McCloud, “American Possessions”

McCloud, Sean. 2015. American Possessions: Fighting Demons in the Contemporary United States. New York: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: Stories of contemporary exorcisms are largely met with ridicule, or even hostility. Sean McCloud argues, however, that there are important themes to consider within these narratives of seemingly well-adjusted people who attend school, go shopping, watch movies, and also happen to fight demons. American Possessions examines Third Wave spiritual warfare, a late twentieth-, early twenty-first century movement of evangelicals focused on banishing demons from human bodies, material objects, land, regions, political parties, and nation states. While Third Wave beliefs may seem far removed from what many scholars view as mainstream religious practice, McCloud argues that the movement provides an ideal case study for identifying some of the most prominent tropes within the contemporary American religious landscape. Drawing on interviews, television shows, documentaries, websites, and dozens of spiritual warfare handbooks, McCloud examines Third Wave practices such deliverance rituals (a uniquely Protestant form of exorcism), spiritual housekeeping (the removal of demons from everyday objects), and spiritual mapping (searching for the demonic in the physical landscape). Demons, he shows, are the central fact of life in the Third Wave imagination. McCloud provides the first book-length study of this influential movement, highlighting the important ways that it reflects and diverts from the larger, neo-liberal culture from which it originates.

McAlister, Elizabeth (2012) “From Slave Revolt to a Blood Pact with Satan: The Evangelical Rewriting of Haitian History”

McAlister, Elizabeth. 2012. “From Slave Revolt to a Blood Pact with Satan: The Evangelical Rewriting of Haitian History” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 42(2) [Pagination not available – Pre-publication electronic distribution]

Abstract: Enslaved Africans and Creoles in the French colony of Saint-Domingue are said to have gathered at a nighttime meeting at a place called Bois Caïman in what was both political rally and religious ceremony, weeks before the Haitian Revolution in 1791. The slave ceremony is known in Haitian history as a religio-political event and used frequently as a source of inspiration by nationalists, but in the 1990s, neo-evangelicals rewrote the story of the famous ceremony as a “blood pact with Satan.” This essay traces the social links and biblical logics that gave rise first to the historical record, and then to the neo-evangelical rewriting of this iconic moment. It argues that the confluence of the bicentennial of the Haitian Revolution with the political contest around President Aristide’s policies, the growth of the neo-evangelical Spiritual Mapping movement, and of the Internet, produced a new form of mythmaking, in which neo-evangelicals re-signified key symbols of the event—an oath to a divine force, blood sacrifice, a tree, and group unity—from the mythical grammar of Haitian nationalism to that of neo-evangelical Christianity. In the many ironies of this clash between the political afterlife of a slave uprising with the political afterlife of biblical scripture, Haiti becomes a nation held in captivity, and Satan becomes the colonial power who must be overthrown.