I am going to break one of my own writing rules here, and turn to Hollywood for wisdom:
“Why,” said George Burns, representing God, “is it so easy to believe in that movie about exorcism, and not believe in me? All she did was spit out some pea soup, and suddenly everybody’s talking about the devil.”
Well�evil, at least on the surface, is cool. Hit the true crimes section of any bookstore: We cannot get enough of guts and guns and rape. Hanging around with Ned Flanders , on the other hand, is the quickest ticket to the non-invite list. Witchcraft, Satan, possession, hell�these are things not discussed in polite company, and we are therefore endlessly fascinated.
Back in the fall, the sniper reign in the Washington area was a horrific ordeal, but statistically, the populace stood a better chance of winning a Powerball lottery than becoming a victim. But nothing terrorizes a populace like the idea of a randomly selective, cold-blooded killer on the loose�evil personified�and so the media produced endless news flashes when no news was happening.
Since God is everywhere, in blades of grass and baby cats, and a really nice powdered doughnut, we tend to take him for granted. He presents Himself in small, attainable ways. But to get attention, evil has to be big. Glamorous. Sensational. Or really, really disgusting.
Not that this isn’t real stuff. Grab your Catechism : the Church specifically addresses the existence of Satan, hell, and evil in general. There exists a specific procedure for conducting exorcisms. When we see priests represented in the media, they very often appear fully Roman-collared, missal in hand, and ready to take on some serious demonic writhing.
When Christ cast out demons and “unclean spirits,” it’s clear He was talking to an entity other than the person He was curing. He had to be having a one-on-one with something.
We love Exorcist-style situations because evil is so clearly defined. In a world shaded by greys, we are relieved when the bad guys are definable, touchable, real. We know who to root for. There are no just war doctrines where carjacking and serial murder are concerned.
In everyday life, however, the line between right and wrong lies in murky waters.
What a relief it seems to be faced with a simple exorcism. Pea soup gets our attention- but fortunately, behind it all, God made the peas.