Is your fish-and-chips stand losing customers to that kale-and-beans-smoothie truck parked just down the street? Looking to get in on the ground floor of a growth industry that experts are calling Britain’s new boom business? Then get yourself some holy water, a holy book and a holy man and open your own exorcism stand and start casting out demons for cash.
"Exorcisms are now a booming industry in the UK, with a number of interviewees noting the astonishing increase in demand – often, as one noted, in defiance of any actual rules or procedures put in place by any church."
"Outside the established church, there's a huge increase which you can see with your own eyes. If you walk down the Old Kent Road there are flyers and stickers everywhere."
Ryan says Theos researchers interviewed mental health chaplains and other Christians working in mental health field. They attribute this rise in part to “immigrant communities and Pentecostal churches which are very open about their exorcism services." However, he also admits that the attention his church is giving to exorcisms is also fueling the boom.
"There has been an increased focus in the Anglican church on exorcisms, and partially that's in response to increased demand. They have been getting more and more people calling them saying there's demand for this.”
The study found that those in the mental health field caution against “Christian over-spiritualising” – a “tendency to ascribe anything and everything to spiritual causes when other medical ones may exist.” This allows non-professionals to prescribe exorcisms, in extreme cases, or prayer as a substitute for a medical evaluation. They warn that this is especially dangerous if the person is already on medications that they may cast out when told that their demon has been cast out – not a good idea without consulting with one’s doctor first.
As expected, there’s no licensing or regulations governing the quality of these exorcism businesses. Ryan says many of them resemble psychic shops and are near churches to give the feeling that they’re sanctioned. There are demonology courses available and plenty of movies to imitate. The businesses don’t even have to be brick-and-mortar – some are performed over the Internet with Skype.
In a follow-up, Ryan says he’s just trying to point out a “real need for greater theological reflection on what mental health means and looks like in Christian language.” That means looking at where the belief in demonic possession is coming from and finding ways for Christian mental health workers to help the sufferer before a storefront or online exorcist hurts them.
Just because a business is booming doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. There’s a way to make a decent living providing a decent service. If fish-and-chips are out, perhaps there’s a market for deep-fried kale.