Has Satan Left Us Alone?
In his novel, The Thanatos Syndrome, Walker Percy describes a priest who has a loose grasp on sanity. His name is Father Smith, and whether it is the sheer weight of the world he carries on his shoulders or simply a chemical imbalance, we do not know, but something keeps him in a near constant state of agitation. In rare moments of lucidity, however, he manages to speak some of the most compelling words of the book. For example, near the end of the story, Father Smith has this interesting monologue. He is relating a story from Yugoslavia about six little children to whom the Virgin Mary supposedly appeared. He says:
"The story of the apparitions is well known. Of course, no one knows for certain whether the Virgin appeared to them. The Church does not know. Many pious people believe that she did. That is not what interests me. It is one small detail which they related about one of the many apparitions which seemed so outlandish that no one could make sense of it and either laid it to childish fantasy or overlooked it altogether. You recall that though she identified herself as the Mother of God, one of the children related that she appeared not as the Queen of Heaven with a serpent under one foot and a cloud under the other, crowned with stars and so on -- but as an ordinary-looking young red-cheeked Jewish girl, which of course she probably was. But what she told them on this one occasion and which they related without seeming to understand what they were saying was this: Do you know why this century has seen such terrible events happen? The Turks killing two million Armenians, the Holocaust, Hitler killing most of the Jews in Europe, Stalin killing fifteen million Ukrainians, nuclear destruction unleashed, the final war apparently inevitable? It is because God agreed to let the Great Prince Satan have his way with men for a hundred years -- this one hundred years, the twentieth century. And he has. How did he do it? No great evil scenes, no demons -- he's too smart for that. All he had to do was leave us alone. We did it. Reason warred with faith. Science triumphed. The upshot? One hundred million dead. Could it be a test like Job's? Then one must not lose hope even though the final war seems inevitable as this terrible century draws to a close. Because almost everyone has lost hope. Christians speak of the end time. Jews of the hopelessness of the mounting Arab terror. Even unbelievers, atheists, humanists, TV anchormen have lost hope -- you've heard how these commentators speak in their grave style which conceals a certain Ed Murrow delectation of doom. Do you think that there is a secret desire for it? But you must not lose hope, she told the children. Because if you keep hope and have a loving heart and do not secretly wish for the death of others, the Great Prince Satan will not succeed in destroying the world. In a few years this dread century will be over. Perhaps the world will end in fire and the Lord will come -- it is not for us to say. But it is for us to say, she said, whether hope and faith will come back into the world. What do you think?"
Rantings of a lunatic? Another crazy religious person gone round the bend? What do you think?