By MICHAEL LAWS
It is only fitting that in the week celebrating Christianity's most important festival, the Court of Appeal should order a retrial for an exorcist.
Korean pastor Yong Bum Lee, otherwise known as Luke, strangled one of his parishioners to death. He was seeking to rid Joanna Lee (no relation) of her demons, but instead took the direct route. He sent Joanna to heaven rather than dally with temporal deliverance.
As a consequence, Luke was found guilty of manslaughter, imprisoned, paroled, then repatriated to South Korea. Only after all these events did our Appeal Court offer him a retrial. And on the strangest of grounds.
Apparently the original trial judge denied Luke the defence of consent - that Joanna had consented to grievous harm as part of her exorcism ritual. Which rather proved she was possessed -letting Luke climb on her chest and throttle her would hardly be the actions of an expunged entity.
This madness was not some private sadomasochistic ritual between a consenting couple. A good number of Joanna's fellow parishioners were a part of the exorcism attempt and even hung around for six days awaiting her resurrection.
That she did not rise from the dead came as rather a shock. So too, presumably, did the onset of putrefaction. But our learned appeal judges were not to be dissuaded. Joanna consented ipso facto, Luke had a reasonable defence that he was otherwise denied.
Now I know what you're thinking. Who had their drinks spiked the night they wrote this particular decision? And that would be a reasonable question.
Because our Appeal Court judges have performed an Easter miracle. They have given exorcism the sanction of the law - even when it goes horribly wrong. And they have given every teen Goth the perfect excuse to maim their fellow travellers. Forget Guy Fawkes mayhem, Halloween is going to be a doozy this year.
And yet maybe Luke is right. What ails our world is not human imperfection, mistake nor greed. It is the Devil. Beelzebub and his mates stalking our psyches just awaiting that weak moment when they might steal within.
It would explain a lot. Global warming. Elder sex. Richie McCaw at the breakdown.
And it would give the churches a meaning that they are too often denied in these secular times. At the moment the collective church is but a bag of bones rattling around looking for corporeality and flesh. It can't quite decide if it's here to prepare us for eternity or rescue us from it. Whether it's to enshrine political correctness (a la Anglican) or end it (a la Brian Tamaki).
Yeah, but whatever the theology, exorcisms are sexy. Reality TV diva Julie Christie would be in her element - watching celebs battle their personal demons would be a surefire ratings winner. Who knows what beast lurks within Lana, or which succubus shadows Shadbolt? It would be fun to find out.
And praise be that we learned of the whole Luke affair without suppression orders blacking every second word.
Last week, another retrial was ordered, but virtually all the details were suppressed, despite most of them previously being in the public arena. All I can tell you is ... umm ... 1989 ... 20-year-old complainant ... four men. Justice made invisible, it appears.
Although not as invisible as God. This is, after all, Easter Sunday. A day for kids to hog chocolate eggs, garden centres to defy the law and us to have a real lie-in, knowing that there is no work tomorrow either. Oh, hallelujah.
Yes, but proof of God's existence does abound this special day.
An afternoon game of footy - so much of a rarity that people should flock to Carisbrook just to witness this natural wonder. That it features everyone's favourite teams - the Hurricanes and the Highlanders - is a double blessing.
Sadly, this is likely to be the last time we will see these teams in direct sunlight. Professionalism has introduced a proto-vampirism to rugby - the best is observed only at night. It is all down to an unholy alliance between Sanzar and its broadcasters that decrees money, not tradition, sets viewing times.
As a result we are about to be introduced to Monday Night Football - a commercial killing learned from our gridiron cousins in the United States. Super14 rugby on the telly for four nights of the week - God works in mysterious ways after all.
Yes, but that's our innate selfishness surfacing - another reason for men to eschew domestic service or the local PTA.
Pope Benedict warned us against the NZ Rugby Union and Sky TV in his Palm Sunday sermon last week.
The Roman prelate noted that humankind's worst enemy was self-regard. And sloth - the twin tempters that lead us to the couch.
He's right, of course. And he's also correct on the solution. Moral rearmament - a commitment to make ourselves more active and compassionate.
Except when the Blues are playing - watching the Auckland franchise get the snot beaten out of it is surely one of the Seven Virtues.
And this is the age of instant gratification, so moral rearmament sounds long, difficult and tedious. I want the fast solution. Send me an exorcist.
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Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)