Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thoughts on the Story of Anneliese Michel

One night I took a particular interest in the story of Anneliese Michel after listening to audio clips of her exorcism. For those who don't know, Annelise was a young German woman in the early 1970's who had been raised a devout Roman Catholic, but while at school began to suffer from some physical ailments, including movements she could not control. She was diagnosed early on with including epilepsy and given medication, but the situation grew worse. She claimed to be seeing demonic faces and hearing voices, and her actions became even more irrational. Eventually her family and German priests began to perform the rite of exorcism on her. This continued for almost a year before Anneliese passed away in 1976. Her death was attributed to malnutrition and dehydration from her lack of food and drink during the exorcism, and the priests and family were charged by German courts of negligent homicide. To this day there is constant debate by many over whether or not Anneliese was mentally ill or sincerely possessed.

Most astonishing to me, however, is what happened before her possession got worse. Her mother later recounted in a documentary (in this section specifically) that, while out with her boyfriend, Anneliese had a vision of the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary confided in Anneliese that it pained her that so many go to hell, and asks if Anneliese would like to do penance for the priests and young people of Germany, so that they don't go to hell. "Would you like to do penance for these souls," the Virgin Mary apparition asks, "which will be damned for eternity otherwise?" She was given some time to decide on the matter, and eventually decided to accept. From then on the sufferings grew worse, and she began to exhibit wounds that resembled stigmata (she claimed they weren't self-inflicted).

Let's ponder on this for a moment: an apparition of the Virgin Mary requests a young girl to suffer for souls so that people may be redeemed of their sins, and ultimately that leads to greater demonic possession? That, in and of itself, sounds demonic!

Let's review scripture here quickly to respond to this thinking. The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church: "For the death he died he died to sin, once for all..." (Rom 6:10). Likewise Paul writes to the Colossians: "through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross" (Col 1:20). He adds that the Colossian Christians: "he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him" (Col 1:22). Christ already died for our "penance" - we don't need a girl in 1970's Germany to suffer and die for anyone.

Even more mind bogging was the comment to a YouTube video where a person said: "For them to have entered her, she had to have been a very good person. Pure heart." Can we ponder on these words for a moment? The beloved apostle John wrote: "This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth" (1 John 1:5-6). Light cannot coexist with darkness. A true believer in God cannot be demon possessed. This whole scenario reminds me of Todd Bentley's own claim that at one point the Holy Spirit supposedly told him to let a demon possess his body and mess up a church.

An even more strange element to the story is when the priests found out that supposedly six demons were inside Anneliese, and were able to have them identify themselves by name. The names were: Lucifer, Judas, Nero, Cain, Hitler and a fallen priest from the 16th century named Fleischmann. Yes, that's right - apparently Judas, Cain, Nero, Hitler and a fallen priest all became honorary demons after they died. Where in all of scripture is such a possibility attested? Demons are fallen angels, not fallen souls. One could argue that the demons were merely picking names for themselves associated with evil (as the demons within the Gerasene man took the name "Legion" because of their number). The only problem with this argument would be during the recordings of the exorcisms the demons identify themselves as the persons who their names are taken from - in other words, they're the actual people attributed to those names. The problem was probably even noticed by the writers of The Exorcism of Emily Rose (a film loosely based on the Anneliese Michel story) as they fixed this problem by having the demons instead say something to the affect of: "I was the demon who was in Nero/Hitler/Judas/etc."

This leads me to come to one of two conclusions:
  • Anneliese really was suffering from a mental disorder, and these names were simply what she knew from her history and religious upbringing.
  • Anneliese really was possessed, and the demons were taking on names and playing out parts to fool the people performing the exorcisms.
That's all I really have to say on that matter. Just my two cents.