Nothing Further Beyond

What we are looking at is not the boyhood of free thought; it is the old age and ultimate dissolution of free thought. It is vain for bishops and pious bigwigs to discuss what dreadful things will happen if wild skepticism runs its course. It has run its course. It is vain for eloquent atheists to talk of the great truths that will be revealed if once we see free thought begin. We have seen it end. It has no more questions to ask; it has questioned itself. You cannot call up any wilder vision than a city in which men ask themselves in they have any selves. You cannot fancy a more skeptical world than that in which men doubt if there is a world…If any eager freethinker now hails philosophic freedom as the dawn, he is only like the man in Mark Twain who came out wrapped in blankets to see the sun rise and was just in time to see it set.

Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton, 1908

Lately, perhaps coinciding with the publication of my Dinosaur: A Dystopian Story, I have noticed an acceleration of sorts–not just in the world, whose tempo I fully expect to continue accelerating until it can accelerate no more–but in my own private world of acquaintances and friends. All of them seem to be asking me some variation on the following question. Why is it that, although you have never been happier than you are now, your cynicism concerning the future is so horrifically bleak?

The first phrase isn’t terribly interesting to dwell upon, but I will briefly address it. I believe I am happier than ever before firstly because my brain has finally stopped growing, and consequently I now know who I am and roughly who I will be. Secondly, because I have tackled roughly 10,000 hours of serious reading and writing and have at least begun to produce the kinds of literary materials that may justify my existence. Thirdly, that in materialistic terms I have found, and can now only reduce, the amount of “stuff” capable of making me feel sufficiently entertained (indeed, if I do have a longer life ahead of me than I currently anticipate, I will probably exit the world in a state much like that of Diogenes, the philosopher who threw away his cup when he saw a child drinking with cupped palms). And fourth, that either by persistence or mere maturity, my prayer and meditation practices have truly become my primary source of joy, to the extent that I feel like I could know happiness even in a jail cell so long as I occasionally had quiet.

Now for the future, and why I feel as though my personal fate does not intersect with it.

It seems to me that human nature does not change, only human circumstances. We in the First World have done a fine job of eradicating the environment we are adapted to–and with the spread of the internet, the difference between the First World and ‘other worlds’ will soon be negligible. This is, far more-so than the absence of any particular tradition (for tradition is the byproduct of fixed circumstances), the explanation of the current age’s psychological pandemics. Which pandemic is at the forefront of the collective consciousness changes day to day, but a few that immediately come to mind are mass shooters and other sorts of suicidal attack, transgenderism aka gender dysphoria, social isolation in particular of the quite young and quite old, and (somewhat related to the penultimate example) abortion and nursing homes. One might place postmodern philosophy (if it can even be categorized as one recognizable thing) over and above them all.

In each of these examples, the commonality is rather obvious: technology has begun to rule humanity more-so than humanity rules technology. The ape’s toys have made a toy of their ape. Without putting too fine a point on it (since there is no going back, no matter how persuasive the argument), none of these ailments exist in “the real world,” the environment we are adapted for; they are all in the same genus as obesity and vitamin D deficiency–unthinkable for 99.9% of our existence, and capable of being eradicated overnight by a sufficiently large solar flare. Our current lack of values and common sense is solely due to the fact that we can currently set aside all values and common sense without immediately dying as a result. Without the coddling of modern conveniences, we would be indistinguishable from our ancestors in the blink of an eye. “Progress” requires an armchair.

It is not for me to say what should have happened, only to deal with what has happened. Such is the atmospheric perspective from which I concluded that I can never have children, for a parent is a teacher of sorts, and I do not know how to teach a game with no rules. In my case this has proven fine. The writer is a greedy sort in regards to their time and mental energy; compound that with the fact that I am an even more anemic personality than the average writer, and it seems patently obvious that it would take divine intervention to render me a passable husband or father. Others of course cannot accept this fate–but there is nothing I can do for them except offer a brotherly hug.

Nonetheless, the permanent bachelor is still a social animal, unless he possesses a private island which houses a sustainable farm. So what is my concern, if not the absence of mate and offspring? My concern is that, like Lot sojourning in Sodom, I may soon find myself intruded upon in my own home, though I wish only to be left alone and to do the same for others. When Lot’s neighbors burst into his house and attempted to rape his guests, he rebuked them. Their indignant reply was the Bronze Age comparable to saying, “Oh, so you think you’re better than us, do you?” One suspects Lot could very easily have rejoined, “In this case? You’re damn right I do.”

There are two such instances already looming overhead, either or both of which seem effectively unavoidable within the next twenty years and perhaps within the next decade.

