Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you.
-1 Peter 4:12
By Charlie Johnston
A new tribalism has risen throughout the globe. Love has grown cold as tribes compete for dominance against each other. The world is now run by roving bands of rival warlords. The ruins of civilization will not hold much longer against the rising tide of hatred and malice.
The last few weeks I have been pre-occupied with people who are going through agonizing trials and troubles in their family, in their work among their friends. Some come from my own family, some from among friends, and my email box here has become a continuous wail of agonized woe. It is what I have been expecting since December 20th. God allows the demonic forces to run wild, to prove us, to refine us, to purify us so we are Christian soldiers as the battle is fully engaged. I spend a lot of time on the phone right now, counseling people to stay steady. Even as the demons cavort, God limits them. You need only trust. Rely less on yourself, more on Him…and deal justly even with those who abuse you. One seems to have almost fully emerged from his trial, another couple are steadily getting through theirs, others continue to suffer and hang on with weary resolve between bouts of agony.
I have seen how the satan is going to foment despair and rage, and in so doing, ensnare many of the faithful this year. There is a scene near the end of one of the Star Wars movies where Luke is battling Darth Vader while the evil Emperor watches. Vader’s goal is to get Luke to hate, to give in to his own malicious fury. At one point, Vader tells Luke that it would be enough if Luke would just hate him…then he would have him. That, my friends, is satan’s plan nearly to a tee.
Readers here have given me great heart the last few weeks. I was badly shaken by the visitation of December 20th. Things are going to get furiously ugly and chaotic for a while. I know it came through a little how shaken I was, as I was struggling to post much of anything…and the words came hard and slowly as if forced through an extruder. I went to the cabin last month largely to clear my mind and recover some of my balance. The first week I was there was wonderfully therapeutic. My cheery nature started to return, the words started flowing again. I had big plans for the second week, when the Joseph Cronin matter arose. The way you responded blew me away. I cried with joy several times as I realized, here, then is a quiet army ready to march, to do what it can to make a difference without worrying what the odds are or how little any one can actually do. I thought, heavens, Our Lord has raised up a host of troops, hidden from the world that will tip the balance when the chaos breaks. And I was glad of it.
I broke open the business on medicine and agribusiness the other day. I really don’t care much about what people decide on vaccines or GMOs. I agree with St Augustine on such things: “In necessary things, unity; in undecided things, freedom; in all things, charity.” I broke it open not because I care much about the underlying issues. As our reader CrewDog pithily observed, that’s a fight over pissants. I brought it up because it is the one area where I routinely hear Christians speak without charity.
The world has degenerated into a battle between roving bands of rival warlords. If we prevail as simply the victorious band, we still lose. We must be seen as liberators, and to do so, we must act as Abraham Lincoln urged us in his Second Inaugural, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan–to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
In fact, we would do well to adopt as models for how to behave how Joan of Arc prosecuted the end of the Hundred Years War and how Lincoln prosecuted the American Civil War. Joan constantly gave her opponents the chance to retreat or surrender, in fact, often begged them tearfully to do so. In early engagements, the English often mocked her tearful pleas. But they learned soon enough that once she went to battle, it was all hammer and tongs. They did not laugh long. Lincoln steadfastly prosecuted the most costly war in
U.S. History, yet without malice. In fact, his Second Inaugural is unparalleled in the history of wartime leaders. It acknowledged his own side’s flaws, acknowledged the humanity of the opponent, yet successfully inspired people to press on to prevail. Malice towards none, charity to all.
I have told you how desperate this struggle will be. When dealing with actual evil, there can be no compromise. It must be engaged and conquered. You must be indomitable. Only unconditional surrender will do. If a streak of sentimentality causes you to want to compromise on fundamental principles, you are not fit for the battle. That does not mean you are a bad person; it probably just means you should do something else…but such sentimentality will get a lot of innocents killed. On the other hand if you cannot have a dispute without declaring your opponent to be evil, if you cannot simultaneously fight and recognize his humanity when fundamental principles are not at stake – but only disagreements – you are not fit for battle. Again, that is not to say you are a bad person. You should probably find something else to do. Some folks can’t fight at all unless they whip themselves up into a frenzy of malice. But either of the qualities I describe are deadly for the soul.
If one has to choose men for battle and encounters one who has a pronounced limp and another who is blind, they may be fine men who are going to accomplish great things. But they are not fit for combat. If others have minor disabilities that can be corrected, they may be suitable warriors, but only if the disabilities are successfully overcome first.
While the roving bands of warlords struggle among themselves and oppress us, we must behave as the victors we are destined to be – and behave with the dignity and charity of followers of Christ. We must behave so that employees of Monsanto, so that employees even of Planned Parenthood, come to believe that we are liberators and people who have helped them to see deeper into the joy and peace which is in Christ. If we fail in that, we fail utterly and are unprofitable servants. Before we can conquer anything in God’s name, we must conquer through the help of Our Lord and Our Lady the petty malice that lies ever curled in the depths of our hearts, ready to strike when we don’t expect it.
We will not waste much time talking about vaccines and GMOs. It is ancillary and not destined to be terribly relevant for too much longer anyway, I don’t think. But we will talk about it…and some of the ways that polemics have been tarted up as science purely as a bludgeon to use against opponents. That is a problem mostly confined to the statist, anti-Christian left, but we have not been immune to it. Whatever we talk about, we will talk about with the charity and measured steadiness of Christians. That is the point.
In the past few months, I have been privileged to see a few flaws in myself that must needs be excised before the battle. In private counsel, I have helped a few others see and excise flaws they had not known they had. I have fallen head over heels for this little community…our group of .0002 percenters in the Army of Christ. I am charged with preparing you for battle. I have nothing definitive to say to you on either vaccines or GMOs. One commenter was right, it is just my opinion, however well-grounded it might be. I do have responsibility for preparing you to avoid those things which could impede you or get you wounded in what lies ahead.
You really have to contemplate what you are taking on. It is a version of what I have taken on. You will be held to account for every soul you could have given effective witness to but did not, out of anger – and you will be held to account for every soul you could have stopped from attacking the faithful but did not, out of fear or false compassion. It is an impossible task…and can only be done if you hold fast to Christ the whole time. But if you can live the discipline and not despair in those times when you will inevitably stumble and fail, the Lord offers you the chance to participate with Him in the reclamation of His people. What a glorious privilege lies before us.