dystopian or reality?

“Friendliness took the place of charity, contentment the place of hope,
and knowledge the place of faith.”

Robert Hugh Benson, Lord of the World


(Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson)

First, read the following intro to a new book I’ve recently learned about, along
with a few of the following reviews—and then we’ll talk…

Oh, but keep this in mind, the book was written in 1907.

What would you do if you were living
at a time when the entire world regarded
Christianity as a dangerous superstition…

When governments ridiculed religion
and exalted the progress of humanity…

And materialism and psychology seemed
to provide for man’s every need?
Can you imagine a world where
faith is replaced by “information,”
hope with “contentment,” and
charity with “friendliness”?

Where politicians are lauded as prophets,
and the greatest politician of them all
is worshipped by the masses as the
Messiah, they’ve been waiting for?

A world where Humanitarianism is the
new “Kingdom of God,” and madness
descends like a fog on the nations?
What would you do if you saw priests, bishops,
and Catholic laity falling under this great delusion
and apostatizing from the Faith in masses?

What would it be like to see everything
and everyone rapidly coalescing into
two distinct yet unequal camps:

…the World and its massive secular power—
and the small flock of Christ’s true Church?
And all the while God
seems distant and silent.

His Church appears to be defeated,
with all hope lost; Rome seems
as vulnerable as a sandcastle
before the crashing tide.

The Church has no men who are
strong enough for the decisive
fight that is approaching.

Except one.

Father Percy Franklin.

On the surface, he is a young, unassuming priest,
but deep down he is a man-made for the times—
like a brilliant general who sees with strategic
and intuitive eyes the powers that are at play.

He rises in the ranks to lead the
Church in its darkest hour.

How will he endure the impending
assault of the world’s combined powers?

All this is the apocalyptic scene
placed before you by novelist
Fr. Robert Hugh Benson.

In this dystopian novel, we can
see prophetic elements of our
present real-world crisis.

“Classic and prophetic work.”
—Joseph Pearce

You will find yourself in a world
that feels hauntingly familiar…

…a world in which there is a magnetic
temptation to apostasy, and even the strong
struggle to keep their faith in Christ.

Author Robert Hugh Benson
will make you ask yourself:

Would my faith in Christ and His Church
remain unshaken if I lived in a world like this?

Robert Hugh Benson was a famous Anglican priest.
His father was the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But he stunned the world when he left the Church
of England and became a devout Catholic priest.

A brilliant author, he was also an astute
observer of the great world powers
that were at work in his day.

He predicted that a modern rise in mass communication
and weapons of mass destruction would culminate in a
future clash of the world against God and His Church.

‘Lord of the World’ is his apocalyptic novel,
written in the years leading up to the Great War—
the war that would bring Our Lady to Fatima—and
he places the reader into a prophetic re-telling
of the Book of Revelation.

“[Robert Hugh Benson] was a magnetic preacher,
an excellent story-teller, a ready writer; he had
enthusiasm and unremitting energy, a rich
imagination… but he knew that there was
only one relationship of absolute
value, that of the soul to God.”

Evelyn Waugh
Author & Convert

“Lord of the World is the right book for Christians
in the modern world—and there may be no
message more critical for our time.”
Most Reverend James D. Conley
Bishop of Lincoln

“A relevant and readable edition
of a harrowing 1907 novel that,
in places, seems all too
familiar and timely.”
Elizabeth Scalia
Acclaimed Catholic Writer

Ok, so let’s chat a minute.

Firstly, I’m not a big fan of fiction or novels.
I’ve always just preferred more actual, realistic, biographical or historical works.
But that’s not to say that I’ve not read my fair share of both good and bad fictional
tales over the years.

So I’ll admit that my interest was certainly piqued when reading this particular intro–
especially when I read the line
“Would my faith in Christ and His Church
remain unshaken if I lived in a world like this?”

For starters… because you and I need to understand that we are indeed living in such a world
as outlined in this intro of a 1907 dystopian novel.

The troubling thing is that we don’t exactly see or “get” that we are living in such a world.

And secondly, the question asked is a very relevant question for both you and me…
the question being, ‘would, or more likely will, our individual faith in both Christ and the
Christian Chruch remain in such an anti-Christian, anti Chruch, anti-Christ culture?
…Not simply be unshaken, but more correctly, will it actually remain??

