Of the many challenges awaiting new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh upon his swearing in, very few people likely expected a witch’s curse to be among them. And yet that is precisely what a Brooklyn, New York, occult bookstore purported to deliver in the form of a hex against “all rapists and the patriarchy which emboldens, rewards and protects them.” The shop even livestreamed the Oct. 20 event on the internet, and it was so popular that another was being planned.
The hex drew a rebuke coordinated by the official exorcist of the Diocese of San Jose, California, who encouraged fellow exorcists across the country to hold Masses for Justice Kavanaugh, in an effort to repel the curse’s effects.
This scene felt strangely and disturbingly right at home in the days leading up to both Halloween and a contentious midterm election, during a time in history when it seems that much political discourse amounts to little more than cursing one another.
The reality is that we have progressed (or regressed?) to a political climate where discourse doesn’t center on the merits of a policy goal or an idea but on how much anguish such a policy might inflict on the people on “the other side.” As a result, we are left with a conversation that is not grounded in any sense of shared belonging or common good, much less the inherent dignity of the human person.
There are many forms a “curse” can take in today’s discourse — one talking head shouting down another on cable news or, even more commonly, the shaming and disparaging of another individual or group via social media. The substitution of virtual communities for real ones have conditioned us to respond to one another as the enemy rather than as fellow human beings. We have little patience and respect for those who hold viewpoints different from our own. This is nowhere more evident than in the political arena. Even those of us who profess to be people of faith forget that Jesus instructed us to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. To many today, such behavior does not come naturally or easily.
Evil is not always so brazen as to set up in a bookstore and announce its activities online. Sometimes it seeps into our hearts through our favorite fixations and pet agendas, tempting us to put anything other than God at the center of our lives and to treat others as beneath the dignity that is owed them. Cursing a person — figuratively or literally — pushes goodness out in favor of ill will.
And this is why, before getting into any specifics of policy or even the values that animate it, Catholics engaged in public life are encouraged to pray for those holding and seeking office. This isn’t about projecting one’s will onto the political process, but rather inviting God to be present in all of it. Whatever happens on Election Day, we pray for our civic leaders because we want our society to be led by people who, rather than being thwarted by evil, benefit from God’s grace at work in the world and from the riches of divine wisdom. Regardless of their politics, we want our civic leaders to hear and heed the rustling of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, to refuse that — such as fear or self-interest — which might hamper their good governance and to pursue policies and priorities that begin and end with the well-being and inherent dignity of every human being.