The first is (unbelievably, in that I already need say it), the acceptance of pedophilia as “just another sexual orientation.” No, God damn it, no. I will not–I cannot–stand by while we excuse the rape of children. I don’t know how we’ll do it or precisely when we’ll do it, but I am assured that some of us will try. I have seen the Slippery Slope, but no fallacy.

The second, which is better-known to the average Westerner in the guise of fictional dystopia, is a physical tyranny. What do I mean by physical tyranny; aren’t all tyrannies physical? Oh yes, but some more than others. There is a tyranny akin to asking a demon to dwell within one’s body like a vessel, thereafter to never be freed of it in waking or sleeping or by any second-guessing or outright rebellion. It is what the tech-savvy might currently call a “permanent biometric,” a cyborg-like implant or adornment to the body, for identification, record-keeping, accounting, and tracking/surveillance purposes. Today, in the COVID era, this would most likely emerge as the expedient and universal means for “vaccine passports” or medical certificates (the quandary of lost dogs: give them something they can’t lose). However, the foundation of Western Civilization predicted some 2000 years ago that the primary purpose of such a thing would be economic:

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Revelation 13:16-17

Either of these scenarios is an absolute dealbreaker for me, and ought to be for anyone who fancies themselves to be moral or traditional or classical or conservative or moderate or libertarian or–more generally–not of the Luciferian “Evil, Be Thou My Good” crowd. Indeed, this need not be said on paper, but it need be said off paper due to the fact that drawing such a line in the sand will prove utterly inconvenient if and when it is crossed. Those who are unwilling to be inconvenienced by their values do not have any values. History proves that many persons hold values in name only. Even the apostles deserted their savior when the rooster crowed.

But why, without absolute confirmation that these things will occur, would I dwell on them or in any sense plan my future around the expectation of their occurrence? Well–setting aside the deluge of books and links that I could assemble on either topic to prove, not only that they could occur, but that they are in the process of occurringI treat them as inevitable because, philosophically, they already are so. As my epigraph quote by Chesterton explores, we have already broached the intellectual or spiritual non plus ultra (“nothing further beyond”). The only evidence of a shred of decency left within the public psyche is that we still need to make excuses for our schemes. For that is the lion’s share of what our discourse has become–the invention of convenient explanations for why the unacceptable is actually acceptable when we and ours do it, but not our enemies. If you were to cull this from the daily deluge of cable TV brainwashing, you would be left with naught but middle-aged frat boys and sorority sisters staring mindless and mute at the camera lens through inches of makeup and botox.

If a religious precept rules the world today, it is not the Ten Commandments or the Five Pillars of Islam but the little-known refrain of Thelema: “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” Which Dostoevsky had rendered decades earlier (without endorsing the sentiment) as “all is permitted.” Strangely enough, Christianity and Islam anticipated this state of affairs (as did most every classical religion), predicting it would become so serious that the entire world would at its end fall into the hands of a devil-incarnate individual (“Antichrist,” “Dajjal,” etc). I recently saw a meme; it said “The man who most resembles Lucifer will most succeed in the world.” Doubtlessly the meme was intended to be figurative, but it is rather interesting that the corpus of prophetic texts takes this literally.

Freud, Darwin, and Marx are often treated as “the usual suspects” for this state of affairs, but I find this inaccurate. Freud, though kickstarting a layman interest in psychology and the financial plenty of the modern counselor, is at most an accessory to the other two. Darwin was a good Christian who thought the Creator made changes to His creation incrementally rather than all-at-once, a not-too-difficult proposition for those who know that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Marx represents the main rarity among the group, perhaps the first total materialist since ancient Lucretius, who, believing in a vicious Darwinian (-ian being different from Darwin himself) universe, somehow still managed to be surprised that the same vicious rules apply to human economics. “Game theory” had yet to be popularized.

No, if I had to assemble the usual suspects it would be Nietzsche, Foucault and Derrida, the secular trinity of Western liberal arts. Nietzsche is the adult in the room–the other two tug at his sleeve from time to time. The apex of his thought was that, in a godless universe, mankind should invent its own meanings rather than waiting in vain for them to be given or discovered. He clarified: “there are no facts, only interpretations.” Nietzsche is famously witty and smug and difficult to translate, so the extent to which he meant these quips literally is always up for debate. Suffice it to say that Hitler, whom he accidentally inspired, and postmodern academics, whom he inspired with an unknown degree of intent, opted to take him literally. Nietzsche filled the kiddie pool with “the truth is that there is no Truth”; Foucault and Derrida swan-dived to its very bottom. The personality of Derrida escapes me, in that he fails to make much of an impression; chiefly he seems to have dedicated his life to using language to argue that all language is viciously manipulative yet simultaneously meaningless (yet he himself was neither manipulative nor meaningless?). Foucault, on the other hand, is blatant: a very clever being with some very ugly proclivities who was in need of sufficient excuses. Foucault has recently been outed as a pedophile who preyed upon the especially impoverished, but long before this was well-known, he stated that it was an honor to die from STDs “for the love of boys” (paraphrase, as I don’t feel like dignifying him with an exact quotation).

