Christmas, ISIS, and the Apocalypse | Carl E. Olson | CWR Editorial
While various ideologies pursue power and control through coercion and violence, Christianity points to the humble and life-giving invasion of the Incarnate Word
Christmas is a reminder that we live in a certain sort of war zone. And the sufferings of those who live in war zones with bombings, physical violence, and killing is a reminder that the deepest roots of all conflicts are spiritual, not simply political.
"God", wrote C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, "has landed on this enemy-occupied world in human form.” What was the purpose of this divine invasion behind enemy lines? To simply teach? To punish mankind? No, Lewis wrote, Christians “think the main thing He came to earth to do was to suffer and be killed.” That is true, of course, but there is more—as Lewis himself noted.
God became man in order to reveal the truth about both God and man. "The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light", stated the fathers of the Second Vatican Council. "For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown." (Gaudium et spes, 22).
Those "aforementioned truths" include what the Catholic Church teaches about the nature of God, the work of the Incarnate Word, the mission of the Church, the place of the State and human government, and the divine vocation of men. The Church "has been taught by divine revelation and firmly teaches that man has been created by God for a blissful purpose beyond the reach of earthly misery. ... For God has called man and still calls him so that with his entire being he might be joined to Him in an endless sharing of a divine life beyond all corruption. ... The root reason for human dignity lies in man's call to communion with God" (GS, 18, 19). This is possible because the Son, by becoming flesh and dwelling among us (Jn 1:14), has established his Kingdom. But not a Kingdom of this world, as he explained to Pontius Pilate, and not a Kingdom to be enforced by violence, oppression, and death.
The great temptation—as seen even in the Gospels—is to establish the Kingdom by force and to establish it today, on earth, by the use of temporal, coercive force. The desire for utopia today becomes the logical creation of the killing fields tomorrow. And as irreligion becomes the new religion of the supposedly non-religious, forms of totalitarianism are both spawned and inspired. "History attests that religion has not encroached upon the temporal sphere," observed Abp. Fulton Sheen in 1946, "but rather jealous temporal rulers have invaded the spiritual. Sometimes these rulers were kings and princes, even so-called 'Catholic defenders of the faith." Today, they are dictators." These various movements of temporal madness—sometimes obscured in the most mundane forms, sometimes demonstrated in madness made mandatory—are apocalyptic. Not in the Christian sense of the much-maligned word, but in the sense of forcing the will of—take your pick—the State, the Caliphate, or the System upon the whole.
The word "will" is key here, for these apocalyptic ideologies are not interested in truth or even reality as it is, but in power.