Dear Rev. Know-it-all,
What’s with all the list of names in the Bible? Things like “Mephibosheth begot Kaphuzalem who begot Habbakuk who begot…” This stuff is inspired? I don’t find it very inspiring.
The lists of names in the Bible are very important. This is real history that involved real people. Admittedly our sense of history is different from theirs, but it is history none the less. Perhaps more importantly the lists of names mean that we worship a personal God with whom we have a personal relationship. He knows us by name and loves us as unique individuals. People are important. History is not just political, economic wave after wave. It is enriched or impoverished by actual persons. I'm sure you’ve heard of the Battle of Jumonville Glen. Of course you have. Jumonville Glen changed the history of the world and caused the collapse of Western European civilization. The fact that you can’t be sure that a certain woman at work with the unusually large Adam’s apple is actually a woman is the fault of a trigger-happy colonial soldier from the English colony of Virginia who shot the French ambassador, Joseph Coulon de Villiers, Sieur de Jumonville at Jumonville Glen on May 28, 1754. That trigger-happy soldier, or at least his commanding officer, was none other than Lieutenant Colonel George Washington.
I regard George Washington as one of the greatest of history’s heroes. He established our republic by laying down power not once but twice. Still, his career got off to a rocky start with one of the greatest “OOPS!” moments in history. Washington and his soldiers, along with some Native American allies, had been sent to protect a fort at what is today Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A larger French-Canadian force had captured the fort and sent a fellow named Jumonville to remind Washington that Pittsburgh belonged to France. Washington and the English ambushed the French who were camped in the glen, killing the French ambassador, Jumonville.
Britain and France were not at war at the time but after the English killed the French ambassador, things got out of hand, resulting in the Seven Years' War in 1756. France lost the war. The English taxed the American colonies to pay for the war. The colonies revolted. France helped the Americans throw off the British yoke to avenge their wounded pride. The Americans won that war, but the French monarchy went bankrupt helping the Americans. The American Revolution spread to France, but in a much more violent form. Napoleon Bonaparte was swept into power by the chaos of the French revolution. Europe was plunged into war once again, which brought the monarchy back to France. The French again revolted and elected Napoleon’s nephew to power. He attacked Germany in 1870 in the Franco-Prussian war. France lost. The French swore revenge which led to the First World War, the collapse of the Russian monarchy, the Marxist takeover of a third of the world, causing the Second World War, the cold war, nuclear proliferation and the hula hoop.
In all the chaos Christian Europe died, the moral restraints of Judeo-Christian Europe were replaced by the silliness of never ending moral revolution. We have been sweeping away the tired old philosophies of the past for about three centuries and have tried to replace the ideas that created our civilization with the worship of science unfettered by a moral law. There is an old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Nonsense! War is the mother of invention! The goddess Scientia Invicta has given us the bomb and gender re-assignment surgery. Is this what we really want to be worshipping?
So, there you have it. Jumonville Glen begot the French and Indian war in 1756 which begot the American Revolution (1775) which begot the French Revolution (1789) which begot the Napoleonic Wars (1800-1815) which begot the Franco-Prussian War (1870) which begot the First World War, (1914) which begot the de-Christianization of Europe, the death of the culture, the use of weapons of mass destruction (mustard gas etc.), the bomb, the Russian revolution and all subsequent Marxist revolutions, 20th century fascism, the global struggle for the resources of war, particularly oil, the invention of plastic and, of course the hula hoop.
I imagine that if Washington had not lit the fuse, someone else would have, but my point is that history is about people. We are living in a world that is in a kind of meltdown because of individual decisions by specific people. As life’s little conveyor belt chugs along and I get closer to the drop off point, I wonder what will become of it all. We have turned our backs on any kind of moral certainty in a desire to be politically correct. We are living in the French Revolution run amuck. Political correctness was a matter of life or death in the French Revolution. The Revolution descended into a phase called “the Terror” in which political trials were convened on street corners and if one was accused of not being revolutionary enough, after a three-minute trial, your severed head was blinking at the crowd gathered before the guillotine.
