By Charlie Johnston
Some people were depressed by my starkly candid piece, “What is Truth,” on the challenge before us in the States. Victor Davis Hanson wrote a much gentler description than I about what we face. No matter how you deliver the news, though, the choices are stark. Will we have objective standards of law applied equally to all or are “some animals more equal than others,” as George Orwell described the privilege of the new ruling class in his classic novel, “Animal Farm”? If it is the latter, then no one is safe from the ire of the powerful, liberty is finished, and the American experiment is over. If leftist ideologues (who currently include all major Democrats, most of the establishment media, and the activist classes) do not back down from their screaming advocacy for such lawlessness, it will be the latter. If traditional Americans accept some sort of ‘compromise,’ it will still be the latter. If the ideologues won’t stand down and, this time, the ordinaries don’t back down, then we will have violent strife, mass arrests or both. ‘Tis a perilous set of shoals and reefs we must navigate to get from the deep water we are in safely back to land.
Back in 2008, a woman connected with the national Republican Party was intensely trying to recruit me to write short pithy pieces and memorable slogans for the party. After declining many times, I got to the nub of what I thought the problem was: “I think we have reached a tipping point. The stupids have become the majority – and if that is the case, we are just going to have to hit bottom before recovery can begin.” Stories about the substitution of violent action replacing reasoned discourse on college campuses, the media’s celebration of murderous tyrants, and public schools banning such literary classics as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Huckleberry Finn” don’t give me hope that I misread the times. These are strange times. You can be excused for feeling more than a little angst. Even the normally gentle, gentlemanly Ben Stein erupted in uncharacteristic rage on the pages of the American Spectator this week. Perhaps the most fearful thing is that most of our ruling classes around the world are incredibly and willfully ignorant: historically illiterate, economically illiterate, scientifically illiterate, and philosophically illiterate. To call them theologically illiterate would be to vastly overstate their knowledge of the subject. Yet they think their peculiar brand of malicious ignorance with attitude is smart. People who are vain, stupid and weak are terribly dangerous – and those descriptors fit about 95% of our rulers and opinion molders.
An even starker fact is that the whole world is in deep trouble. China dreams of and plans for world dominance. In Europe, the elite response to the Islamic invasion they invited is to punish police officers who speak candidly of what is happening. The media fell hook, line and sinker for North Korea’s charm offensive at the Olympics – but the reality is that, for ambitious dictators, charm offenses are often prelude to sudden, violent attacks on their perceived enemies. Yet another school shooting in Florida. The voices screaming for more gun-control are the same ones insisting on eliminating any self-control.
Oddly enough, I write these things not to dishearten you, but to call you to arms. God has not abandoned us; He is recruiting stout men and women who will act as His troops in one of the greatest epic stories of renewal of faith and mankind in all salvation history. I know we want an easy answer – for someone else to take care of it for us. I have fallen prey to that myself – which is largely why I so badly misinterpreted what the Rescue was.
Way back in the fall of 1995, when I went to visit my then spiritual director, he greeted me with a battered old pale blue card with the text of Revelation 12 on it. (That is the “woman cloaked with the sun” and “war broke out in heaven” passage). He told me, enigmatically, that this was going to be important for me. I was puzzled. This Priest was not given to mystical ruminations and most emphatically did not suffer fools gladly. As we finished our meeting, I fixed an intense, but amused, look at him and asked, “Are you playing the prophet with me?” His face went as red as I have ever seen it. Flustered, he replied, “I just felt strongly you are going to need this.”
Over the years, it has been a focus of contemplation for me. If I had contemplated it better, I would have realized that when the great sign of rescue appeared in the sky, that was not the end of troubles, but the opening of a great and decisive battle between the forces of the great dragon and the offspring of the woman cloaked with the sun. But I, like so many, wanted God to fix it for us without pain rather than using us as His hands and feet. Now, under President Trump, the American economy has begun genuinely vigorous growth, ISIS has been decimated, and both China and North Korea have been checked, at least for a time. I am grateful for this, but even amidst the constant screeching scrum American debate has become, I sense a little hubris rising – the sense that we have got this. The most significant purpose of the spiral of false dawns followed by greater crisis was to shake us from the sense that we are sufficient to ourselves. If we are to be renewed, it will be by becoming a Godly and religious people once more. Until we get – and live – that, we don’t have anything that will last.