Because the reality of this particular fictional tale is not whether or not we are actually
living in the world of this 1907 prelate’s fantasy—bur rather are we living one man’s
fantasy which has in actuality become our very own reality??

And thus the looming question that you and I need to be asking ourselves
is whether or not our faith is holding–
is it fast, firmed and fixed…
or is it simply slipping too quickly through our oh so slippery fingers of doubt?

I ordered the book.

prophetic spirit….

“I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me”
Jeremiah 33:8

09_1pr6a
(image of the prophet Jeremiah by Michelangelo, the Sistine Chapel)

Despite the distress of our time, we have lost touch with this prophetic spirit.
In fact, the inmost nature of prophecy has become an enigma to us.
We no longer grasp its primary source anymore.

Eberhard Arnold

Where are the voices…
those strong, confident and defiant voices that portend the fate of man?
Those ancient distant voices which proclaimed, declared, lamented, warned and foretold…
Those quixotic ones, from the days of old, whose words spoke of both power and truth …

In this oh so modernly smug time of man, believers are left to silently wonder,
as the non believer ridicules and scoffs.
Taunting the faithful while arrogantly puffing their chests.
For modern man has declared himself his own deity and god.

As Eberhard Arnold pragamatically observes, we have lost touch with that part
within ourselves which allowed us to hear those prophetic voices.
We have grown cold to our spiritual nature…
As we have distanced ourselves to the point of total disregard,
For that innate piece of the Divine that was once very attuned…
Allowing rather the void to be filled by our haughty sense of self.

Those voices however have never been silenced…
Never stopped or cut short over the windswept history of time…
they have not grown cold as the hard stones of earth…
but rather it is man who has grown cold, having lost his ability to hear them.
For man has turned a deaf ear to the apocalyptical.

Yet it is in that same breath of disheartened resignation that
Arnold offers us a bit of hope…

“The attitude is [still] possible only when a different heart beats within us,
different from that which has been in us so far, and when God’s spirit dwells in us,
as Ezekiel promises for these last days (Ezek.11:19).

If the earth is to be filled with the glory of God,
then the triune Spirit must fill and pervade the people who dwell on it.
Only when the Spirit gains influence over us, a sovereignty thus
far completely unknown,
can we expect the social and moral transformation that Mary sings about…”

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

The Magnificat
Luke 1:46-55

“Maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always”
Hosea 12:6

Turning point

What most of all hinders heavenly consolation is that you are too slow in turning yourself to prayer.
Thomas a Kempis

DSCN8758
(detail of a pinecone / Julie Cook / 2014)

As a tale-end Baby Boomer and child of the Cold War, the Soviet Union, the USSR, The Federation of the Russian Republic or simply Mother Russia, has always been an uncomfortable shadow over my shoulder, just as it has for most everyone my age and older. The enigma known as Russia, who most graciously hosted the world last February for the Winter Olympics only to turn around and shock us all a few months following with the “invasion” of Ukraine, has remained a conundrum for the free world since the Russian Revolution of 1917 which gave way to birth of Communism.

When I was in high school, which seems to be many lifetimes ago, I had the good fortune of taking a Russian History course—with the most memorable experience being of my introduction to the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I had the good fortune of reading several of his books. . . One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Gulag Archipelago and Cancer Ward.

Now all these many years later I find myself drawn back to the writings and words of Solzhenitsyn, of which I find more prophetic than I had ever imagined.

For those of you unfamiliar with Solzhenitsyn, in a nutshell, he was a Russian soldier (WWII), Gulag prisoner (for nearly 10 years), writer and novelist, historian, Soviet dissident, Nobel Prize recipient and finally, again, Russian citizen.

