And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads; and on its horns were ten diadems, and on its heads were blasphemous names. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And the dragon gave it his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have received a death-blow, but its mortal wound had been healed. In amazement the whole earth followed the beast. They worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it? – Revelation 13:1-10
In the 2010 film, Clash of the Titans, there is a scene in which Zeus, angry with the humans, is persuaded by Hades to visit vengeance upon the mortals in the form of the Kraken, a giant monster from the depths of the sea. The visual of this great evil being unleashed is something to behold:
If this scene is evocative, perhaps it is because it’s familiar. Like a Kraken released, we have a colossal problem in our world today. There are few who are not stunned by the growing specter of evil; a darkness more profound and spreading more quickly across the globe than any civilized human being could have ever imagined. Many of those I speak with have admitted that they now abstain completely from watching the news: “It’s just too much,” they say. “It’s just so horrifying!”
For the past two years I have been confiding to close friends my own growing sense that something is happening, that something unholy is stirring. I have spoken with others who have admitted the same suspicion. The way I have tried to describe it in the past is like the rumblings felt just before a volcano explodes.
Now, I find myself wondering if the eruption is upon us.
Who could ever conceive of atrocities like those we are seeing executed in the name of religion? Where once we might see coverage of a tragic conflict far away, we now face an evil that is not confined to some distant corner of the planet. With the always-on, near-instant spread of information in our digital age, your next door neighbor can be radicalized from the comfort of their living room.
What we are facing is, first and foremost, a form of spiritual warfare. In a time where violence is rampant and the innocent are threatened, it is true that we must be ready to physically engage the malefactors. But if we deny the spiritual nature of this surge of evil we are facing, we will have no hope of victory.
When confronted with atrocity, the immediate reaction of most people is, “What can we do to stop it?” Yes! That is the exact question we need to be asking. Summoning us to courage, St. Augustine challenges us to do battle: “Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be.”
But to begin to answer the question of what we can do, we must first properly assess where we are. What are our capabilities? How is our strength? What is the state of our conditioning? Without this kind of brutal honesty, we are likely to flounder rather than fight.
Jesus warned, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth” (Luke 21:34-35).
And yet isn’t that exactly what has become of us? Consider this sobering analysis of our present condition from columnist Jeffrey Kuhner at the Washington Times:
For the past 50 years, every major institution has been captured by the radical secular left. The media, Hollywood, TV, universities, public schools, theater, the arts, literature — they relentlessly promote the false gods of sexual hedonism and radical individualism. Conservatives have ceded the culture to the enemy. Tens of millions of unborn babies have been slaughtered; illegitimacy rates have soared; divorce has skyrocketed; pornography is rampant; drug use has exploded; sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS have killed millions; birth control is a way of life; sex outside of wedlock has become the norm; countless children have been permanently damaged — their innocence lost forever — because of the proliferation of broken homes; and sodomy and homosexuality are celebrated openly. America has become the new Babylon.
This cultural assessment is bleak. And I believe that underlying it all is a deeper evil, a more ancient and intractable error which gives rise to all the rest. Many have pointed to “Modernism” as the heresy of our times. Modernism, while it takes many forms, is basically a break or rejection of our past in favor of all things new. And, while it seems evident that our Church is fully infected with the heresy of Modernism, I believe that it, too, is a symptom of this more fundamental threat.
What am I referring to? Something that impacts the very nature of human existence and the opportunity for our salvation. Lacking an official name, I call this monster, “Stealth Arianism.” Students of history know that the Arian heresy – the worst crisis in the Church before our present age – was rooted in the belief that Jesus Christ was merely a created being, not equal to God the Father. Stealth Arianism follows the same fatal error, but with a twist: while the Arians of the fourth century openly denied Christ’s divinity, today‘s Arians will profess Jesus as God, and yet through their actions deny it. In other words, they don’t even know they are heretics. Many even believe that they are doing God’s work in their attempts to elevate Christ’s humanity at the cost of His divinity.
You see, once we diminish the identity of Christ as the Son of God, we are left to view Him as simply a historical figure that was a nice guy, a respectable teacher and a good example for how we are to live. Religion is then reduced to a nice organization that does nice things for people as we seek a kind of psychotherapy for self-actualization. And this is not only not what He came to give us, but it’s something He made sure to leave no room for.
In his Christological examination, [easyazon_link asin=”0060652926″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”onep073-20″]Mere Christianity[/easyazon_link], C.S. Lewis makes the case plain:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Over the past 50 years, the Stealth Arians have done everything within their power to remove from our lived experience of Catholicism anything that would point to the divinity of Christ, and the supernatural quality of our faith. Everything has been stripped from our churches – sacred art, sacred architecture, sacred music, and the sacred elements of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – and we are left in the barren desert of the banal. It is no wonder many Catholics think nothing of approaching the Most Holy Eucharist dressed in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, and grabbing the host like they’re reaching into a bag of chips. As Flannery O’Connor said, “If it’s a symbol, to hell with it.” It’s more surprising that these individuals even bother to attend Mass at all.
Moreover, the Stealth Arians have deliberately chosen to keep their teachings muddled, ambiguous and elusive in an effort to increase “pastoral sensitivity” as the highest of all values, which keeps people feeling good about themselves just the way they are – though never challenged to strive for sainthood! Of course, when people like the way their church makes them feel about themselves, that keeps the money flowing into the collection basket. But whether confused and uncertain, or simply spiritually blind for lack of true pastoral care, the faithful who have been abandoned by their spiritual leaders are prone to be conformed to the world and its prince, a murderer and liar from the beginning.
St. John Chrysostom exhorts, “Let us be filled with confidence, and let us discard everything so as to be able to meet this onslaught. Christ has equipped us with weapons more splendid than gold, more resistant than steel, weapons more fiery than any flame and lighter than the slightest breeze … These are weapons of a totally new kind, for they have been forged for a previously unheard-of type of combat. I, who am a mere man, find myself called upon to deal blows to demons; I, who am clothed in flesh, find myself at war with incorporeal powers.”
That sounds noble for St. John, but about for us? Are we really prepared to such a fight? Just when we need mighty spiritual warriors for these dangerous times, Satan has spent the past 50 years diminishing the Church’s legions to little more than a bunch of Girl Scouts. Now that we are left in our weakened state, Satan seems to be calling out to deal the last blow, “Release the Kraken!”
Indeed, what can we do?
St. Paul gives us the answer in his epistle to the Ephesians (6:10-18):
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.
Originally published on September 18, 2014.
Fr. Richard M. Heilman is a priest of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin State Chaplain for the Knights of Columbus. He is a regular guest host on Relevant Radio’s The Inner Life, and is the founder of the Knights of Divine Mercy, which is an apostolate for Catholic men’s faith formation..
He is also he founder of the Ladies of Divine Mercy, which is an apostolate for Catholic women’s faith formation. He is the author of the Church Militant Field Manual and the Roman Catholic Man website, which are both dedicated to helping Catholics understand and train for their role in the mission of combating evil and rescuing the souls of our loved ones who have lost the precious gift of faith.