Monday, July 18, 2016

Our Struggle is Not with Flesh and Blood

"For our struggle is not with flesh and blood
but with the principalities, with the powers,
with the world rulers of this present darkness,
with the evil spirits in the heavens."

(Eph 6:12)

What if meaninglessness is the root cause of our world's senseless and spiraling violence?  

"Right and wrong" have been uprooted from reality by the principalities, powers and world rulers of this present darkness. A chasm has opened up on all fronts. It is a void, a black hole, a vacuum which strives to swallow everything in its path.

The name of this abyss is absolute freedom--a liberty disconnected from reality. We may think it our own freedom, or we may consider it a capricious will from on high, but its seductive appeal is easy enough to grasp. And its logical implications are now playing themselves out.

After all, when each person is absolutely free to determine the meaning of one's own existence, a collision of conflicting freedoms becomes inevitable. When people feel justified in causing carnage to achieve some allegedly noble ends, the "means" have ensured the emptiness of the effort. 

When we define reality based on how we feel, and when we try to redefine what is based on how we wish things were, then we make ourselves impotent masters of a universe without order. We unleash the whirlwind of anarchy. We allow the arbitrary to become absolute.

In this context, the logic of Islamic jihadists and domestic terrorists thus looks shockingly similar to those who think that they can defeat violence with violence. This seems to be the only way to resolve the clash of conflicting freedoms. It looks like the only way to bring order into an ocean of emptiness. Evil spirits everywhere hiss, "might makes right," and there seems to be no alternative world view.

But there is a different Way which could redeem human freedom itself. There is a  response to emptiness and hopelessness rooted in a deeper logic of reality itself. It requires opening ourselves to a piercing Presence which can transform the apparent absence of the moment.

This one credible response to meaninglessness and endless cycles of violence comes in the confounding shape of the Cross. Cruciform love delivers self-transformation, rather than mere self-actualization. Its stance is always other-centered, not self-centered. It manifests as self-giving, rather than self-seeking. 

Such love alone creates--even out of death and nothingness. "Therefore," St. Paul advises, "put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground" (Eph 6:13).