To Manifested Glory Ministries of Bridgeport, Conn.:
Perhaps you wouldn't mind telling me what a "homosexual demon" looks like.
I will confess that until last week, I had no idea demons even had sexual orientations. Or, for that matter, sex. Then I happened upon a video that is making the rounds online. It depicts members of your congregation conducting what can only be described as the "gay exorcism" of a 16-year-old boy.
He convulses on the floor as if in the grip of a seizure while adults circle above, apparently attempting to holler the gay out of him. They yell things like, "C'mon, you homosexual demon! We want a clean spirit!"
And . . . "Come out of his belly! It's in the belly!"
And . . . "Right now, I command you to leave!"
And . . . "Rip it from his throat! Come on, you homosexual demon!"
A woman fans a towel at the writhing boy. At one point, the child, limp and unresisting as a sack of flour, is held upright and vomits into a bag. A piano plays gospel chords in the background.
Originally, you all had posted the full 20-minute video on YouTube, but for some strange reason (surely not embarrassment?), you've since taken it down. Still, snippets survive and are as near as a Google search. The ones I saw do not make clear whether the demon ever poked its head out, but if it didn't, you have to wonder if maybe it was scared to. That was quite an unsettling scene, after all. Unsettling enough that it has landed your church in the middle of controversy and outrage.
The Associated Press reports that some advocates for gay youth regard what the video depicts as abuse and are calling for an investigation. They warn that this is not an isolated event. To the contrary, they say, things like this happen all the time.
The AP went to get your side of things and one of your leaders, "Apostle" Patricia McKinney, told a reporter the boy actually came to you seeking help. She said your church isn't prejudiced in the least. "We have nothing against homosexuals," she said. "I just don't agree with their lifestyle."
I know you're up against it right now, but I want to assure you: I'm not here to beat up on you, or to accuse you of being the bigots you say you aren't, or to call you a bunch of backwards mouth breathers who abused a confused teenaged boy. No, I'm just hoping you'll tell me what a homosexual demon looks like. I'm scared I may unknowingly run into one, so please help me sharpen my demon gaydar.
Is the homosexual demon the one who lounges around the lake of fire wearing a pastel shirt open to there? Does he kind of sashay his pointy tail when he walks? Does he smell of brimstone, sulfur and $100-a-jar advanced extra firming skin butter facial cream? Is his iPod filled with Patti LaBelle, Bette Midler and show tunes? Does he think a power forward is a gear on a four-wheel drive?
Or what if he's a she? Can you tell the lesbian demon because she never wears heels? Is she the one who prefers to slip her hooves into sensible shoes? Does she wear her hair like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry? Does she look like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry? Does she tool around hell on a motorcycle, a pack of Marlboros rolled up in the sleeve of her flannel shirt?
Please advise. If I encounter a homosexual demon, I would like to know. I'm not a big fan of show tunes.
Actually, if you could run down all the various types of demons and ways to ferret them out, I'd be grateful.
Not to leave the impression I'm entirely demon illiterate. I do know a few.
For instance: the demons of fear, stupidity and intolerance. You don't need to tell me what they look like.
I already have a good idea.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132. Readers may write to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. He chats with readers every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT at Ask Leonard.