Posted: 29 Nov 2010 10:32 AM PST
Spirit possession is common in
In Runyankore, the local language spoken by the Banyankore of Southwestern Uganda, possession by evil spirits is known as Okutembwa and can result in the patient talking in another voice. Possession by the spirits known as Okugwa leads to shaking and falling down. Other spirits can induce a trance-like state.
When asked to explain the causes of possession traditional healers, who are experts in spirit possession, usually give cultural explanations (e.g., neglected cultural obligations and rituals, ancestral spirits, bewitchment) or blame sociocultural conflicts (e.g., disputes over unpaid dowries and land ownership).
But Marjolein van Duijl, who has spent the past 5 years as Head of the Department of Psychiatry at
The interesting thing about dissociation is that it’s often caused by traumatic events. So van Duijl set out to discover if traumatic events were the true cause of spirit possession.
With the help of a local team, she interviewed 119 villagers who had been recently treated by local healers for spirit possession, and compared them with a similar group who had not been possessed. She assessed them for symptoms of dissociation, and also quizzed them on traumatic events in their past (using a couple of standardised questionnaires that have been developed specifically for this purpose).
She found that those who were suffering spirit possession did indeed score highly on dissociative symptoms. What’s more, they had experienced far more traumatic events.
You can see an example of what she found in the figure (it’s just a subset of the full findings, to give you a flavour). Pretty much all of the items on this particular trauma questionnaire (the Traumatic Experiences Checklist) were more frequent in those who were possessed (Parentification, by the way, means having to care for your parent when you are only a child – in effect making a parent out of the child).
Traumatic events that directly threatened the life of the individual concerned were particularly common among the possessed.
But if van Duijl is right, then the true cause of spirit possession is, in fact, traumatic experiences that occurred in the patient’s past.
Does the misdiagnosis matter? Are these patients having their suffering added to as a result of the misdiagnosis? Maybe not.
“Spirit possession” seems to be a culturally embedded way for a person to manifest their multiple psychological traumatizing events. The rituals around possession may provide a way for the healer and the sufferer to work together to provide a cure. As van Dujil points out:
Given the terrifying situations that so many Ugandans have been exposed to, and the lack of access to modern psychiatric healthcare, the traditional healers seem to be doing a remarkably effective job. They accepting the culturally-embedded interpretations of their patients symptoms, and work with them to effect a cure.
One last thought on all of this. One of the things that struck me was the high levels of trauma experienced even among the controls. To give you an idea of the sorts of harrowing experiences that the people in this study had to deal with, I’m going to leave you with a case that van Duijl reports in the paper:
Duijl, M., Nijenhuis, E., Komproe,
Posted: 29 Nov 2010 10:21 AM PST
Congressional Testimony on Faith-Based and Community Partnerships by Sean Faircloth
Submitted to the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties
For the Hearing on “Faith-Based Initiatives: Recommendations of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Community Partnerships and Other Current Issues”
November 18, 2010
Thank you Chairman Nadler and the other members of the Committee for this opportunity to submit written testimony as you consider the recommendations of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Community Partnerships.
The Secular Coalition for
Historical separation between federal funds and religious social services
President Franklin Roosevelt signed the first Executive Order that banned government defense contractors from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, or national origin in 1941. The prohibitions against discrimination were expanded to all government contractors in 1965 via Executive Order by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
‘Charitable Choice’ trashes wall of separation
In 2001, during the Bush Administration, Charitable Choice received considerable expansion by the Executive Branch through the White House Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives. Then in 2002, President George W. Bush issued an executive order that allowed churches and other faith-based organizations to have easier access to federal funds—by exempting them from specific anti-discrimination laws.
Repercussions of charitable choice and faith-based initiatives
Take action now
More than two years later, however, much of the original Bush presidency policies remain in place. This Subcommittee can send a strong statement to the rest of Congress and the Administration to end this unconstitutional abuse of federal money. We suggest the following steps be taken:
Secular Coalition for
Posted: 29 Nov 2010 10:11 AM PST
The opposition argued against the idea that meaning was something ‘ultimate’ tied to the purpose of the universe, and argued instead that the universe was without discernible direction, purpose or meaning. But, they argued, this fact is irrelevant to the things that make life worthwhile and give us a sense of purpose – family, friends, relationships, work, hobbies, curiosity, love, social action, and all the other diverse ways in which people make meaning in their real lives. Reducing human beings to the faint after-image of some omnipotent deity, or trying to give human life meaning by postponing real fulfilment to some post-mortem paradise, they argued, can actually threaten to rob real life of its meaningfulness.
