay members. And, as we noted, it did not—this model of prayer as deliverance was not uniform, or even widespread, though it was more common to those with a more in-depth or long-term commitment to the particular church, or the Vineyard as a denomination. Nor was it carried out in a way distinguishable from the other smallgroup or conference prayers, in which these quiet deliverances were normally embedded. The significance, then, is not on the level of the spoken content, or the performative act, or the embodied aesthetics of the practice. The difference here that makes a difference was in what was believed, internally and subjectively, to be taking place by the person conducting the ritual. This is not to discount these other analytics, of course—as work in the field has shown, they have been useful in unpacking the seemingly oxymoronic practice of charismatic ritual, the ritual done by a population that, on the whole, has rejected ritual. But they should not be our only avenues of investigation. Despite all the justified interest in models that foreground embodiment and experience in ritual, or in language, language ideology, and hermeneutics, we should be surprised if either of these avenues provides total explanatory frameworks. Even in Pentecostalism, which has tongues as a figure to stand for the proposition that semantic meaning and cultural proposition are not the chief analytic concern, internal beliefs—at least at the level of particularistic understandings of what is occurring in ritual, if not belief in the larger Geertzian sense—still do some work, and should be attended to, as they recode and help intermesh the different stratas of action, matter, and communication that constitute the ritual moment. Notes
1. By contrast, in her more recent work, Luhrmann has been emphasizing instead techniques of self-production that effect a retooling of cognitive capacities to adjudicate agency and train participants to read supernatural agency behind ostensibly naturalistic events—see Luhrmann 2007.


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2. Small groups (or occasionally, cell groups) are the names given to weekly or biweekly meetings of church members in the private homes of individuals; they are places where members forge personal relations in a way that would be harder to in the church itself, given the scale of the larger Sunday worship meetings (Wuthnow 1994a, 1994b). Small-group leaders are often important figures in the church, serving as a node in the chain between the pastor and the congregants; because of this status, they usually have to go through some type of formal training, and will be well versed in the positions and beliefs of their pastor specifically, and the church in general. 3. Csordas (1994) has noted a similar process in ritual charismatic Catholic deliverances, in which demons may not be cast out by ritual specialists by name, or even may be cast out without any bringing the practice to the attention of the demonized person; the “command” is uttered “silently or under his or her breath” instead (177). Unlike the cases that will be discussed here, which are predicated on a knowledge or interpretive differential between parties, Csordas points out that “well versed” (178) patients may understand this to have been a deliverance anyway, despite the fact that it was never formally marked as such. Csordas’s analytic concerns in these cases are also quite different—he asks what this means for the performative process that presumably is the engine of deliverance’s therapeutic effectivity, when only the healer who speaks of the prayer is aware of what is “actually” transpiring. Csordas counters with the observation that this may simply be a way of calibrating the level of affect in deliverances to a new, lower level of intensity that may actually better achieve the intended therapeutic goals, and be more acceptable to a middleclass, Catholic milieu—though complete erasure of the patient’s knowledge of the deliverance may be an overcorrection. These points are probably correct readings of his particular ethnographic case, but they do speak to the question of disarticulating the various strata (ideational, sensory, linguistic) that constitute and inform a ritual space and time, which is what this essay takes up. 4. This, of course, is by no means an exclusive hold on this market; as evidenced by Anglophone North American popular culture, the Roman Catholic church is still seen as one of the primary institutions to deal with demonic possession, usually through its office of exorcism. 5. Of course, that does not mean that divine record keeping is something that never occurs—at one point in my fieldwork, I was handed a hefty, two-volume photocopied dossier by a pastor, who had gone out of his way to record all of the miracles that had occurred as part of what he considered to be a revival centered around his church. 6. In fact, given the information above, for full-blown deliverances, it is even possible to hazard a per annum average—we can assume that the actual number of deliverances each year for that church is probably at least in the neighborhood of thirty or so. The number of thirty is arrived at by assuming that the two hundred over a four-year career, given a baseline of fifty per year, cut in half to take account of the possibility of accidental overreporting, with an additional “deliverance” at the level of one per every small group that was run out of Shores at the time (there were five “nonthemed,” that is, not explicitly centered around a particular orientation such as gender or status [survivors

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of sexual abuse, etc.] small groups at the start of the field work, though by the time I left there were seven). Most particularly, through an institutional engagement in the late 1980s and early 1990s with a group of “Latter Rain” Pentecostals (a mid-twentieth-century movement that emphasized healing and the immanence of the Tribulation) that were known colloquially as the “Kansas City Prophets;” this relationship was eventually undone by the fallout from the controversial “Toronto Blessing” revival, but has left its mark. While there are many dispensationalists within the denomination, the Vineyard has left the questions of apocalyptic eschatology open, allowing many Vineyard pastors to distance themselves from both that particular apocalyptic narrative and the division of time into separate “ages.” See Bialecki 2009b: 179–97. One Vineyard pastor said in a low-voiced, knowing affirmative, “Oh, ya, that’s the book,” when I took it out of my satchel to reference during an interview at a coffee shop, which was probably the most unmitigated endorsement of any text I ever received in my fieldwork. Baptism is a rather quick affair in this denomination—usually a full immersion in water, lasting only a handful of seconds. At Shores, Baptismal candidates were usually teenagers or young adults, and, in line with the evangelical roots of the denomination, baptism was understood as serving primarily as a public declaration of faith, rather than having any soteriological significance. These baptisms occurred at the beach, on what (according to the pastor’s joking complaint) were invariably the coldest days possible in Southern California. The baptisms I saw at Vineyard churches with less access to the ocean would be held in other locations, such as the spa portion of a believer’s backyard swimming pool. Oftentimes older preteen children would be baptized at these events, in addition to recent adult converts. Those who are familiar with more detailed medical terminology, from academic or professional training, will often bring their specialized vocabulary to bear in these venues, describing in detail the exact condition to be exorcised. The reason for the deemphasis of tongues in the Vineyard is complex and uncertain. Some longtime members of the Vineyard claim that the movement away from tongues is related to the issue of “edification”—that prodigious displays of tongue that go uninterpreted do not convey any knowledge or moral encouragement to the audience. Other reasons for the ebbing of tongues may be the current Vineyard’s desire to move away from a more old-fashioned Pentecostal style of worship, which had been associated (in the minds of some of the older Vineyard members) with a series of rather strong revivals in the 1990s that ended up bringing negative attention to the church and encouraged many, on both the individual and the church level, to leave the Vineyard. While this expression was only rarely used by my informants, its meaning was understood, and it oftentimes appeared in their primary literature on charismatic gifts. Though there is a limit on this as well—while particular small groups did sometimes last for several years, there was an expectation that as members spent time in them, they would develop in their giftedness, and perhaps form


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their own small groups; current small-group leaders, it was also hoped, would advance to other positions of responsibility in the church. While this was seen as a form of equipping people with gifts, and creating an air of constant discovery, it could be that this hoped-for growth also acted to keep groups in transition and prevent the kind of spiritual “ruts” expressed common to any long-standing formal or informal institution—including in this case, perhaps, repeated prayer requests.

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