This Advent begins a new liturgical year which Pope Francis has proclaimed to be a “Year of Mercy.” Certainly our world, beset by terrorism and frightful intolerance on many fronts, is in great need of mercy. But there is an added dimension to the pope’s plea. Quite recently the pontiff remarked that the world has already entered into “Piecemeal World War III,” a frightful prognosis, to be sure. Is the world, in fact, sliding headlong into an extended period of chaos and conflict from which only God’s mercy will be able to deliver us? And is mercy only the province of God, or do human beings also share some obligation to participate in the extending of mercy?
Civilization itself is tottering on the brink as 2016 dawns, and yet our leaders, rather than trying to pull us back from that cliff, seem content to push mankind ever closer to the precipice. Consider the anemic response of Western nations to the appalling wave of terrorism that is spreading like wildfire to every corner of the globe. The response of the U.S. has been underwhelming in that fight, to say the least. However, no situation is too desperate to be turned into a political farce by our equivocating government. Consider the priority Defense Secretary, Ash Carter, has placed on committing the military to placing women into front-line combat positions. Now talk is already circulating of possibly conscripting young American women as well. Considering the documented brutality of enemies such as ISIS, this means potentially subjecting American women to savage rape, torture, and beheading for propaganda purposes if captured. But, apparently, we have slid so deeply into the ideological quagmire that we no longer believe that men have a responsibility to protect women, or even children, because political correctness deems such an attitude to be patriarchal or sexist. If so, then we should consider those Muslim women who blow themselves and others up for the glory of Allah to be the ultimate symbols of feminist liberation.
The radicalizing of women and children has become the new reality in this pathological 21st century world. If we would willingly subject our own women to rape and torture, are we really that far behind radical Islamists who turn their wives and daughters into human bombs? Witness the recent rampage in San Bernardino and ask yourself, “what sane mother with a new, 6 month old child, would abandon her helpless daughter in order to destroy herself in a wanton bloodbath?” Is hatred so deeply seared into the souls of young mothers today that they would willingly sacrifice their own families to some radical ideology? Are such twisted values even humanly comprehensible? And yet, over the course of this coming “Year of Mercy” over a million expectant American mothers will knowingly destroy the life within their own wombs!
A spiritual World War III has been raging for some time now, and it is finally beginning to bear its ugly fruits perceptibly for all to see. This is why I believe that the Holy Father is correct in his assessment that World War III has already erupted “piecemeal.” Of course, world wars are generally very confused and piecemeal affairs ~ at least at the outset. Over time the different factions begin to shake out and congeal. In prior worldwide conflicts, there were shifting alliances as various powers each tried to gain some advantage in the confusion and smoke of battle.
Today, it should be obvious that what is under attack is not a particular nation or alliance but Judaeo-Christian civilization itself. Simply put, if you are a committed Christian or Jew, you have become a target of the new enemies of civilization. Impiety is the new Fascism. An informal Secular-Islamist coalition is using the latest tools and platforms to advance its hostile agenda. Chief among these are cell technology and the internet which have become prime vehicles of calumny, rumor, and misinformation. Historically,, successful warfare has been about something more than the movement of troops. It has also been about controlling propaganda, even for the ancient Egyptians and Romans who had their steles and victory columns intended to publicize their power.
The sophistication of war propaganda has advanced light years since ancient times, however. The power of modern media and communications is mind-numbing ~ and makes it possible to indoctrinate individuals on the other side of the planet with ease. ISIS has exploited this vulnerability with great effectiveness, to recruit disaffected youth everywhere. But so have the gurus of modern social media to the point that we no longer need juries to determine the guilt or innocence of some overzealous cop. Cell phone cameras have essentially replaced grand juries on that account. Meanwhile a climate of racial/gender suspicion and inadvertent offensibility has even set academia on edge. The former halls of open debate are quickly devolving into forums where adolescent Robespierres shrilly condemn and punish all perceived offenders.
This secular enemy is being abetted by another power which is militantly non-secular but equally derisive of Christians and Jews. That power is Jihadist Islam. The phoenix-like rising of ISIS under our very noses in Iraq over a very short period of time should serve as a warning that the Jihadist threat is both very real and incredibly pervasive. Until Paris, the warning signs were not being taken seriously enough, but the fact remains that Jihadists are coalescing into a global, not merely regional, threat. Its stated aim is the annihilation of Judaeo-Christian civilization. Jihadism now goes far beyond individual terror organizations such as Al Qaeda or Boko Haram. Terrorism is a calculated war strategy intended to demoralize one’s enemies and force them to submit out of fear ~ the very antithesis of freedom. Remember that the word “Islam” translates as “submission.”
Jihadists are uneasily joined at the hip with two other enemies of civilization. (Think of Hitler/Stalin alliance at the beginning of World War II, a relationship based on momentary advantage which then shifted as opportunity dictated.) Jihadism is the enemy without, but Militant Secularism is the enemy within, a canker that has been gnawing at the sinews of Western societies for some time now. Militant Secularism, or Socialism if you prefer, is really about one thing ~ seizing power. It attempts, and too often succeeds, in purchasing people’s loyalties with handouts of bread and circuses, as opposed to threatening them with the butt of a gun. It manipulates the masses by exploiting their passions rather than appealing to reason or moral conviction.