In his speech, Andrew Copson said, ‘Meaning is not something written into the universe like some cosmic knitting pattern or recipe for living. It is something we make in the here and now, for ourselves and in community with others.’
Posted: 29 Nov 2010 08:36 AM PST
Posted: 29 Nov 2010 08:34 AM PST
Posted: 28 Nov 2010 08:38 PM PST
The Bible, we are told, is the inerrant word of God. But what word is it? And how should that word be translated into English? One might think there are straightforward answers to those questions, but there are not. Just last week, in fact, a brand new English translation of the biggest-selling Bible, the “New International Version” (“NIV”) was announced.
All-new and improved from the last version, published in 2005, and the one before that, in 1984. HarperCollins, the publisher, moves millions of these products every year; it’s good for business to toss in changes periodically, like auto manufacturers do, to help meet sales targets.
All the better if the changes arouse controversy. In 2005 there was a storm of protest, as HarperCollins made sweeping changes to more gender-neutral language than God had originally used. For example, right at the outset, the 1984 edition has God saying “Let us make man in our image.” In 2005, this was politically corrected to read “Let us make human beings in our image.” So were thousands of other similar references, like “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” which was changed to “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.” The 2005 model was so hip, HarperCollins even advertised it in Rolling Stone magazine.
But now the empire is striking back. The new, improved 2010 model throws women back overboard, with God saying “Let us make mankind in our image” and Jesus saying “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Still, male cheerleaders remain disgruntled. Take I Timothy 2:12, which used to read “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” Now it is toned down into “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”
Some of the attempts at compromise simply produce bad grammar. Revelations 3:20 now reads: “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” I’d have had sore knuckles if I turned in a sentence like that to my 4th grade grammar teacher.
The first step in translating the Bible is to decide what source to translate from. This is no easy task, because there are hundreds of different early versions of the Bible to choose from, each one a little different from the others. In fact, according to Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman,there are more variations among the different early versions of the New Testament than there are words in the New Testament.
The committee of God experts in charge of producing the latest model for HarperCollins to sell says that “We use what Bible translators call an ‘eclectic text’ drawing on all the major published original texts, but making our own decisions about the textual variants found in those traditions.” In other words, they pick the parts they like from each one, and toss the parts they dislike, based on their personal knowledge of what God really thinks.
Take for example the story of the woman found in adultery, where Jesus says “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.” This story does not appear in any of the earliest versions of the New Testament. When it does start to pop up, hundreds of years after the death of Jesus, it lands in different spots within the Gospel of John – one early Bible even plants it in the Gospel of Luke. It is virtually certain, therefore, that this little gem was not actually written by the author of the Gospel of John. So did the HarperCollins team leave it out, because it is not authentic? Of course not, because it’s the sort of thing the character they want to portray would have said, if he had only thought of it. Besides, they would sell fewer books that way.
Once the sources are combed for “all the news that fits,” the work of translation begins. The earliest Gospel texts we have are written in Greek, a language not spoken in 1st century
One person who did like Erasmus’ work was Martin Luther, who translated it into German. When he got to parts that didn’t fit his peculiar theology, though, he simply changed them, or deleted them. The whole Epistle of James, for example, he dismissed as “apocrypha.” At the critical point of Romans 3:28 [KJV], “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” Luther chose to insert the word “only” in front of “faith,” since Paul had erred by not going quite far enough in driving home the point Luther wanted him to make.
Today’s gender issues are not at all new. Many Bible publishers have gone to great lengths to downplay the role of women, sometimes in the pettiest of ways. Acts 17:4, in the NIV and even in King James, says “And some of them were persuaded and joined with Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the pious Greeks, along with a large number of prominent women.” Prominent women? How un-Christian! Lots of Bibles, such as the “God’s Word” version, translate this as “And some of them were persuaded and joined with Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the pious Greeks, along with a large number of wives of prominent men” – putting women in their proper place.
Then there is the famous passage from I Corinthians 14 [1984 NIV]:
Ehrman and other scholars make a persuasive case that Paul never actually wrote this passage, and that it was written in later by a misogynist. It sticks out like a sore thumb, because the verses before it and immediately after it deal with rules of etiquette while someone is prophesying, such as not interrupting in mid-prophecy, and these words interrupt the natural flow. Moreover, some of the best early texts put this passage at other places in the Epistle, suggesting it was a later insertion like the story of the woman found in adultery. Most importantly, in the very same Epistle, just three chapters earlier, Paul says that women should wear veils on their heads while they are prophesying in church. How can they be prophesying in church if they are remaining silent? I guess that’s what is called a “miracle.” It would be even more of a miracle if the God experts rewriting the Bible decided to leave rubbish like this out of the books they are trying to sell – and we all know that the age of miracles has passed.
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