Fall is a time for bonfires, and there’s a magic about a huge blaze even without hot dogs or marshmallows on a stick. Playing with that fire is tempting, and on nights like this, pyromania isn’t quite a psychotic disorder. It would be fun to light your fire with a flamethrower, if one could be found, but that’s a danger most of us should avoid. Playing with fire is dangerous, whether it’s real flames or emotional outrage. Containing a fire isn’t always easy.
Ethan McCarthy asked the question: Should We Be Offended by a Sacrilegious Hamburger? in the Christ and Pop Culture blog at the Patheos website. The story has made national news and the Chicago Archdiocese has raised a reasonable objection to a burger, named The Ghost, containing goat shoulder, red wine sauce, cheese and an unconsecrated communion wafer. How much should we be offended? How far do we go with this?
For those of you who aren’t Catholic, communion wafers on their own are pretty tasteless. I can’t see adding one (or more) to any dish to contribute flavor or texture, so there’s no reason from a food standpoint to do it. The restaurant honors different metal bands with their offerings, and The Ghost honors a band dedicated to open blasphemy. The band’s intention is no different than any other rock band that specializes in Satanic material: they want to get attention and make money. Restaurants aren’t much different, I guess.
There are insults and there are insults. This kind of gimmick is shallow and superficial, and better ignored than protested greatly, much like not getting overly offended by the random comments of small children. I would discipline my child if they did something like this, but getting too excited over another’s child just plays into their need to get attention, and I can wait until they say something more acceptable before I’ll pay attention to them. If Satanists want to create an outrage over overt disrespect for sacrament, it says more about their grandstanding than the sanctity of the Eucharist, which can’t really be compromised by disrespect. Jesus went through worse during the Passion, and it didn’t short circuit the Resurrection.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s a calculated insult and I don’t approve. I would never be lackadaisical about handling the Eucharist. Definitely I would prevent someone from abusing the Sacred Species if it were in my power. What’s in our power to do is always the question.
There are things that better deserve our righteous outrage than a sacrilegious hamburger:
the silence of Christians here at the persecution of Christians in other countries, especially the Middle East;
the bishops and other officials in almost every church that aren’t held responsible for covering up the sins of their Churches and clergy;
the fact teachers, policemen, firemen and armed forces members aren’t paid adequately or given much real respect for holding our society together;
the fact some employers want their employee’s first loyalty and refuse to pay them a living wage or care about their future in exchange for this loyalty;
the fact that in small town America, the self-righteous morality of Nathaniel Hawthorn’s The Scarlet Letter is still in force;
the fact the quality of Life from beginning to end is becoming more and more a commodity to be bartered than a dignity to be honored.
Yet the problem with cultivating outrage is we’re playing with Dark Forces ourselves. Anger is a normal, automatic response to injustice, but it’s a fire that can get out of control easily. Cultivating outrage is playing with fire and we risk damage to ourselves on many levels for using it, particularly in living as humble disciples of the God of Mercy and Compassion on one hand, and powerful defenders of Truth on the other. That dichotomy can do more to undercut the Faith of both ourselves and others; even verbal violence is a habit that can’t be picked up and put down easily. Trying to wield a spiritual flamethrower on the sacrilegious can burn our own house down, as well as submit innocent people to collateral damage.
Not to mention that as a kind of Anger, is destroys us from within if we don’t seek to reconcile it in some way. Not to mention that as a Deadly Sin, it really can’t be used for a Good purpose like the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings. Anger dehumanizes people, which is a sin against others, even if we think they’re Evil. True justice comes from Peace, not anger.
If I’m in Chicago and want a burger, I’ll go to a restaurant that doesn’t have The Ghost on its menu. If anyone else wants to do some silly posing to make money thumbing their noses at my faith, I’m not giving them my undivided attention (or money) and I’ll let the Final Judge take care of them. I have something positive to live by and talk about that can’t be touched: life in its fullness here and now as well as Eternal Life in Jesus Christ. There are better ways to bear witness to the Truth than uttering condemnations myself. Jesus and his followers have always been able to overcome persecution without compromising who they are. There are greater sins to call society accountable for beyond a dumb hamburger. Spiritual flamethrowers are best left on the shelf.