Never Pray Again: On Exorcism

I've been following the work of Aric Clark, Doug Hagler and Nick Larson over at Two Friars and a Fool for many years now. Aric, Doug and Nick have a new book out: Never Pray Again

I was excited about this book as it is very close to the concerns of this blog, a recovery of practices for progressive Christians. In this case the practices of prayer. For many progressive Christians, given their struggles with doubt and disenchantment, prayer is a difficult practice. Never Pray Again is a fresh reappraisal of various forms of prayer from a progressive perspective, from intercession to thanksgiving to healing to, yes, exorcism.

As regular readers might expect, the chapter on exorcism intrigued me. So as a part of their blog tour for Never Pray Again I invited Aric, Doug and Nick to share a bit about how they approached that chapter and some of the initial skepticism they faced from the publisher and early readers of the book.


Never Pray Again is a book that is also a thought-experiment. What if we took various forms of prayer, liturgical and private, and removed the word “prayer”? What if we translated these most passive and verbal spiritual practices into concrete behaviors intended to directly impact our neighbors? For example, what if we confessed directly to the person we sinned against instead of praying our confession to God? Or what if we interceded in the lives of those who need help instead of praying to God for intercession?

We knew the moment we conceived of a book about various types of prayer that one kind we wanted to tackle was prayers of exorcism. Exorcism is definitely a form of prayer that goes back to the very beginning, and we wanted to see what we could make of it. We also knew it would surprise most people. Our publisher really didn’t know what to make of it at first, and most of our early readers were shocked we included it. We were definitely enticed by the challenge of addressing a subject progressives usually either avoid or ignore. We did not want to avoid it because Jesus did a lot of exorcisms.

The problem is that most people’s imagination when it comes to the subject of demonology has been more heavily influenced by Dante and Milton and movies like the Exorcist than by Biblical stories or postmodern ideas of collective spirituality. Furthermore, we live in a disenchanted age. How is the language of the New Testament, especially the Gospels, around demons meaningful for people who live in a universe shaped by Darwin and Hubble and Freud?

By writing this chapter we wanted to contribute toward a movement we see happening among progressive thinkers where demon-possession is no longer discounted as a relic of a superstitious time or dismissed with vague hand-waving around mental illness. Following writers like Wink, Stringfellow, and Beck ;) we see demon-possession referring to the various destructive -isms of our world: nationalism, capitalism, militarism, sexism, racism etc… It is our throwaway culture of addiction and consumption that needs to be exorcised.

We see this exorcism or expelling of destructive influence to be connected to what Jesus means when he talks about what will be thrown into Gehenna. He isn’t referring to some metaphysical post-mortem “hell”. He is referring to the smoldering garbage heap outside Jerusalem. Thus, exorcism isn’t casting supernatural creatures back into a mythological underworld. Exorcism is consigning to the trash-heap things we think of as inevitable, or central to our culture, sometimes even valuable, like patriotism. When we understand this as the nature of demonic power, when we see that power in the system that starves children, rapes men and women, and abandons the old and the weak, it is time for some judgment, time for some discernment, time to tell the truth. There are demons in our lives that need to be cast into the fire.

--Aric Clark, Doug Hagler and Nick Larson write regularly at their popular blog Two Friars and Fool and are the authors of Never Pray Again. You can try to figure out which two are the friars and which is the fool by reading about them here.

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7 thoughts on “Never Pray Again: On Exorcism”

  1. Being a Progressive Christian, a Christian Humanist, I never lost the desire to pray; only the desire to pray to a God who is one place while I am in another. What I mean by that is that while there are Christians who believe themselves too sophisticated to believe that God is "up there" and we are "down here", they still have the concept of God is in a "place" called heaven, while we are in another place called "the world". The words of Jesus, "I go to prepare a place for you" and those of Paul, "My desire is to be with the Lord" are, for them, to be taken literal.

    However, for me, and I emphasize, for me, anything less than God being all in all is not God, and that all things being from God, through God and to God is a continuous reality. The transcendence and imminence of God makes us transparent, porous particles of God, right in the middle of eternity . Prayer for me is through self to the one closer to me than I am to myself. That keeps me honest about my demons in God; and that is not a boast. Simply because I spent too many years stepping away from God when convenient to nurse power from my demons; then I would go back, like nothing ever happened. That person had to die. Not only did I have to experience a resurrection top life, but "Being" itself. That is when spirituality no longer kept me comfortably warm, but sent me walking through the fire; and still walking.

  2. Maybe the demon of anger knows to steer clear of the Gospel, lest you
    end up forgiving some jack ass who you really want to punch in the
    throat. Maybe your demon of inertia knows to avoid of Jesus lest it be
    cast off a cliff and you have to start showing up in life. Maybe your
    demon of compulsive eating knows to not listen to Jesus lest it find
    itself in a lake and you clothed and fully in your body and sitting at
    Jesus feet. Maybe your demon of always always always having to prove
    yourself fears Jesus since if you listen to Jesus and not that demon you
    may start really believing that you are already good enough and then
    you’ll have to stop over-functioning.

    From Nadia Bolz Weber.

  3. Perhaps my favorite thing about this chapter is that we conclude it by performing an exorcism on the reader.

  4. Christ in me is the hope of glory, the manifestation and reality of God.

  5. One of my favorite nuggets from seminary was an exegesis of the exorcism Jesus performed on the 'I contain multitudes' guy. It was no mistake that the name he gave was 'Legion,' and no mistake that Jesus cast the demon out into a herd (flock? school?) of pigs. "Exorcism is consigning to the trash-heap things we think of as inevitable, or central to our culture..." in this case imperial rule (as Legion is a word unmistakably linked to the instruments of the occupation, the legionnaires) cast out into the least-clean animals, the swine. Good stuff!

  6. We spend some time on that story in this chapter for sure. The symbolism is dense.

  7. “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God
    sees me; my eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one
    love.” - Meister Eckhart

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