Sunday, February 15, 2009

Spiritual Warfare, Part III: Choosing Your Weapons

(Okay, so it looks as if I'm destined to update this poor blog about once every week; so be it! Sorry for the delay!)

This topic can be rather touchy... so I apologize in advance if I ruffle some feathers; take it as my insight, based on what I know of the subject (which may legitimately be debated), and see what you think.

So far, we've discussed two key steps in spiritual warfare: get your own house in order (i.e. grow in holiness, and detach yourself from sin), and establish reliable supply lines (i.e. access as many channels of God's grace as you can, by means of prayer, fasting, spiritual reading, etc.). The next one is, if possible, more critical--since a bad choice in this regard can not only destroy the good done in the first two steps, but it can lead you to do immeasurable damage to *our* side of the war:


Let me be very clear about what this means.

Satan uses weapons that are evil in some way--either intrinsically evil weapons (i.e. evil by their very nature), or else neutral or (even) good weapons put to a perverse task (I'll give examples, below). Those who choose to fight Satan (which includes all Christians, and all who wish to avoid eternal damnation!) cannot do so. Here are a few examples:

1) Violence is any action (or possibly omission of a required act) which causes damage to something or someone else; and it is only allowed under very strict circumstances (e.g. defense of self or others, etc.) which resemble those by which war may justly be waged, and the conditions by which an evil (in general) may be tolerated (see my post about double-effect). We can't, for example, fight abortion by taking a high-powered rifle and blowing the head off of an abortionist--since willing the death of a person (even a murderer) is always evil. We can chain ourselves to the door of the abortion mill; we can trespass in order to give the next Terri Schiavo a drink of water. But we cannot choose evil, no matter what the potential "payoff".

2) Hatred is a free choice to will evil on another; and hatred is NEVER morally permissible against another human being. In fact, the only permissible "target" for hatred is evil/sin itself (and perhaps the fallen angels--though that's dangerous ground). If we pick up hatred as a weapon against an enemy (save for evil itself), it will eventually turn on us.

3) Denigration is the practice of exposing an enemy to such criticism and/or ridicule as to degrade his reputation and worth in the eyes of others. While direct (and even severe) criticism--and even sharp irony--can possibly be used against an *argument*, they are not properly used against other persons.

I don't mean to say that we won't slip up, on occasion--lose our tempers when sorely provoked (internet trolls are sometimes rather good at such provocation!), and such--but that can't be the norm, and we can't settle for that, and we really do need to turn away from such things as soon as possible.

I also don't mean to say that ironic or strident criticism of an opponent's argument--or even an opponent's present character--is always wrong; even Christ seemed to use it, as a rhetorical device to shake his opponents out of their complacency (cf. virtually all of Matthew, Chapter 23). But I do mean to say that such tools are specialized, and are not easily used properly; we who are sinners can so easily confuse the sinner for the sin (or for the state of the sinner's soul)... especially if their sin resembles the sin that most attracts and tempts us! Christ Our Lord could use those specialized weapons with perfect accuracy; we are usually not nearly so skilled... and it is only through true charity--selfless love for our enemy, and a soul-deep desire to see them freed from the bondage of error and sin--that God can empower us to use such weapons on the occasions where they are truly necessary.

God bless us as we seek to fight by His side!

[Updated note: sorry about the temporary lack of formatting; I'm working through a bug with Firefox that doesn't like Blogger's editor, for some reason...]