The Christian, together with everyone who has genuine hope, fights his way through the meaninglessness of the world. He establishes cells and islands of conspiracy, networks of hope in the kingdom of the dark lord of the world. Right from the beginning Christianity was seen as a total, highly dangerous revolution. Why else was it so persecuted? It is meaning’s revolt against the meaninglessness of dying, which casts a shadow of absurdity on all that lives. It is the revolt of Resurrection against the finality of bodily disintegration. The revolt of love’s absoluteness against any resignation on the part of the heart.
~ Hans Urs von Balthasar ~
Good Catholic theology always lives in tension. For the real Christian, the world at its core is always good because it has its source in God; yet the world is simultaneously profoundly broken, and even at war with its creator. To deny either of these is to deny the scriptures, as well as our experience of reality. Only those who have succumbed to cynicism can fail to be moved by the sheer goodness of a child, or the truth found in the world’s order, or the beauty which unites the two and gives form to reality – thus the world is good. Yet, even apart from outright hatred and violence etc., the world operates by a logic which is foreign to God and to those who follow him. From the time of Cain and Abel or Rachel and Leah (c.f. Genesis 30), brother has sought to kill brother and sister to destroy sister – and hence the world is opposed to God.
Jesus sees the world as being under the power of Satan: “now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out…” (John 12:31, 16:11); or “if the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18). Also, importantly, Satan is able to offer all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus during his temptation (Matthew 4:8-9), and he can do so because they are under his power. This is what Balthasar means when he refers to us being in the “kingdom of the dark lord of the world”.
It is not merely the case that the murderers and haters of humanity are under the power of Satan, but sadly, the logic of evil is subtly woven into the world around us, and into our own hearts. This is why so much of the Bible tells us that when we belong to the kingdom of Christ, we have to leave worldly things behind: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Rms 12:2); “the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” (1 Cor 1:21); “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come.” (2 Cor 5:17); “and you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is at work in the sons of disobedience. Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of the body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph 2:1-3); “you have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man who is being renewed in knowledge after the image of his creator.” (Col. 3:9-10); “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating one another; but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us…” (Titus 3:3-5).
So you and I can’t just “keep calm and carry on”; nor should we “freak out and give up”. God’s good creation needs to be restored to what it was always meant to be, and the virtue you and I need for that work is hope. Here we return to our Balthasar quote at the beginning of our reflections; Christians establish “cells and islands of conspiracy, networks of hope”. You and I have to be part of an underground movement which lives and breathes on hope. People who have hope don’t settle. If you’re hoping for that one amazing person to fall in love with you, you don’t settle for the chump who “friended” you on facebook last week. Real Christians are alive with the hope of redemption, and so they reject the easy and counterfeit salvations of pleasure, power and entertainment.
To do this you have to be part of a conspiracy – a dangerous and very real one. If you attempt to hope for and in Christ, you need to be part of the network, going at it alone will only mean being sucked into the propaganda of the dominant culture which whispers: “settle – this is too hard, just drink this, just touch this, and stop hoping for something more, there is nothing more than earthly pleasures anyways.” That’s why our conspiracy is so dangerous; when you start thinking that selfless love really does exist, that God is real, that human happiness runs deeper than money and power, its then that people start doing strange things, like living moral lives, like loving the poor (because that’s who we are), like thinking marriage is sacred and that chastity matters – and don’t be deceived, those are threatening and dangerous attitudes in our culture right now. These attitudes and beliefs can only exist in a culture, a community, indeed within what is right now a conspiracy – the conspiracy of hope.
Brothers and sisters, have you signed up yet? Do you go to mass sometimes, but basically believe the propaganda of the atheistic and secular culture? I know you can feel the pull, the magnetism of being a real Christian; take the plunge – ditch the world (it sucks anyways), come join the conspiracy, and come into the joy of those whose hope is alive!