College in the sixties was a little like that. If one was not revolutionary enough, one was completely ostracized. The current theological and political climate is too. Revolutions tend to turn the crowd into the arbiter of truth, until someone like Stalin or Hitler or Napoleon comes along and volunteers to tell us what the truth is. It seems that tyranny begets revolution which eventually begets chaos which in its turn begets tyranny. That process seems inevitable. The Roman republic descended into political chaos and gave us the emperors. The French Monarchy descended into chaos and gave us Napoleon. The Tsar plunged into the Great War and gave us Lenin, Stalin. Mao, Pol Pot and now, Kim Jong Il and his nuclear bombs. The German imperial federation descended into chaos and gave us Kaiser Wilhelm and then Hitler. This seemingly unstoppable process just keeps stuttering its way through history. Will the current moral and intellectual quagmire in which we find ourselves in the Church and in the world give us a Hitler or a Stalin?
There comes a point at which human anger is no longer sustainable and we live in angry times. There has never been a war in history that was absolutely necessary. It may be necessary to defend oneself against aggression, but why the aggression in the first place? In wars the world over people joyously marched off to battle over the flimsiest of pretexts, some anger that seems so important at the time. They are sure they will be victorious and that the war will be short and glorious. It never seems to work out that way. Societies are smashed to bits, and the survivors sit among the ruins and mourn the dead. We are living in angry times that I fear will give way to fascism. We are willing to go to war over the silliest of things. Free speech is sure to offend someone. In the world and in the Church freedom of thought and speech are in greater danger than they have been in a very long time.
What is to be done? If my theory of history is correct, it should work for the good as well as for the bad. We have descended into a moral swamp and can’t seem to find any solid ground on which to stand. In times like these, the greatest weapon of the truth is not the tyrant, but the saint. We think of the unity of the Church as a matter of space, the Church united throughout the world. The unity of the Church is also a matter of time, the Church united throughout history. Perhaps you heard of the treasury of the merits of the saints? I like to think of the treasury a little differently. The lives and teachings of 2,000 years of saints are like watertight compartments on a great ship. If there are sufficient watertight compartments in such a ship when it hits an iceberg, it will stay afloat. The lives of the saints in this world are finished and unchangeable. What they have said and done remain untouched by the current chaos. Their example, their teaching and their prayers for us stand as unshakeable reminders of how to live out the Gospel. The present age doesn't need more study groups, committees, programs or meetings. Saints are what the world and the Church most desperately need. People change things.
The Arian heresy had overtaken the whole Church, but one man, St. Athanasius, stood up and was willing to suffer for truth. In 452, the Christianized Roman Empire was in state of collapse. Invaders from the east, Attila and the Huns, were bearing down on Rome. Pope Leo took his life in his hands and single handedly confronted the invader who turned back from the conquest of Rome. The list goes on and on.
Around 500 AD, St. Benedict of Nursia established western monasticism which recreated the Christian world after it had collapsed. He had no armies, no committees, no study groups. He simply left the world and went off to Mount Subiaco to dedicate his life to prayer and holiness. In so doing he created western monasticism which sustained Europe in the darkest times and brought the faith to the barbarian world.
When you look at the chaos of the current age, there is something you can do. Offer your life to the Lord to use in whatever way He wants. We recently had a pope, St. John Paul the Great who was a visionary and a wonder worker. When the Marxist/Fascist government of Poland decreed that there would be no Catholic Church in Nowa Huta, he picked up a shovel, went to Nowa Huta, started digging the foundation of a church, and dared the authorities to kill him. The entire empire of Marxism in Europe started to unravel right then and there.
One holy man changed history. We may be living in one of the greatest ages of the faith in history. We are living in an age of saints. There has never been an age in which there have been more martyrs for the faith than now. The outlook for the world is brighter than one might think.
To be continued…