Nietzsche’s last written sentence before he went mad (recently his madness has instead been attributed to an STD), was “Dionysus, or The Crucified.” In Nietzsche’s symbolism, Dionysus is the most significant god of the Greek pantheon, and the one most related in personality to the Biblical Lucifer. With a slight squint, as the pen ink rips down the page like a gouging knife, it appears as though Nietzsche went mad at the realization that he had spent his whole life trying to escape Jesus and Satan, only to come full circle. It is also notable that he did not wish for the book he was working on at the time, The Will to Power, to be published. It was, and its title has provided postmodernism with its ultimate credo: in the absence of objective Truth, there is only the will to power–might makes right, etc.

Lately, the older liberals (meaning over the age of 30) who I discuss postmodernism with seem to have quietly disavowed these Priests of Nothingness. Yet, when I place the capstone upon the argument–the very conclusion Nietzsche came back around to–they recoil. There are many ways to put it, but the plainest might be: there is no goodness without objectivity. This is revolting to them, because it immediately brings to mind the inquisitors’ cry, that there is no such thing as a good atheist because all goodness comes from God. My proposition of course is not so hamfisted, for I know the latter to be untrue–I have seen atheists exercise greater kindness than their religious peers. I believe they misunderstand me precisely because they dwell in a conceptual universe wherein man is defacto the highest authority–that is their non plus ultra.

My position is that there is no goodness without objectivity, and God is the sole standard by which anything is rendered objective. In other words, belief in God is not the litmus test of goodness; goodness is the litmus test of belief in God. “We shall know them by their fruits.” I will take the kind atheist over the unkind believer, for “faith without action is dead,” but action without faith may be but an understated sort of faith.

Nonetheless, words matter, and exceptions do not invalidate the rule. Some individuals may manage to reach God’s objective good without knowing it is objective or godly, but civilizations rarely, if ever, do. This is simply the law of averages; everything trends towards the bell curve of mediocrity. If one wants to hit an acceptable target they must aim high; postmodernism effectively states that there is nowhere to aim. In its most recent and most deranged nuance, it is even “wrong” (a meaningless, arbitrary term by their own definition) to ask anyone to aim high, due to the fact that we are all metaphysically equal but physically unequal. In other words, any sort of standard is “bad” because some individuals will inevitably attain it easier than others. Such is the short-circuiting of compassion, the Too-Much-of-a-Good-Thing, which Chesterton and Rene Girard both rendered as “Christian values without Christ.” Nietzsche loathed pity and exulted excellence, so perhaps this is where he, like Darwin and Marx, would consider his current cultists to be a bridge too far.

Speaking of bridges, I fear I may have burned one recently, when I wrote the following to a very intelligent atheist friend.

Such is my conception of the believing man: not the one who dogmatically ascertains what awaits him, or fanatically detests what currently envelopes him, but finds his transcendent principles indispensable to his own conscience even if they lack reward here-or-there. Such is the tender little scrap that I have to offer this great maw of a subject. I love and want to be one of the ones that aspires without guarantee of attainment. Or whose decisions are informed as though they are stewarding a precious soul, however nondescript that word may be. I feel no dread of nothingness nor particular yearning for Heaven. I have always thought that if Eternity has any truck with individual human beings, then we are already in it now and probably were in it before birth—such seems the definition of the word to me…It may well be that if God wants your belief He will either have to prove Himself to you, or alter your definition of what constitutes proof. For my own part, I can confess that while I enjoy our correspondences, and writing about such topics in tales such as Wastrel and Dinosaur, in my private life I have tried my very hardest to let all of these words, all of these semantic snares and history-long arguments, go. On the days when I manage to do so, I occasionally experience a perfect peace, without exaggeration, which in my estimation of this universe is itself a miracle. Perhaps like you, with the having of ‘tendencies’ rather than overt allegiances, I have made great progress in the last few years to allow myself to trust the few fundamental matters of conscience and intuition that I harbor alone, since the opinions and strategies of others have only ever cast me into doubt and dread. The one person whose words have never led me wrong is Jesus Christ—be it due to illusion, bias, or something more. To put it as frankly as decency allows, I no longer care to be Correct—for, indeed, if we are incapable of Objectivity, then there is no such thing. All is unfixed opinion, flavors of the month, manipulations of the masses, etc. Like [my character] Peter, I am no longer at all afraid of being the last foolish, naïve ape on the space rock. Indeed I relish it, so long as being so lets me experience this peace that surpasses understanding, for I see it and find it nowhere else.

