“Take and eat; this is my body.” MT 26:26

“Take and eat; this is my body.” MT 26:26

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Fatima, the errors of Russia, and a little church in the Lone Star State

There's only one root cause behind the tragedy of America’s latest mass shooting: it's sin. That doesn't mean we dismiss the reports about the shooter's troubling social media posts, or the allegations of sexual assault, or his history of violence. All of these can be contributing factors, in their own ways, but they're still just symptoms of the bigger problem of man's fallen nature.

There's a spiritual side to every conflict

At first, I assumed this shooting story was about a terrorist attack, after reading an early headline about a gunman killing a group of churchgoers. What I don't think anyone expected to see was a connection to atheism.

News outlets were quick to note this particular detail, with reports quoting a former classmate who said the killer despised God and religion. Journalists highlighted Nina Rose Nava and her post on Facebook about how the shooter would often share his anti-religious rants on social media: “He was always talking about how people who believe in God were stupid and trying to preach his atheism.”

There are plenty of analysis pieces and theories floating around the internet about this story - but the atheism angle is so unique that it deserves extra attention and questions. I think it's fair to say most self-professed "non-believers" aren't plotting to commit crimes like the one in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Yet, as I finish that last sentence, I do wonder: Why aren't more atheists going on killing sprees?

If God is 'dead,' then what?

Friedrich Nietzsche - circa 1875. Photography by Friedrich Hartmann (1822-1902) in Basel. (Wikipedia: Work is in the public domain.)

Friedrich Nietzsche was a man with a serious mustache, which was, in itself, a few generations shy of achieving true Movember glory. His philosophy, as you're likely aware, had a much greater impact on our world than his facial hair.

By many accounts, he’s the father of modern atheism. While he certainly wasn't the first person in history to question God's existence, he was clear in his calculus that the "death of God" added up to the death of morality. Nietzsche first made this now infamous declaration in his 1882 work entitled The Gay Science (Die fröhliche Wissenschaft):

God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

Man becoming his own "god" is the central idea of atheism, not unlike what the serpent promised Eve in The Garden if she would but take a bite of the forbidden fruit: "God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5)

From the beginning, man has always been tempted to elevate himself to the status of a "god": no limits, no restraints, no consequences. Really, what could be more alluring to a prideful heart? A violent and wicked business, though, is this work of deicide suggested by Nietzsche, and not without its consequences. That's because the abyss of hell is the fate awaiting those who reject God; an error some people make willingly while others may fall into it with a lesser understanding of what they're committing to.

Nietzsche was certainly the 19th-century standard-bearer of this Godless delusion, but he wasn't the architect: the seeds of atheism were sown by Satan. In the century following Nietzsche's death, the devil took this abhorrent ideology out of the hands of his lackey and used it to cripple a country that Heaven had special plans for.

The errors of Russia

It's been 100 years now since revolutionaries usurped authority from the House of Romanov, ending Russia's Tsarist dynasty. The Bolsheviks stormed into power, establishing their own totalitarian order out of murder and chaos. Such an origin story for any nation leaves no room for the Lord in its soul, even if the people held God, traditionally, in their hearts. 

Photo from Wikipedia.

The era that followed was marked with much suffering and blood. Whether it was by executions, mass-starvation, or other gruesome means, the government of the Soviet Union was responsible for a level of murder that had never been witnessed in human history. Some estimates suggest the death toll in this new Communist Empire ranged from 20 to 60 million people. The number jumps to nearly 100 million when accounting for other countries that followed the Soviet regime's example of atheistic government. No less should be expected from an ideology that looks at men and women as mere animals, as means to an end and not an end in themselves.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, its Marxist ideologies (like atheism, abortion, and militant feminism, for example) survived and spread throughout the world, not by military force but through culture. The poison infected country after country through an osmosis that can only be described as diabolical, but Catholics should have seen this coming - sort of.

An anniversary from Heaven

Photo of the three Fatima seers: Lucy Dos Santos, Francisco Marto, and Jacinta Marto. (Picture attributed to Joshua Benoile.

At around the same time the Bolsheviks were setting their sights the Tsar, the Mother of God had her eye on three little children in Portugal. The apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima came into renewed focus this year as Catholics marked the 100th anniversary of the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing to Lucy Dos Santos, Francisco Marto and his little sister Jacinta. These visits ran from May of 1917 to October of that year, climaxing with the Miracle of the Sun, about a month before the Bolshevik revolution.

The apparitions came along with a very specific demand by Our Blessed Mother, who asked the Pope to consecrate Russia to her Most Immaculate Heart. The consecration, it was promised, would bring a period of peace to the world. If this request was not met, however, the Blessed Virgin warned: "Russia will spread its errors throughout the world, raising up wars and persecutions against the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will suffer much and various nations will be annihilated." 

Whether or not the consecration happened, according to the exact specifications of Mother Mary, is the subject of a great debate among Catholics. One cannot deny, though, the force that atheism and Cultural Marxism have exerted on the world over the last 100 years, born out of an unholy state that denounced God and denied the true Kingship of Jesus Christ.

So what does this have to do with a troubled man in Texas who hated religion and killed over two-dozen people? Everything.

Atheism is a sin against the Lord's First Commandment, conceived in pride, and therefore blinds one to the great truth of God's will. As such, this worldview cuts itself off from the reality that man needs something beyond himself as a guide - a general consensus on right and wrong among peers won't suffice. Man cannot provide his own objective moral standard, no matter what he thinks, when it's so clear that each of us can succumb to all kinds of evil impulses with great ease. It must not be forgotten, or lost on us either, that all sin breaks down our relationship with the Lord and dulls our perception of His will - not just atheism.

So now it must be asked: If there is no "definitive good" (because "God is dead"), why is it wrong for a young man to gun down those he finds deplorable? If an individual can set his own boundaries on morality, why shouldn't he get rid of people who offend his "enlightened" sensibilities? Why shouldn't anyone else do the same, for that matter? If you come from nothing, and you're going back to nothing, what do you really have to lose by committing mass murder? Who are you to judge?

To answers to those questions, in rightly ordered way, we require a Catholic response. 

Sacred Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ is truth itself, and His mystical body, the Church, is an extension of His very being - a worthy light, then, for guidance through the darkness of this world. So, when we look for an answer as to why murder is wrong, we can turn to the Church and discover God's will: 

The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful. The murderer and those who cooperate voluntarily in murder commit a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2268)

The truth about the value of human life is noted in scripture as well, in Genesis, where we read that God made us in His image and likeness, male and female. That's why a human life is so precious: it's a gift from God, made in His very image. The problem is, we're so blinded by all our sins, we have a hard time seeing that truth, even in our simplest, everyday interactions with each other. When you mix in the lies from the devil that God doesn't exist or that Christians are "hateful bigots," how can we be surprised when a troubled individual snaps, under a burden of sin, and goes on a murderous rampage? This is where the pastoral response we need from our pastors should meet us.

That shooter in Texas was not simply a madman with a gun, he was a victim, like all of us, to sin and all its snares. While this in no way justifies the heinous act that was committed (or ignores the value of the lives that were lost), maybe it can give us a better insight into why it happened. Maybe, this can inspire us to pray for all the atheists in our lives. Maybe ... this can inspire us to become better, more faithful Catholics.

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