The vitriolic hatred the left bears for Christians is ever on naked and haughty display now. What is less-well known is what contempt and disdain the conservative intelligentsia has for people who are serious about their faith. Set up a religious booth at a conservative conference and be shocked at the sneers you will hear. The conservative intelligentsia thinks they have to tolerate religious folks because we are part of their ‘base,’ but they certainly don’t have to regard us with respect or real consideration that we might be, ummm, right. They have fallen for the left’s delusion that this is just a contest over who is the smartest. So, people of faith are constantly under attack by the left and largely contemptuously indulged by the right. Yet the point of the great trials we are undergoing is to smash man’s delusion of supremacy, to decisively reveal the satan’s first lie that we would “be Gods” once we tasted of the fruit of knowledge. The sum total of all human knowledge throughout history constitutes a shot-glass of water in comparison to the ocean of God’s wisdom. We ARE irredeemable without the help of the Lord – and that help is freely given when we humbly recognize that and call on Him. If we reject Him, it is not given – and we are irredeemable.
When my Archbishop issued his statement concerning my visions almost two years ago, he noted that I “insist(ed) that the ‘prophetic’ aspects of his message are not essential and should not be the focus of those who follow him.” Then he added, “However, it appears that those same predictions are what attract new followers to his message and give them a sense of urgency and zeal.” He was kind in the former acknowledgement and right in the latter observation. My daily audience is less than a quarter of what it was at the old site. Shortly after the first of the year one of the serious theologians I have become friends with over the last few years sought to console me on the occasion of my second big interpretive error. He believes that we are headed for a catastrophic world-changing confrontation. “All you have lost is the prophecy-chasers, Charlie, and they are no help when there is real work to be done, anyway,” he said. There was wisdom in that. We restlessly seek an easy way out, where someone else will do the heavy lifting for us. A member of my internal team noted recently that some have started to substitute the insider information given by Q-anon for the prophecies I no longer give…and that perhaps that is not healthy, for our job is to be Sherpas, to help our brothers whatever happens, rather than restlessly trying to figure out every detail of what is going to happen. I was touched. Certainly, I believe Q is a real insider: he has had too many ‘hits’ for it not to be so (although I did note, with amusement, that his ‘miss’ rate has been a lot higher than mine was). But, while occasionally useful, all such things are ancillary to the main point: what we are called to be and what we are called to do, whatever happens. That main point remains what it always has been since well before I started writing publicly about these things: Acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around you.
Like Frodo and Samwise in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, we must walk through the valley and the swamps into the mountains of Mordor. The Lord will not remove from us the requirement that each of us walk through the Valley of Death, for it is in that valley that our vanity, our pettiness, our delusions of grandeur will be stripped from us. Rather, He will be with us every step of the way if we call and rely on Him. If we are fool enough to think we have got it covered on our own, we will die there.
I think it pleases the Lord, right now, to shake us from our complacency and the clichés we live by, to show us that things are much more complex than we think, to prove us. He is revealing how our flawed mindsets lead us into temptation – and how, even our presumptuousness of our own righteousness can lead us to destruction. The controversies that roil the Church right now reveal some of those fault lines. Some of us take pride in following the Scriptures and the Magisterium in all things. We do well, until our offense at some affront leads us to declare the Pope a ‘false pope’ or an ‘anti-pope.’ Though rarely as pitched as things are now, controversies have roiled the Church since the beginning. Can we defend the faith without burning down the house? If not, we risk becoming another Luther – who started as an honest reformer and ended by introducing hideous divisions into Christianity. Some of us choose the formula of believing whatever the Pope believes and doing whatever he says regardless of whether it is Magisterial or even within the scope of his authority. Yet the Papacy is a continuum of all Popes, not just a man. The Church Jesus founded wisely differentiated between Magisterial speech and other speech, between areas of legitimate authority and areas of limited – or no – authority, in recognition of the frailty of all men, including those who occupy the Throne of Peter for a time so that, though the man might stumble, the divinely appointed office would remain unchanging and true. On non-Magisterial speech and areas outside of the pope’s authority, we often encounter areas where we cannot mimic one pope without tacitly (or openly) rejecting another. That is irrelevant to the theology involved, as we are bound by the defined, Magisterial speech of any pope only in areas where he has legitimate authority. The Magisterium, though it can be developed in understanding, cannot contradict itself. So can we revere the person of the Pope without seconding any affronts he commits in non-Magisterial speech or in areas outside his legitimate authority? If we cannot, we abdicate the moral agency God endowed us with – and will be held to account. It is a tricky business: defend the faith AND respect the hierarchy the Lord established. When we fail to live that, we betray our own flaws – and reveal that we are uncertain in our faith that God will preserve the Church that He created.