an email

I haven’t heard from this person since. I suspect the taboo sentiment herein is the utter devaluation of human intellectualism (at least philosophically) in the absence of God. And yet, sticking to the dictionary definition of words and my best comprehension of reality, that which lacks objectivity is subjective, that which is subjective is arbitrary, and that which is arbitrary is naught but monkey noises. If this is truly the state of affairs in the search for truth, then the search for truth is indeed a red herring and a waste of time. One would be better suited to take up science or drug addiction, ala Rick Sanchez.

Meanwhile, my discussions with younger leftists go roughly as follows (verbatim):

C: Epistemology is how we know what we know. Saying Objectivity aka Truth does not exist is tantamount to saying we don’t really know anything but our own asinine opinions…Basic shared truths be it 2+2=4 or “murder is wrong and should be punished” are foundational to society. Without them, given a few decades, you don’t have a society.

Anon: None of what you say is true or backed up by evidence, it’s entirely conjecture, there is no such thing as objective truth, social norms are important but the idea that they’re actually real is complete nonsense, the only reason people believed dumb shit like that in the first place is because people believed god existed.

C: “None of what you say is true.” “There is no such thing as objective truth.” Pick one.

Anon: both of those things can be right, I don’t have to pick one

C: Considering there is no objective foundation to prove/disprove anything, I will accept your Lebowskian proposition. We are just two apes with two differing opinions, everything is Will to Power, guess it just comes down to who’s stronger.

Anon: yep

C: (If we weren’t friends and this wasn’t the internet, this is when the weapons come out and the society kills itself, kiddos)

Anon: well the entire foundation of society is based on lies so people realizing that and society falling apart is par for the course

Quite the round trip.

I asked another, whom is supposedly advanced in mathematics, whether math or the laws of math are discoverable elsewhere in the universe? In other words, if another species somewhere else were to become as or more intelligent than we are, wouldn’t they draw some of the same conclusions about the mathematical logic under-girding physical reality? Answer: “No, math is axiomatic, not discoverable.”

Axiomatic: self-evident or unquestionable.

Oxford Languages

I’m giving that person the benefit of the doubt and assuming they knew I don’t expect for an alien race to “discover” the Arabic numerals or even base-ten.

I wouldn’t waste time thinking about these youngsters if they acted as defeatist as their philosophical positions inherently are. However, they have ditched God without ditching zealotry. Such youthful postmodernists are perhaps the most resentful beings who have ever lived, even though they are all products of the most prosperous time and places in history. This actually makes quite a lot of sense. If you are sold on the idea that “Reality is whatever we say it is,” only to then find aspects of Reality not to your liking, you would not be amiss to attempt to force the world into your image, rather than the mature zen of “accepting what we cannot change.” When these are the primary politicians and voters, I suspect we will witness a new guise of The Will to Power that might make even Stalin blanch.

Finally, I have reason to suspect my dealbreakers (and many, many others) will be broached sooner rather than later due to what the atheist would call intuition and what the believer would call mysticism. In short, I have since circa 2012 been visited by dreams and answers to prayers which have told me so. This is of course of little interest to the skeptic, except to add that several of these eccentric and quite detailed predictions have already come true. Indeed, only a very few remain. This moves us into the realm where you must conclude I am lying to you in order to entirely disregard these ‘hunches’–your call. I will share a few.

I had a dream that The Temple Institute–a creepy synthesis of American evangelicals and Israeli Zionists who wish to rebuild the Third Temple and recommence the Abrahamic sacrifices–would soon receive the perfect red heifer which they need in order to consecrate the new temple. Months later, they announced their perfect specimen had been born.

I had a dream that I was at a big public event, a sports stadium by the looks of it. The crowd in front of me turned around, stared, pointed, and asked “What are you doing here?” They gestured as though I was lacking something that would allow me to blend in with them and deserve to be there. Just then, the most terrible voice I have ever heard, a synthesis of beast and man, began to talk from the center of the stadium. They all turned away from me to look at the speaker with adoration. As I turned around to leave, repulsed by the speaker and its sycophantic crowd, the hallway exit was pitch black, and a glowing hand was holding itself out to me. Its palm had a great nail-hole in it. I knew I could not stay, but that to take the hand was to die. Later, I happened across a Youtube comment where a stranger had had the same exact dream. Only 1/3rd of this has come true, so far.

