Convivium recently spoke charitably of a confrontation between Christians and Satanists in Ottawa. But count me out, because the only thing more foolish than chanting “Ouroborindra ouroborindra ouroborindra ba-ba-hee” convinced nobody will answer, is doing so thinking someone might.
I know charity is an important virtue. I feel the want of it keenly. But even charity must have a certain hard edge in steering people away from disaster. As C.S. Lewis writes in Perelandra, pure charity without a trace of human affection is “so unlike the love we experience that its expression could easily be mistaken for ferocity.”
I wouldn’t know. And at any rate Rebecca Atkinson in Convivium described the scene with human charity: “A crowd of an estimated 200 people spilled onto the sidewalks of a downtown street in Ottawa’s Byward Market to counter Canada’s allegedly first satanic black mass occurring inside a bar on the opposite side. This wasn’t a protest or a riot. No cars lit on fire, no violence broke out, not a word uttered one side against the other. Quite simply: two sides, completely and utterly opposed, participating in practices in which they believe.”
I respectfully, even quasi-charitably, disagree. I agree that the Christians who turned up believe in their practices, including for some the Catholic Mass of which, Atkinson rightly notes, the satanic “ritual” is “by definition an inversion.” It’s a tribute vice pays to virtue that blasphemers must go to Mass to find something to invert.
And I’ve always been very impressed by the Catholic insistence that its sacraments are not symbols but real acts. Too many mainstream Protestant churches now contain nothing that isn’t already self-parody. But to avoid a doctrinal drive-by, Protestants who meet Lincoln’s criterion that a preacher should look like he’s fighting bees don’t do communion precisely because they don’t really believe there’s blood in the chalice. But they do believe God is real. And not only God.
Reality can be a difficult concept. In Miracles, Lewis speaks of the shock of discovering that when you talk, God talks back. You reach out, and He does too. And you recoil, channeling Victor Frankenstein: “You have had a shock like that before in connection with smaller matters – when the line pulls at your hand, when something breathes beside you in the darkness. So here, the shock comes at the precise moment when the thrill of life is communicated to us along with the clue we have been following… ‘Look out!’ we cry, ‘it’s alive.’ And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back – I would have done so myself if I could… An ‘impersonal God’ – well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads – better still. A formless life force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap – best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband – that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly; was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (‘Man’s search for God’!) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?”
Terrifying. When one of his pilots tells John Wayne’s Major Daniel Kirby in Flying Leathernecks that he gets so scared he starts to sweat every time he starts a combat mission, Kirby responds, “Any time you meet a guy who says he doesn’t, avoid him. He’s an idiot.” And from A Grief Observed, Lewis asks, “What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know he is good’? Have they never even been to a dentist?”