When the light of Christ gets shut out of temporal affairs, the news becomes all nonsense all the time. Threats from hostile, nuclear powers, terrorists and mountains of debt? Let’s talk about how your gender can be anything you want and how morality requires that we force little girls to share washrooms with grown men. Officials get obsessed with irrelevant trivia while ignoring their actual duty. Infrastructure needs, crime prevention, national defense? Let’s filibuster for open borders and regulate the size of the soft drinks you can buy. We are called to consider all things in the light of Christ, while not neglecting temporal competence and duty.
Many worry about persecution of Christians. It is a well-founded worry. Christians have been viciously murdered and brutalized in the Middle East over the last decade. Christians in America have suffered the soft persecution of being forced to violate their conscience or be fined and lose their livelihoods. It is even worse in the rest of the western world. Canada has become a grotesque parody of a moral and tolerant nation. When Europe was Christian, it governed the world. Now that it is too smart for Christianity, it can’t govern itself or defend itself against hostile invasion. Yet I suspect we are going to have a time where we have something more dangerous to our souls than persecution: I suspect that Christians, in many cases, will take possession of the ring of power. If we fall prey to the temptation to use the power as today’s pathetic elites have, we risk not just forfeiting our lives, but our very souls. To hold power while acting with justice without exacting vengeance, to be merciful without enabling and becoming complicit with evil…that is the challenge. We are called to win the temporal battle of resurrecting a healthy and functional culture under God. But we are called to much more than that; to recall the lost to new life, to the joy that is in Christ…to help them find simple happiness again instead of constant, shrieking misery. We will be held to account for every soul we could have given effective witness to, but did not out of anger. So, too, we will be held to account for every soul we could have protected from assault by the violent and ungodly, but did not out of timidity and fear. It is an impossible task, save by acknowledging God, acting decisively, acknowledging our faults as soon as we see them without abandoning the field, and humbly bearing witness to the mercy and love that is in the Master. We must act with humility, fortitude and steadfastness. In short, acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope.
Jesus Christ is the light of the world. He chose His mother to bear that light to the world. I believe He sends her again. In fact, I am saying the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception every day this Lenten season. I did not even know of it, but saw a little booklet on it at a Padre Pio prayer group last month. I particularly find the “let my cry come unto thee” passages evocative and powerful. Do not be shaken by the fiery trials that erupt around you. Rather, rejoice. God knew, from the beginning, every soul He would ever make – and when it would be the proper time for Him to send them into salvation history. Rejoice, for God has chosen your soul and the souls of your children for these heroic times: one of the greatest and most perilous times of renewal of the whole world, under God. When all is done, God will not have spared one of us from having to walk through the valley of death, but He will accompany every one of us every step of the way who call on Him and do not let the fearsome sights around us seduce us away from His protection. Your children and your children’s children would find it an interesting story to see that dangers arose and God rescued you without demanding that you stand steadfast and true through a fiery trial. But the fiery trial we get. Your children and your children’s children will call you blessed if you do stand steadfast and true through that fiery trial.
Rejoice then, for God has chosen to cover you with glory if you accept His call. Jesus Christ is the light of the world. Act as His hands and feet and become the hope of the world.