Bobby Jindal's Exorcism

Recently Bobby Jindal got thrust into the national spotlight to offer the republican rebuttal to the president’s state of the union.

Jindal caught a lot of crap for his just outright awful public speaking skills, and as the days crept on, lots of people wanted to get an idea of who this Jindal character is.

Well, turns out that he’s at the very least a religious nutbag.

Jindal attended what some would consider an exorcism and wrote about it in the New Oxford Review. You have to pay to read the whole thing, but a big excerpt can be found here.

It’s a pretty remarkable story, and I’d encourage you to read through it to get a clearer picture on the worldview of the people the republican party is turning to for leadership.

The whole tale reminded me of the TV show Paranormal State in which a bunch of college kids investigate supposed hauntings and perform rituals to clear them out.

I’ve long been fascinated by the mythology surrounding exorcisms. The idea of demonic possession is pretty interesting in and of itself because of the questions it raises in the cosmology of god’s creation. In order for exorcism to function as an idea within christian mythology, some creations (demons) are given dominion over others (human) which only the power of christ as channeled through a human vessel (a priest) can overcome and remove. It leads to questions about what demons are supposed to be. Are they fallen angels? Are they some other kind of spiritual entity created by Satan? Are they damned souls? And exorcism takes on a whole new dimension when it’s proposed that the possession is by satan himself.

There are also questions of agency that come to play. Why would satan or any of his agents possess someone? For what purpose and to what outcome. What does satan gain from taking possession of a girl in her early 20s? What kinds of things can satan not do that requires physical possession in order to accomplish.

Catholic mythology recognizes what a sticky issue this really is given the complex and sprawling web of canon law and accepted dogma. It’s hard to paint a picture of the menace of satan when he has little better to do than possess fat, illiterate housewives. The Catholic church is very reticent to take claims of possession seriously these days, and for good reason. Even the church grants that it’s far more likely that someone is intellectually or emotionally disturbed than possessed by a demon.

Jindal’s story, as well a Paranormal State, if taken at face value, give rise to relatively serious questions in religion. If a group of teenagers or young adults in their early 20’s can successfully exorcise demons with no specific training other than what they’ve seen in movies, one begins to wonder about the power of these demons. As a catholic you would also have to wonder why one would need priests at all if one can competently conduct spiritual warfare with essentially none of the rigorous schooling of the priests. If lay people can serve as a conduit for christ well enough to cast out demons, why do we need priests for the eucharist or confession? It sort of undermines the whole purpose of the priesthood doesn’t it?

And one wonders why when demons supposedly do possess people, they do little, other than act out cliched, ham handed vignettes to demonstrate their evilness. This largely involves cursing and saying bad things about Jesus, religion and the people around them. Is the chief purpose of possession to make humans believe the person you’ve possessed has tourette’s?

Ultimately I don’t see anything here that doesn’t strike me as dumb college kids play acting like their world is more meaningful and more important than it actually is. They created a fantasy in which for some reason, demonic forces actually care about the lives of college kids enough to intercede. Perhaps if Jindal had taken more classes in abnormal psych and neuroscience, he would have been able to understand what was happening to him and the group.

This sort of stuff strikes me a christian LARPing and I think it should be viewed with the same degree of seriousness. The fact that this sort of event is one of the bedrocks of Jindal’s faith should be disconcerting to not only non-believers, but christians as well. Casting the protective umbrella over whackadoodle christianity like this fundamentally discredits some of the core beliefs of the religion.

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