12 February 2017

Weekend Reading: A Defense Against the Rising Evil

"It seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings...

Only the humble believe in Him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that He does wonders where people despair, that He takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; He loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken...

In the Incarnation the whole human race recovers the dignity of the image of God. Thereafter, any attack even on the least of men is an attack on Christ, who took on the form of man, and in his own Person restored the image of God in all. Through our relationship with the Incarnation, we recover our true humanity, and at the same time are delivered from that perverse individualism which is the consequence of sin, and recover our solidarity with all mankind.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"Yet such in one shape or other is the way with the multitude of men everywhere and at all times; they do not see the image of Almighty God before them, and ask themselves what He wishes: if once they did this they would begin to see how much He requires, and they would earnestly come to Him, both to be pardoned for what they do wrong, and for the power to do better. And, for the same reason that they do not please Him, they succeed in pleasing themselves. For that contracted, defective range of duties, which falls so short of God’s law, is just what they can fulfill; or rather they choose it, and keep to it, because they can fulfill it.

Hence, they become both self-satisfied and self-sufficient; – they think they know just what they ought to do, and that they do it all; and in consequence they are very well content with themselves, and rate their merit very high, and have no fear at all of any future scrutiny into their conduct, which may befall them...

And such, I say, is the religion of the natural man in every age and place; – often very beautiful on the surface, but worthless in God’s sight; good, as far as it goes, but worthless and hopeless, because it does not go further, because it is based on self-sufficiency, and results in self-satisfaction.

I grant, it may be beautiful to look at, as in the instance of the young ruler whom our Lord looked at and loved, yet sent away sad; it may have all the delicacy, the amiableness, the tenderness, the religious sentiment, the kindness, which is actually seen in many a father of a family, many a mother, many a daughter, in the length and breadth of these kingdoms, in a refined and polished age like this; but still it is rejected by the heart-searching God, because all such persons walk by their own light, not by he True Light of men, because self is their supreme teacher, and because they pace round and round in the small circle of their own thoughts and of their own judgments, careless to know what God says to them, and fearless of being condemned by Him, if only they stand approved in their own sight...

Yes, it is the ignorance of our understanding, it is our spiritual blindness, it is our banishment from the presence of Him, who is the source and the standard of all Truth, which is the cause of this meagre, heartless religion of which men are commonly so proud...

Far be it from any of us to be of those simple ones, who are taken in that snare which is circling around us! Far be it from us to be seduced with the fair promises in which Satan is sure to hide his poison!

Do you think he is so unskillful in his craft, as to ask you openly and plainly to join him in his warfare against the truth? No; he offers you baits to tempt you. He promises you civil liberty; he promises you equality; he promises you trade and wealth; he promises you a remission of taxes; he promises you reform.

This is the way in which he conceals from you the kind of work to which he is putting you; he tempts you to rail against your rulers and superiors; he does so himself, and induces you to imitate him; or he promises you illumination, he offers you knowledge, science, philosophy, enlargement of mind. He scoffs at times gone by; he scoffs at every institution which reveres them.

He prompts you what to say, and then listens to you, and praises you, and encourages you. He bids you mount aloft. He shows you how to become as gods. Then he laughs and jokes with you, and gets intimate with you; he takes your hand, and gets his fingers between yours, and grasps them, and then you are his."

John Henry Newman

"And because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold. But those who endure to the end will be saved."

Matthew 24:12-13

"Love does not make you weak, because it is the source of all strength—  but it makes you see the nothingness of the illusory strength on which you depended before you knew it...

The only real tragedy, In the end, is not to be a saint."

Léon Bloy

A saint— a saint that is always failing, but always rising.

The touchstone of all goodness is love.

Love is not a weakness or a softness of the heart. Love is only for the strong, because only the strong can overcome the fear and smallness that keeps them from loving.

Evil is the weakness of hate and fear, the darker side of the human condition.  Unselfish love is not natural to us, unless we exercise a will to choose it, and take the abiding comfort and strength with it from something greater than ourselves.

Where you see something that confuses you, whether it is good or ill, ask yourself, 'whom does it serve? and where is the love?'

Love is the one thing that the hypocrisy of evil cannot reliably imitate, but at most wear briefly as a mask.

People can rationalize their way to a hell on earth with the same practical, step by step reasoning with which they buy a pair of shoes or a new overcoat. And once their fingers are firmly entwined with those of evil, then the madness fully falls upon them, and they are done.

We are substantially no different, no better, and certainly no more exceptional than others now and those who have come before us.  To imagine ourselves to be so superior, so exceptional, so above all the temptations of power is a part, not of any virtue, but of the excessive pride which led to the fall of the first and most favoured among the angels.

If you do not wish to hear this, if it makes you uncomfortable, then good.  That discomfort is the first step, the first recognition and the beginning of your own path to personal reform and the fullness, and dare I say salvation, of your own humanity.