The world recently saw evil organized as a secular state: Nazism in Germany. Now we see evil organized as a religious state: radical Islam in ISIS. Do a search on the internet – the similarities and connections between Nazism and the radical Islamists are many, and are becoming obvious to many commentators. I continue to ponder the two “beasts” of the last days, in Scripture’s Book of Revelation: there is a beast out of the sea, and there is a beast out of the earth, a false prophet – both animated ultimately by the dragon, satan himself.
The beast from the sea seems to me to be the spirit empowering the secular and godless “City of Man”, the harlot Babylon, “sitting on a scarlet beast” (Rev. 17:3). Although satan hates mankind and its secular city, built by man to glorify man, he allows and guides it for a long while, since it suits his purpose of destroying mankind and defeating the plans of God. But in the end he seeks to destroy man and all that is of man, in his war against God. The City of Man was unmasked – stripped naked – for the world to see, in Nazism and in Communism and in all the godless totalitarian states of history! But man will not see it; it is in his godless and sin-loving heart to build his city, free of God, that he might be his own god. Man’s ambitions continue today, in major nations of the world today, even here. Even America, once a nation that honored God, seems now overrun by those seeking only their own pleasures and pride and glory.
So satan’s assault is two-pronged: he empowers Babylon, the harlot City of Man, with the godless beast from the sea. And he empowers a false prophet with a false god, a beast from the earth, that looks like a lamb but has a heart of darkness and death. This beast seems to be unmasking before our very eyes, in the madness, bloodlust and evil of ISIS. Two beasts, one dark spirit – the evil spirit that hates God and all that is good, holy and true. The civilized and secular, and the religious and fanatical: we see the two beasts, the two sides of the one coin made to deceive man and entice him to abandon the one God in Whom is LIFE, and His holy and eternal Kingdom.
It is remarkable to witness the explosive expansion of ISIS. It is painful to see young men and women leave their families and homes in the “civilized” and “Christianized” West, to travel to Syria to join ISIS, to fight with ISIS against the West, to be part of the brutal murdering of the innocent for the glory of what they call Islam. How can this be happening? Why is it happening?
“For many people who are lacking a strong sense of identity and purpose, their violent radical global narrative provides easy answers and solutions: it can be a very powerful message for people who are looking for answers,” says Matthew Levitt, the director of counterterrorism and intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Their online material shows capturing territory, establishing states, beheading enemies: they show that they are the sexiest jihadi group on the block.” (from Time Magazine on-line)
“A lot are young, often teenagers, and a fair percentage of those arriving from non-Muslim majority countries are converts to Islam,” wrote Richard Barrett of the Soufan Group, an intelligence organization. “These and others who share their faith commonly express their motivation as a religious obligation to protect fellow Muslims from attack.”
In detail, perhaps they have many reasons. The French have called their jihadists “disaffected, aimless and lacking a sense of identity or belonging,” Barrett wrote. “Presumably people are seeking a greater purpose and meaning in their lives.” (from The Washington Post on-line)
Barrett also wrote of their desire to witness and take part in a battle prophesied 1,400 years ago. Maybe they never read of the battle prophesied many centuries earlier in the Bible, the battle at Armageddon (see for example Rev 16:16, and 20:8): God will win! The deceived will lose! Evil will be done away with forever, God’s Kingdom will come. This present creation will come to an end, and the New Heavens and the New Earth will be revealed, where righteousness abides forever.
But I want to return to a possible reason why men and women can be joining ISIS in a war against the West: they are “seeking a greater purpose and meaning in their lives.” There is the greatest of purposes, the fullness of meaning, for their lives awaiting them in Jesus Christ! His Catholic Church has been entrusted with the truth of the human person, and with the graces to empower the full attainment of that purpose and that meaning – all has been given to and entrusted to His Church! His Church has been sent to all the nations of the world to make disciples, to teach them His saving Truth! How can it be that these volunteers for ISIS missed discovering the meaning and the purpose held for them in Jesus Christ? The answer is simple: the Church is not doing what she was sent to do. Too many in the Church are sleeping, and taking their ease.
The world is doing a better job of evangelizing and making disciples of godless secularism and of the false religion of Islamism, than is the Church at its work of evangelizing and making disciples of Jesus Christ. As Jesus taught, “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” (Lk 16:8)
The next few verses in Luke are even more explicit, and have relevance for the Church today in the West:
Lk 16:9 I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
10 The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.
11 If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?
12 If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?
13 No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him.
15 And he said to them, “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.
The Church was sent to make disciples, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded. Therein lies the meaning and the purpose of a human life: gather, teach, lead into the truth and the eternal life of the one God! We are sleeping. ISIS is growing; the hedonistic, self-obsessed, lustful and proud secular City of Man continues its buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage. Many, many in the Church turn in their beds, and go back to sleep.
“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8)