As a life long member of the Russian Orthodox Church, Solzhenitsyn was guided by a deeply spiritual moral compass. He was a very loud and vocal opponent of Totalitarianism, of which expedited his forced exile from the Soviet Union, yet he could also be equally critical of the West and its obsession with Capitalism, Consumerism and Materialism. All of which reminds me of the chastisement the West often received from Pope John Paul II, as well as Mother Teresa—as perhaps those who have suffered more grievously under the Socialist and ultra Nationalistic Regime of the Nazis and then that of the Communist Soviets, have perhaps a clearer perspective of our often blind view of what we consider to be “the good life”

I am poignantly reminded of Solzhenitsyn, his words and wisdom as well wise counsel and rebukes of those who have witnessed first hand the sinister wiles and atrocities of Evil, particularly during this time of year as it seems the world always appears to crescendo to a heightened sense of madness–just as the holidays come into focus. I don’t know why that is except that as the world seems to not only witness an abundance of joy and goodwill, there seems to be an equal measure of evil and chaos. Perhaps it is because Christians are drawn to the birth of the Savior and Jews begin the celebration of the miracle of light and the rededication to the Second Temple– a time of a tremendous pull of people toward God—as it seems Evil must have its share of the pie by unleashing its part of unimaginable pain and suffering in order to create some sort of sadistic counter balance.

Perhaps our senses are on hyper drive this time of year as we keenly feel the highs of Joy and Wonder along with the bottomless pit of despair and suffering as they each roll in to one. These thoughts reverberate in my mind just as Sydney, Australia was held hostage Monday by a radical Islamist madman leaving 3 individuals, including the gunman, dead. Then on Tuesday, Pakistan witnessed an unimaginable attack on a school leaving 132 children and 9 adult staff members dead all at the hands of the Taliban.

We currently have a menacing cyber attack taking place at Sony as North Korea is suspected to be retaliating to the release of a tongue and cheek movie which sadly mocks an attempted assassination of an, albeit, unhinged world leader. Sometimes I think we, those of us in the West with our often sophomoric entertainment industry, have lost our sense of what is considered off limits or morally wrong when it comes to the exploitation of movie making and entertainment—but I suppose a moral compass would be needed in the first place in order to be reminded of such. . .

We have just marked the tragic anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre as we continue reading headline after headline of local, national and global tragedies. Just as the world tries to come together in some sort of unity marking two very sacred holy times of the year as well as the secular merry making of Santa, Papa Noel and Kris Kringle’s arrival.

In reading Solzhenitsyn’s book Warning to the West, which is actually a brief composite and compendium of the texts to three separate addresses made in the US in the late 1970’s, it is startlingly frightening noting the parallels of then verses now. I am keenly reminded of the relevance of Solzhenitsyn’s words which were uttered almost 40 years ago as they could very well be spoken on the world stage today regarding today’s global state. I will leave you with a few pieces of his excerpted texts in order to ponder and ruminate the relevance and warnings which echo across our prosaic landscape as we wrestle to make sense of the tragic events which continue to unfold before our very eyes this holiday season. . .

“Is it possible or impossible to transmit the experience of those who have suffered to those who have yet to suffer? Can one part of humanity learn from the bitter experience of another or can it not? Is it possible or impossible to warn someone of danger?
How many witnesses have been sent to the West in the last sixty years? How may waves of immigrants? How many millions of persons? They are all here. You meet them every day. You know who they are: if not by their spiritual disorientation, their grief, their melancholy, then you can distinguish them by their accents or their external appearance. Coming from different countries, without consulting with one another, they have brought out exactly the same experience; They tell you exactly the same thing: they warn you of what is now taking place and of what has taken place in the past. But the proud skyscrapers stand on, jut into the sky, and say: It will never happen here. This will never come to us. It is not possible here.”

“In addition to the grave political situation in the world today, we are also witnessing the emergence of a crisis of unknown nature, one completely new, and entirely non-political. We are approaching a major turning point in world history, the the history of civilization. It has already been noted by specialists in various areas. I could compare it only with the turning from the Middle Ages to the modern era, a shift in our civilization. It is a juncture at which settled concepts suddenly become hazy, lose their precise contours, at which our familiar and commonly used words lose their meaning, become empty shells, and methods which have been reliable for many centuries no longer work. It’s the sort of turning point where the hierarchy of values which we have generated, and which we use to determine what is important to us and what causes our hearts to beat is starting to rock and may collapse.
These two crises, the political crisis of today’s world and the oncoming spiritual crisis, are occurring at the same time. It is our generation that will have to confront them. The leadership of your country, which is entering the third century of existence as a nation will perhaps have to bear a burden greater than ever before in American history. Your leaders will need profound intuition, spiritual foresight, high qualities of mind and soul. May God granted that in those times you will have at the helm personalities as great as those who rested your country . . .”

(excepts taken from a speech delivered in New York July 9, 1975, at a luncheon given by the AFL-CIO)