Fighting the Previous War

Historians have often claimed that when a period of conflict comes after a sustained period of peace, the politicians and generals in charge will usually be well-prepared to fight the previous war. They’ll be thinking in terms of strategies proper for the previous war. They’ll have soldiers trained and equipped for the previous war. They’ll have buildings which would have been adequate for the needs of the previous war.

The pilgrim Church on Earth is passing from a period when she lived in a state of peace with the powers of the world. Now, we Christians are engaged in a serious spiritual war and not winning, not Protestants and not Catholics. We’re losing a spiritual war and failing in our duty to protect ourselves and our children. We most certainly are failing to win over more children for God or to win back any of the vast number who’ve left Christianity in the past generation.

It’s hard to even speak of Christian truth with most modern men, because they respect neither pagan nature nor the God of Jesus Christ. The very idea that good and justice can be defined in objective terms has gone by the wayside. Objective truth, beginning with moral truth, had to be eliminated that we might live in peace in mass societies with those who hold ideas and live in ways our grandparents thought to be repulsive and perhaps downright evil.

We Christians are now missionaries in the midst of a society populated with human beings who aren’t the pagans who might have burned our ancestors alive but also appreciated and feared the claims to truth made by those Christian missionaries. We most certainly do not live in the midst of the gentler pagans who formed a large part of the population of the West in recent centuries. Those were the sorts of unchurched human beings who responded well to the traveling missionaries such as Billy Sunday or the mass-media evangelists such as Bishop Fulton Sheen.

We find ourselves in a war where Pontius Pilate is in control of the battlefield, partly through the well-intentioned efforts of those liberal political philosophers who so valued social peace that they denied the very possibility of absolute claims to truth and partly through the efforts of all those politicians and lawyers and businessmen who saw so much profitable advantage in a society peaceful and well-ordered by the exclusion of truth. That peace and that order have proven to be a delusion. Modern men no longer seek to impose their view of truth upon others, or to force minorities to accept a public life which accords with that one view. Modern men seek seek to force us to live with neighbors who live perverse lives by traditional moral standards and they seek to deform and stunt the minds and souls of our children. Some modern men, Hitler and Mao come to mind, believe not in truth but impose their wills upon other men with a brutality unimagined in the worst of the religious wars which began the Modern Age.

There are seemingly hundreds of millions of Pontius Pilates alive just in North America. Pontius Pilate found himself face to face with Truth and he was so immunized to the claims of truth that he could look God in the face and refuse to acknowledge what he was seeing. The Pontius Pilates of this era seem to have damaged their minds and souls in similar ways.

Our leaders act as if Christianity can grow by attracting some non-existent population of fallen-away Christians and sometimes baptized but unchurched pagans who have some vague Christian sympathies. Those fallen-away Christians and pagans have been converted into little Pilates. Like their predecessor, they can look Truth in the face and deny Him though perhaps haunted by memories of that face as Pontius Pilate himself was said to be.

I don’t know what we should be doing to evangelize these truth-deniers, though I suspect we should start by strengthening our own minds that we might work to undo the damage of liberal political philosophy. We should also work to strengthen our own moral selves so that we can live in ways at odds with the expedient ways of modern politicians and lawyers and businessmen. We certainly shouldn’t be fighting the previous war in which we sought to win the souls of fallen-away Christians and unchurched pagans with vague Christian sympathies. Modern society has shown it can — with terrible efficiency — wipe clear the minds and souls of those fallen-away Christians and unchurched pagans. What’s left is no more than echoes of the question, “What is truth?”

In any case, we lost that war back when it seemed winnable and we lost largely because we and our leaders were concerned with retaining our respectability and standing in societies going bad. We should have been rethinking our situation well before the pews and collection-baskets began to empty. Maybe a truly nasty spiritual war will force us to become both smarter and tougher. Maybe we’ll even become God-centered.

Explore posts in the same categories: Christianity, Modern culture, Religion, Spiritual warfare

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