When should these spiritual cleansings take place? Are they bespoke or mass produced? Also: What??
Fox News is no stranger to concocting a host of weird, non-sequitur deflections when it comes to identifying the alleged causes of — and potential solutions to — acts of high-profile public violence, like this week’s July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois. It’s not guns, it’s weed! It’s not right-wing accelerationism, it’s poor misguided white men being nagged by feminists! You get the idea.
On Wednesday evening, however, longtime Fox News contributor and analyst Bill Bennett offered what is perhaps the most creative, albeit logistically challenging, diagnosis for the uniquely American addiction to mass shootings: exorcisms. Like, literal “the power of Christ compels you!” stuff. It’s ... a lot.
Here’s Bennett explaining the “deeply spiritual problems” affecting the nation today:
“I’ve been thinking and studying about all these cases,” Bennett, a former Cabinet secretary under the Reagan administration and former President George H.W. Bush’s go-to-guy in the war on drugs, explained. “Not sure we’re going deep enough. Yeah, I think you need police. You need parents, for sure. You need schools. You need to clean up social media. You need all that. But you know, you may need an exorcist, too.”
If you look at these boys — these men, these young men — they have deeply spiritual problems, deeply. If you go into the labyrinthine caves of the internet, way down — and I don’t recommend it, it’s ugly stuff. And these guys dwell there. They live there. They drench themselves in it. And it’s as ugly and evil as it gets. Where are the ministers? Where are the rabbis, the priests? Look, I don’t want to suggest something that would seem farcical to a lot of your audience, but I don’t think that the domain of religion ought to be involved here. It’s a deeply spiritual void, I think, that these young men have in their hearts and their souls. And I think it needs to be addressed. And I don’t think we get at it, frankly, with these externalities — as important as some of them may be — and they may be. We need to do it all, but we need to do more.
Okay. Putting aside the ambiguity of his assertion that “I don’t think that the domain of religion ought to be involved here” (did he misspeak, or is he simply drawing a juxtaposition between “religion” and “spirituality”? I could go either way, TBH, but I leave it to you to make up your own mind), and putting aside the fact that, in a broader, more “it takes a village” sense, people having access to a caring, intentional religious community is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself ... I think it’s pretty safe to say that Bennett, a man who once posited that by aborting every Black fetus in the country, “the crime rate would go down,” is speaking in no small part about actually exorcising people in the name of public safety.
To which I say “what?” and “huh?” and “I have some questions.”
First off: When, exactly, does Bennett suggest these exorcisms take place? At the point of purchase in a gun shop? The moment someone logs on to a particularly vile dark-web forum? The exact second after a person opens fire on a crowded parade route, or classroom, or nightclub? The logistics here are dubious, to say the least.
Speaking of “dubious,” I would imagine some constitutional issues with mandating exorcisms in the name of public safety. Are the exorcists legally licensed agents of the state? Would injecting an exorcism into the gun purchasing process be a violation of the (newly expanded) Second Amendment? I can certainly imagine some frustrating dissonance within this particular Supreme Court, struggling to calibrate its overt theocratic leanings with its equally permissive attitude toward gun ownership.
Also, look, just on a purely operational level, how exactly would this work? Are we talking specific exorcisms per person, or a sort of mass exorcism like when a hoard of counterculture figures tried to exorcise the whole entire Pentagon building as a symbol of spiritual evil in the late ‘60s? (To the best of my knowledge, it hasn’t worked.) Can you do tele-exorcisms, or do you have to get an old priest and young priest right there in the room with the person, and risk demonic pea soup exposure?
I will admit that, as far as offering concrete solutions goes, amping things up from “thoughts and prayers” to actually calling for direct spiritual intervention is, at least on a purely rhetorical level, an improvement. But in terms of having any sort of actual impact on the fact that we live in a country where people can legally buy weapons of war and use them to blow away bystanders along a parade route while they’re flanked by on-duty police officers ... well, I’m not holding my breath.