How to Spot the Religion of Antichrist When ‘Christians’ Start Preaching It
Victimhood is powerful. In fact, making an emotionally plausible case that you are a victim is the ultimate power move. (Notice that I didn’t say “rationally plausible.” Reason and reality are sadly irrelevant here.) Claiming victim status is the equivalent today of pulling out an AR-15 at a cocktail party and pointing it at people. Except that everybody has to pretend you’re not threatening them, and in fact start scraping and crawling and begging you for forgiveness.
They must thank you, in fact, for helping them to turn aside from their sins. And they have to look really sincere, or else it’s perfectly fine for you to shoot them in the face, while everyone else applauds.
Nice work if you can get it. No wonder the Left (both inside the Church and outside it) uses the Victimhood cudgel to bash the rest of us over the head.
A Tumor in the Body of Christ
Victimhood as a power move is an ugly, Satanic answer to the triumph of Christianity worldwide. It’s a perversion of the Beatitudes, a tumor in the Body of Christ, a “new gospel” such as St. Paul warned us against. The tumor produces, like cancer cells, an unending supply of new, imitation Jesuses which it demands that we venerate and obey.
Brilliant English historian Tom Holland wrote a groundbreaking book called Dominion, which explains how Christianity fundamentally transformed Western culture. Holland’s work echoes the insights of French Catholic philosopher René Girard, whose works such as The Scapegoat and Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World dig down to the pre-historic roots of our civilization. (Check out my in-depth, three-part interview with Holland here at The Stream in 2020.)
The preaching of the Gospel and the veneration of Christ changed the fundamental orientation of the West in ways it’s staggering to contemplate. You really need to step back from what we ordinarily take for granted, and dive into reading ancient, pre-Christian literature to appreciate the difference the Gospel has made — and the new, much subtler snares which the Enemy has crafted to trip up believers.
A Revolution in Culture
Read The Iliad, and you’ll find that the heroes are proud, even boastful warriors who crush their enemies, pillage their cities, and steal their women. Those too weak to resist them are sad, and a little contemptible. There’s absolutely no hint that we should look for any virtue in being a victim. Homer, faced with an image of Jesus on the cross, would simply have turned away in disgust.
Look at the inscriptions of the ancient kings of Assyria. They boast of how many cities they conquered and burned, how many warriors they slaughtered, and slaves they took. They expected those who read the pillars with these inscriptions to be struck dumb with admiration and awe, not moral disgust. Here’s just one representative example, from the reign of King Tiglath-pileser III:
The god Aššur, my lord, encouraged me and I marched against the lands of Namri.
I rained down fire upon them. I carried off horses, mules, and oxen. The enemy took to a high mountain peak in the mountainous terrain of Mount Ḫaliḫadri. I pursued them and defeated them. I burned with fire the people who entered the ravines of the mountains.
I overwhelmed the lands Bīt-Kapsi, Bīt-Sangi, and Bīt-Urzakki like a net and I inflicted a heavy defeat on them. I impaled them and cut off the hands of the rest of their warriors.
I destroyed, devastated, and burned with fire their cities. The people of the land Muqania saw the dust cloud of my expeditionary force, and the city of Ura. … I cut off their hands and I released them in their own land. I carried off horses and mules. I destroyed, devastated, and burned with fire. I captured, destroyed, devastated and burned with fire. I captured and defeated him … .
And so on, in the same vein, for every Assyrian king on every pillar. This was considered good P.R. back in the day.
When Julius Caesar wrote his own account of his conquest of Gaul, he carefully detailed and boasted how many hundreds of thousands of Gauls he slaughtered and enslaved in a naked war of conquest. The book helped win him esteem among Romans, and propel him to absolute power.
The Jews Were an Exception
That’s pre-Christian culture, folks, except among the Israelites. They alone imagined that suffering and defeat might have some moral meaning, that it might be a chastisement sent by God to afflict and redeem a people He loved. And few Jews, as it happened, would take the further step, and accept the idea of a Messiah who took the suffering due for sin upon Himself, to redeem the world.
But just enough did. And then many thousands, and millions of Gentiles would answer the call. And the successful preaching of a hapless, tortured outcast who was crucified like a slave but was really the Son of God … over time that transformed everything.
Embracing the Scapegoat
In his works, René Girard shows how pre-Christian civilizations depended on scapegoating and destroying the innocent and helpless, as a means of cementing order in otherwise fractious societies. But the coming of Jesus, who forgave His tormentors then rose from the dead to offer them salvation, unmasked the scapegoating mechanism. It made it ineffective.
While some Christian societies would indeed scapegoat local Jews, or imagined witches, it wouldn’t have the intended effect anymore. The image of the crucified Lord deep in the Christian psyche would cause persecution to backfire. It was too easy to see the resemblance between any persecuted innocent and … Jesus Himself. Christians would come to repent their persecution of Jews and falsely accused witches.
That seems so natural to us, we need to step back and ask: When was the last time you heard a Muslim apologize for jihad, forced conversions, or the Muslim slave trade? They don’t, because they don’t regret them. Read their religious authorities even today, who are proud of such deeds of conquest, and urge believers to regain their forefathers’ zeal for persecution.
Scapegoating Backfires Now
It’s different in Christendom. When the Catholic Queen Mary I of England persecuted Protestants, she didn’t stomp out that movement, but made it stronger by giving it a long list of heroic martyrs. Likewise when her Protestant sister Elizabeth I went after Catholics equally viciously: she made a long list of saints whom we Catholics still venerate, long after the names of Elizabeth’s obedient bishops have been forgotten. When 19th century Americans tried to hunt down the Mormons, even killing Joseph Smith, that new religion wasn’t snuffed out, but vitalized. And so on.
In Part II I’ll explore how the Enemy has taken this Christian transformation of culture and twisted it to his own ends, creating today a society in many ways far worse than an honest, pagan culture. And I’ll explain how we need to fight back.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”