Ultimate victory is not in the sword

There are many appeals to “authentic Islam,” which is purported to be peaceful, reverent of the human person, and an allied faith against an increasingly secular world. And yet, as many know, the foundation of much of the violence in the Near East is the difference of opinion concerning where authority lies: in the traditions of Islam as guarded by the Sunni leaders or in the leadership of those descended from Muhammed himself, the Shi’ites. The Muslim world is divided between them, and hostility and outright warfare between the two camps have ever been manifest over the centuries since the death of their prophet. 

Christian authorities as well as political leaders often appeal to the “better angels” of Muslims worldwide, begging them to remember the inviolate nature of “innocents,” and the benefits of peaceful coexistence. Even our own administration has weighed in on what constitutes “authentic Islam,” admonishing its followers to eschew violence and honor the conscience of non-believers in their midst. Indeed, with the increased radicalization of belief, the very survival of Christians in many places around the globe depends on the good will of their Muslim neighbors. 

While diplomacy and dialogue have their place in the higher echelons of power, the Christian in his pew must focus on other things — namely the tenets of his religion and how firmly he believes them, for countless followers of Christ, facing the sword, have had to crystallize their true beliefs in the twinkling of an eye. We, further removed, have yet time to think. 

For starters, what do we make of St. Paul’s (twice repeated!) admonition: “But even if we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other Gospel to you than we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8). Furthermore, Mohammed’s firm insistence (based on just such an “angel”) that God had no Son would clearly identify his creed as antithetical to the Christian faith, leading St. John of Damascus (d. 749) to insist that Mohammed was a “forerunner of the antichrist” and a “false prophet.” 

The most compelling dimension of this threat is its ability to force us to reflect on the core of our faith: do we believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that He redeemed us from our sins? Ultimately, without acclaiming the Resurrection of Christ, we are no longer Christians. After discerning whether we believe this central truth, we must consider whether we would be willing to die for it — as many have even in recent days. While the saints of ancient Rome’s Colosseum may simply be innocuous memorials on our Church calendar, their blood has been mixed in recent days with that of our contemporaries, who made this very profession before death. 

Women, in particular, would do well to meditate on why we insist on enjoying the benefits of fundamental equality with men; why we value the ability to enter into exclusive marriages of our own choosing, and whether we want to live in a culture that seeks to protect us from sexual abuse or degradation. None of these are guaranteed by the Qur’an or the shari’a law that flows from it.

In the end, the bulwark against error and aggression is neither in weapons nor accommodation, for God is — in the Trinity of Divine love, in His gracious Incarnation, and in the glory to be revealed in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Authentic nuptial love in this world — whether through Marriage, consecrated life, or chaste fidelity strengthened by God’s Own grace — will increasingly prove to be the light in this present darkness, in contrast to the myriad lies pressing us from all sides. 

Error cannot be resisted in a vacuum, nor can one lie wrestle with another for the sake of peace. The truth will prevail, and we will either prevail with it or perish in the chaos. Even our perishing — in the mundane sense — is victory if Christ is on our lips as we depart, for His Name is the wedding garment that will guarantee our Salvation in the end. Now, let us live as if we truly believe it. 

Anchor columnist Mrs. Kineke is the author of “The Authentic Catholic Woman.” She blogs at feminine-genius.typepad.com.

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