By Theodore Shoebat
Christianity is not for cowards, it is a spiritual system that is both militant and ready for war against evil.
Within the Scriptures we do not find an explicit teaching that commands, “Christianity is about fighting evil!” The Bible almost never teaches in this manner. It teaches through a series of illustrations, within which one will find entire oceans of knowledge, that encompasses both the spiritual and the political life together in a beautiful confluence, as two rivers merge together as they journey into the single ocean of heavenly knowledge.
Within the Spirit of Christianity, political philosophy and spiritual truths are not separate concepts, nor are they unconnected ideas merged together by theologians. They are a single body inherent within Christianity, working together in a melodious harmony, as a body of notes cooperate in one symphony. In other words, within Christianity politics and spirituality, while being to a certain extent separate, are of one essence. The two are one.
It is the Spirit of God that gives us the eternal precepts, and the political system of the divine law that gives us the social contract. In the law there is, to use the words of St. Ambrose, “the knowledge of justice, and in the Gospel the perfection of virtues.” (Ambrose, Commentary on Luke, b. 10, in Bellarmine, Against Barclay, ch. 19, p. 282, trans. Stefania Tutino)
From the beginning of the Scriptures in Genesis, all the way to the end in the Book of Revelation, it is nothing but continuous illustrations showing what laws mankind must obey, the consequences for those who do not conform to the divine precepts, and the divine rewards to those who do.
In the first chapter of Genesis, when we read that “God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also” (Genesis 1:16), the verse itself is making an implied attack against the pagans, that the planets which they worshipped are not gods, but created objects. And the religion of the pagans, be it in Moses’ time or in our own, is political by nature.
For when Abraham, as the learned Josephus tells us, exclaimed to the pagans of Chaldea that the planets were not gods, that “they are subservient to him [God] that commands them”, they raised much violence against the holy prophet, compelling him to leave Mesopotamia. (Joseph. Antiq. 1.7.1, trans. William Whiston)
And this is confirmed in the Book of Judith, which states that Abraham and his descendants “would not follow the gods of their fathers, which were glorious in the land of the Chaldeans, but went out of the way of their ancestors, and adored the God of heaven, whom they knew; and they fled into Mesopotamia, and dwelt there many days.” (Judith 5.7-8)
The reason for the anger of the Chaldeans against Abraham was that the prophet’s worship of the true God was a threat to their national religion, and thus to their political structure, since Josephus states that in Mesopotamia the worship of the gods was “according to their laws,” (Antiq. 1.19.8), and therefore the idolatrous religion was governmental in nature. Ergo, when Abraham introduced to the pagans the worship of the true God, he was defying the political establishment with the divine laws of Heaven. And thus, within this story, politics and spiritually are of one body, never separated and never having to be combined, but of a single, innate, and perpetual essence.
This eternal confluence of politics and spirituality are found in another occurrence within the glorious life of Abraham, in his war against the pagan kings for the liberation of Lot and the other captives of Sodom. Five heathen kings of the East, “Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar” (Genesis 14:9), in a joint effort were expanding their confederacy throughout the region, just as the Muslims were expanding their Islamic kingdom before the First Crusade. Once these tyrants took Lot, Abraham’s nephew, the holy prophet unsheathed the sword of the divine law, made ready his army, and charged against the enemy with the zeal of the heavenly virtues and the tenacity of holy warriors. As the Torah tells us:
And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.(Genesis 14:15-16)
And once the beloved fighter of God had strived and grasped with sturdy hands the victory over the heathens, the high priest of Jerusalem, Melchizedek, approached Abraham, made the sacramental sacrifice of bread and wine, and declared in majestic prose:
Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. (Genesis 14:19-20)
It is within this story — of war, victory, sacred prayer and sacrifice — where the two eternal swords of politics and spirituality, of law and the Gospel, are seen working together hand to hand, pure and congruous, with the sweet-sounding and euphonious symphonies of orthodoxy and zealous action.
The heathens spread their tentacles of tyranny and false religion, Abraham unsheathes his sword and conveys his army to impose the divine law over the despots; the heathens try to fight the holy forces, but God hardens the hands of His men for war and fortifies their souls with valiancy; the heathens attempt to win, but Abraham vanquishes, with God delivering his enemies into his hands. Abraham strikes, and the Kingdom of Heaven is victorious. Abraham returns triumphantly with the spoils of war, and the high priest proclaims under the inspiration of the Spirit, that the victory was bestowed upon him by Providence.
