It has been a rough couple of months for Christians in the West. Rougher still has it been for those in Sri Lanka where suicide bombers, blowing open the doors through which nearly three hundred of Christ’s faithful would enter and join the eternal Paschal feast, violently interrupted Easter Mass. By the time this horrific act of violence had situated itself upon Christians in the Western Hemisphere, the tragedy had suddenly mutated into an orchestrated attack by establishment media and prominent democrats on every church goer in the civilized world.
The same narrative holds true in the tragic fire of Notre Dame de Paris. No sooner had the story managed to get its pants on than the Christian faithful were being spoon-fed bleeding metaphors and other hyperbolic annunciations of the death of the west.
To be clear, it is not that I disagree with these interpretations. Western culture has been engaged in a slow act of self-immolation since at least the 1500’s. Any reader interested in investigating my assertion can do worse than read cultural commentary from previous generations and he or she will find more tempered, yet largely similar observations. But where the differences manifest is glaring. These takes today are mostly saturated with a heaping sense of self-importance and it is often paired with the unrelenting drumbeat of proclaimed victimization.
Whether we observe Thomas Merton’s observations with his unique variation of Christian Diasporas, or the nihilistic violence that incurs a sometimes unexpected grace on the Christ-haunted fictional characters of Flannery O’Connor, modernity has been heavily marked with the biblical vision of prophets who generally accompany humanity’s falling away from God’s order. What does seem to account best for our present hyperbole is we are in the full blossom of a post-Christian era, and the sooner we come to grips with this reality the better.
It is exceedingly obvious that our leaders today are more likely to denounce and even denigrate Christian praxis, best exemplified in the increasing demand for judicial religious tests and the proliferation of so-called civil rights committees who seek to punish Christian wrongthink rather than pay any sort of minor lip service.
21st Century Pagans
The fact of the matter is that we are in the clutches of the full paganization of the west. This time, it is not of the noble pagan variety either, the kind of great minds we find populating Limbo in Dante’s Inferno, who discover Divine order through the light of reason alone.
Instead we live among the brutal and insatiable worldly pagan who abandons both reason and faith for their ever-expanding appetites. This new reality can understandably give way to hyperbole and the full grip of self-perpetuating victim narratives, but this presentation is not the way in which we shine our lights and manifest biblical truth to the distracted and increasingly indifferent world.
It is, to my mind, that this time would be better spent reciting daily Psalms, contemplating the Gospel, and familiarizing ourselves with the book of Job. It was in a similar manner, faith in God’s divine plan through the elaborate mazes of civilizational feast and famines, that the first Christians originally converted the western world. They became witnesses to the joyful embrace of the cross, indiscriminate in nurturing their pagan neighbors, which reflected the transcendent order that others found impossible to ignore.
It is indeed difficult to observe the suicide of the west; it is even more difficult to realize that the soft persecution of western Christians will eventually give way to the bloodier variety, and even harder still knowing that it will be the responsibility of the shrinking faithful to one day reconstruct the ruins.
Call it past complacency or whatever, however we got here, the solution can most certainly not involve whining about the unfair indifference by those powerful people who hate us. This reaction is at best useless and at worst providing ammunition to our enemies.
It is true; the beauty that Christianity had once infused within the Western world is being undermined in some cases and destroyed in others. Before it is all said and done, we can be certain the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris will more closely reflect the values of our technocratic overlords than it does the transcendent beauty that is the Catholic faith. The profligate murders of fellow Christians throughout the world will continue to be ignored, if for no other reason than the powerful have an anti-Christian utopia to construct and so Christians must remain the villain.
It seems pointless to argue that Christianity is the weakest it has been since Rome found itself overcome by that small but growing fervent tribe of Christ followers. In a way that beautifully reflects the suffering of those early Christians by the Roman Empire, we find in the book of Job, a man whose faith was unrelenting throughout his dark night. In him, we see the devastating stripping away of every worldly measure of his life’s success, a lifetime of fruits shamelessly laid to waste, and he remained steadfast in his unrelenting faith.
As we watch the fruits of Christian history similarly laid to waste, we can recall the proclamations of this prophet. After having lost all of his livestock and his servants, which was followed up by the death of his children, Job tore his cloak and cut his hair. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said, “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!”
We can be sure that our future will continue to reflect that of Job, our cultural influence will further shrink and our voices will continue to be marginal and it will continue to happen in direct relation to the expanding appetites of our pagan neighbors, of this we can be sure. Narcissists with unquenchable desires actually hate mirrors, and they hate even more those who dare to question their self-destructive habits.
But let us not be sad and overcome with wailing and gnashing of teeth, there is a Gospel to share, and in our joy and witness is where we will once again make the world beautiful. So, let it be shouted from the rooftops that the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord! Amen.