"It finally is a matter of love"
On Good Friday, my class finishes _The Exorcist_
I did not plan this. Sometimes things just work out.
Today is our last day of discussion of Blatty’s novel in my conservative thought course. They are engaging with it wonderfully on our course blog.
I just reread the last hundred or so pages. I would like to share with you this exchange between Karras and Merrin, close to the novel’s conclusion. It is the very heart of Blatty’s message.
Karras spoke again. “We say the demon…cannot touch the victim’s will.”
“Yes, that is so…There is no sin.”
“Then what would be the purpose of possession?” Karras said frowning. “What’s the point?”
“Who can know?” answered Merrin…He thought for a moment. And then probingly continued: “Yet I think the demon’s target is not the possessed; it is us…the observers…every person in this house. And I think—I think the point is to make us despair; to reject our own humanity, Damien; to see ourselves as ultimately bestial; as ultimately vile and putrescent; without dignity; ugly; unworthy. And there lies the heart of it, perhaps: in unworthiness. For I think belief in God is not a matter of reason at all; I think it finally is a matter of love; of accepting the possibility that God could love us…The demon knows where to strike…Long ago I despaired of ever loving my neighbor. Certain people…repelled me. How could I love them? I thought. It tormented me, Damien; it led me to despair of myself…and from that, very soon, to despair of my God. My faith was shattered…”
Karras looked up at Merrin with interest. “And what happened?” he asked.
“Ah, well…at last I realized that God would never ask of me that which I know to be psychologically impossible; that the love which He asked was in my will and not meant to be felt as emotion at all. Not at all. He was asking that I act with love; that I do unto others; and that I should do it unto those who repelled me, I believe, was a greater act of love than any other.” He shook his head. “I know that all of this must seem very obvious, Damien. I know. But at the time I could not see it. Strange blindness…There it lies, I think, Damien…in the senseless, petty spites; the misunderstandings; the cruel and cutting word that leaps unbidden to the tongue between friends. Between lovers. Enough of these…and we have no need of Satan to manage our wars; these we manage for ourselves…And yet even from this—from evil—will come good. In some way. In some way that we may never understand or ever see.” Merrin paused. “Perhaps evil is the crucible of goodness…And perhaps even Satan—Satan, in spite of himself—somehow serves to work out the will of God.”