Such an event is both orthodox spirituality and Christian politics vanquishing the evils of despotism and the heretical dark spirits of the underworld. Reading such an event strikes an image to the mind, of two fierce winds seen together in a tempestuous combination, forming one torrent that, like a colossal broom, sweeps away the forces of sinister tyranny and demonic ideologies. These two winds are Christian spirituality and the political structure of the divine law. One inscribes the laws of God into the heart of the believer, and the other sees to it that the wicked do not prevail over the holy laws. One instils law, and the other enforces law. Abraham fought for the law, while Melchizedek proclaimed the law.
The Christian kingdom is founded upon the action of the priest and the warrior; the former conveys the spiritual system, while the latter advances the spiritual system. The warrior protects the Church, while the priest instills in him the spiritual sustenance that fortifies his soul to keep him fighting.
It is through the Spirit that the King of Heaven commands His servants “to call them that were bidden to the wedding” (Matthew 22:3), and it is for the law that the Divine Ruler “sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (Matthew 22:7) for persecuting His messengers (Matthew 22:6).
When one reads the four Gospels, and the whole of the New Testament, one will never find any shallow fashion of preaching. However, one will find beautiful and sublime illustrations, such as the Crucifixion, teaching libraries of theological concepts, all from a simple story, yet filled harmoniously with complex ideas on the divine, that bring both the mind and the soul ascending to the heavens with every measure of knowledge the intellect receives, “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18).
The entire life of Christ was a war, with triumph simultaneously foreseen through the luminous horizon of ferocious hope. Christ suffered on the Cross, and all the while He endured over the persecution of Satan’s troops. They struck Him with nails, and He overcame with a strength stronger than all the forces of the universe; they scourged His flesh, and He conquered with force more powerful than the forces of all the cosmos together. They pierced His side with the lance, and the Christ trampled the demons of the earth, to “destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)
When Christ was on the Cross, it was war, “righteous and victorious” (Zechariah 9:9), against the spirits of darkness and the false religions of kingdoms and empires. When one imagines the Crucifixion, one sees spirituality and politics colliding with the despotisms of Satan and his diabolical deceptions, as storms obliterating wicked cities, only to end with the sublime sight of a most pristine sky glistening with the translucent light of the heavens in the midst of glorious clouds over an ever-hopeful earth. Melchizedek gave bread and wine to the victorious Abraham, and Christ conferred the sacraments of the chalice and the Bread of Life to the disciples in His victory over the works of Satan.
In the words of Pope Innocent III, when he was conducting crusades against the Muslims:
There is much more merit in the gibbet of Christ’s cross than in the little sign of your cross. …For you accept a soft and gentle cross; he suffered one that was bitter and hard . You bear it superficially on your clothing; he endured his in the reality of his flesh. You sew yours with linen and silken threads; he was fastened to his with hard, iron (Quoted in Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades, ch. 6, p. 163, 2nd ed.)
Christ carried His Cross, and we must then follow His command that states:
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
To take up one’s cross requires one to overcome the evils within himself, to “Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (13:24), to obey laws written on our hearts through the Spirit. We must endure self-evaluation under the torments of the world, as did the Good Thief on the cross, when he cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
By self-evaluating our souls, we conquer evil from within, in order to strengthen our souls for the battle without. It blinds us to earthly aspirations, and opens our eyes toward heavenly things, so that we may fearlessly combat the forces of darkness with constant thought on life after a glorious death. Christianity is about war. It necessitates the labors of the human spirit, and perseverance against the bastions of the sinister, for “He that shall persevere unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)
Meditation on the Cross readies one for combat, for in the Crucifixion there was physical anguish, spiritual fortitude, celestial contemplation, and political envisioning, all elements that involve martyrdom and holy war, working together in one persevering body for the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven. In the words of St. Bernard, “inasmuch as it is meditation on eternity, for the things promised are eternal, it fosters a spirit of long suffering, and gives strength to perseverance.” (St. Bernard, On Consideration, 5.14, trans. George Lewis)
Carrying one’s cross also demands of us to establish the Divine Law, by which the sons of Belial are driven out and compelled to flight. This involves spirituality and politics, as is illustrated in the epic of Abraham and Melchizedek; it involves both the cosmic sword and the temporal sword. And since Christ is “a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:20), who praised Abraham for his holy war, the fray against the enemies of the divine law does not end with the Church, but continues with the Church, in a glorious and militant struggle. To carry one’s cross, is war.