Realizing that traditional morality and self control do not enhance the role of the state, but only lessen it, secularists are quick to slander religion and ridicule faith. They do seem to enjoy and encourage promiscuity of every sort, however, because this inevitably weakens the moral fiber of society and creates manifest social problems, which can then be managed by the burgeoning bureaucracies that secular progressives are so adept at creating. Whatever enhances the power of the state pleases them the most. Of course, civilization suffers even as the bureaucrats prosper, which becomes a law of diminishing return since bureaucracy is a kind of parasitism that feeds off of, and eventually consumes a once healthy society. Remember how the Roman and Byzantine empires, as well as the French monarchy, perished under the weight of their own bloated bureaucracies.
But people still need to believe in something and voila! secularism has created a new religion for mankind ~ a faith that is becoming just as hostile to Judaeo-Christianity as Jihadist Islam. That new-found faith is Radical Environmentalism, which is the misguided belief that only mankind is able to preserve and save his earthly habitat. Radical Environmentalism represents the third front in the battle against Judaeo-Christian civilization, after Militant Secularism and Jihadist Islam. It is a Pantheistic religion that deifies the earth and all that is in it ~ Gaia. The worship of the earth has now assumed dogmatic proportions through clever propaganda books and films such as An Inconvenient Truth, Avater,and countless others. Ultimately, Radical Environmentalism is grounded in neo-Malthusian population dynamics, which thrive on scare tactics about supposed future “man-made” catastrophic events.
According to this religion, either the earth has too many mouths to feed, or the climate is alternately too warm or too cool, or rain-forest destruction is leading us to an ecological Armageddon. At its most ludicrous extreme, this ideology rails at the consumption of animals as a sin against nature. The current war on fossil fuels points directly to the stridency of environmental religion. In truth, fossil fuels are the very reason that today’s world is capable of supporting some 7 billion souls. Carbon fuels have provided mankind with a standard of living unimaginable even a century ago. Yet that may be the precise reason why radical environmentalists hate carbon based anything ~ because fossil fuels do enable more people to live comfortably on our planet. The populist environmental movement of today is the brain-child of population alarmists. The Malthusians want to eliminate people, not encourage their “breeding like weeds,” in the endearing rhetoric of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood (Planned Barrenhood?). But concern for the environment, itself a respectable policy when applied reasonably, has become the perfect foil for the environmentalists’ war on human reproduction.
So there we have the briefest outline of the three main groups currently waging a savage war to bring down the most successful civilization achieved by mankind to date ~ the Judaeo-Christian civilization. This civilization has succeeded primarily because it is based upon the laws of God and a reverence for God himself. With that in mind, one can begin to see the diabolical nature of each of those three hostile powers which have now moved from the rhetorical phase into the militant phase of action, hence the pope’s warning of imminent world war. We are now at the cusp of a great frontal assault that has been 60 years or more in the making. (Recall the social convulsions of the 1960s if you are old enough. That was a mere dress rehearsal for what is now coming.)
D-Day is here, folks! The amphibious landing craft are visible from the beaches. If there were ever a time when mankind desperately needs the mercy of God, that moment is now. It’s time to take cover because a storm of unprecedented scale is about to break upon us. The attack will be from within and without, and our only real defense against it will be prayer and penance.
We find ourselves in the beautiful Season of Advent, a time to prepare! And what we are preparing for is not some inevitable assault but the coming of the Incarnate Word of God. We can ill afford to become distracted by all the secular consumerism or worse, the temptation to succumb to fear or panic. As St. John Paul II loved to remind his flock, “Fear Not.” Christ has already redeemed this world, so we don’t need Greenpeace to do it again. But we also need to be aware of what is happening around us so that we do not fall for the enemy’s propaganda. Truth is, after all, our best defense against whatever may fly at us.
Christ does not intend for us to fall into despair either. He calls for us to be beacons of hope to a world deluded by its own misguided ideas and deceptive rhetoric. Instead of listening to self-absorbed billionaires at Facebook, Google, or even political contenders, he wants us to turn our attention to him. We are in a struggle for the very soul of a world which does not, or will not, recognize its Creator, who not only made this world but came as a man to save it. People have overwhelmingly preferred the creation over its Creator, and must now deal with the consequences of those choices. So be it. But we, as individuals, still have a choice to witness to our true Faith in the One who really counts.
We are now in that holy season designed to welcome our Creator into his own world, not as a powerful potentate but as a small, fragile child. In a time of war, such an action takes on even greater poignancy, does it not? The genius of God is that he made weakness prevail over all earthly power, a truth we must constantly bear in mind. So we will welcome him with the confidence of children and a spirit of joy, for he reminds us, “Fear not, for I have overcome the world.”
And so, in the holy spirit of this season, recall the comforting words of the prophet Isaiah, who, in the midst of the tragic downfall of Israel, was able to offer these consoling words of hope, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Is. 9:2)
Have a blessed Christmas!
Francis J. Pierson