Something else that may be of use…I got something very powerful about a new form of social media that involves directly sharing dreams and feelings through a brain interface, where we now only share analog images and opinions. This is, apparently, to be one last indicator before things go ultimately awry. Its tagline or general gist is “Language of Love.”

Finally, without doubling the length of this already considerable verbosity, I take for a sign of the times the considerable failure of formal religion in the First World–not even on the grounds that it has lost traction to convert new souls or influence culture, but that it has rotted from within. I have examined this phenomenon formally in an essay called “Warhol and the Impersonation of Christ” (available under Deus Non Machina in my Publications page). But informally, I would take for my most recent example a certain camp here in the U.S. that has long been known to be a place where Southern Evangelical “elites” send their children. I know these people quite well–indeed it’s surprising I never attended the camp. Needless to say, some of the camp leadership have been abusing their wards in myriad ways. But that isn’t the most shocking part. No, the most shocking part is how many parents knew and either chose to stay silent, or actually TOOK BRIBES in order to stay silent. These Christians’ kids were raped at a Christian camp, and they said “please and thank you” afterwards. And while such horrific irony comes as no surprise to the nonbeliever, anyone who even harbors the faintest hope that The Church is in sync with The Holy Spirit has no choice but to despair. Thankfully, these almost incomprehensible degenerates do not at all represent the global Church–but the fact that they are even adjacent to it is sickening. (Speaking of mysticism, once while immersed among such people, teenage me prayed to the effect that I sensed something very wrong, and couldn’t understand how such evil could be palpable among the Church. The reply I heard, to my horror at the time, was “I do not know them; depart.”)

So, dear friends, you may conclude the End Times cannot be near, for no apocalyptic catastrophes are befalling us. I maintain the essential apocalyptic catastrophes of the End Times have already befallen us. And even if I am wrong, the only alternative–courtesy of Bill Gates, Ray Kurzweil, and the friends of Jeffrey Epstein writ large–is to effectively become The Borg and export our bullshit across the galaxy. No thanks!

First Story of 2021 Now Available!

C.S. Lewis once said “I was with book, as woman is with child,” and writing this story has helped me understand his sentiment. While I have certainly experienced an urgency to churn out a final draft before, this project was accompanied by what I can only describe as mortal dread. There was no logical reason to ask such a morbid question, but ask it I did: will I live to finish it–and what if I don’t?! This was also the first time that I was truly able to confess to a confidant, “My characters are saying things I didn’t expect them to say.” I have heard other, better authors describe a similar mid-draft realization that they are no longer in control…Let us hope it portends the same for me.

I hope–and frankly expect–never to experience such literary dread again, because, while I undoubtedly have much room to grow in terms of writing purely entertaining stories, this is likely the most meaningful story that I can muster. On the surface, it is about a near-future, wherein a One-World Leader visits the last person alive who dares to oppose her. But, much like an iceberg, its heaviest mass lies below, in the barbs these mortal enemies trade and the ramifications of their divergent beliefs. I have often thought that fiction writers are merely philosophers who are afraid to be boring, and this piece at least proves it in my case.

I am also pleased to offer two forwards, one by the ambitious sci-fi project VivaEllipsis.com, and the other by my dear friend Professor Hoheisel. I should also add that this work–like most valuable things on Earth–was forged somewhat in tragedy. The person to whom it is dedicated, an esteemed Doctor both of medicine and of philosophy, passed away shortly after reading it. It was he who told me I was capable of, and ought to tackle these subjects, and so I did. Indeed, the last communication I ever had with him was to the effect that he was pleased by the dedication, and looked forward to discussing it in depth. I hope to hold him to that, one day.

The Last-Century Church

I. What Matter of Man Is This?

Consider Socrates. We know of his existence 2nd and 3rd hand, because he did not write down his own teachings. We can feel confident that he existed, because various independent sources confirmed him even though they disagree in other respects. But we cannot, for example, but sure that Plato’s Apology, which is written as though it is an exact reproduction of Socrates’ words, is actually a word-for-word quotation. Yet, few philosophers or historians are bothered by this uncertainty, because the gift which Socrates left us–the Socratic method–retains its power regardless of how accurately we know the man himself. Indeed, the Socratic method would remain just as relevant even if the man known as Socrates were revealed to be a fictional character.

The same is patently untrue of Jesus Christ. The relevance of Christianity depends upon Christ’s historical reality. ‘If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain,’ (1 Corinthians 15:14) summarized Paul. Jesus’ resurrection–history’s one and only instance of death itself being defeated–is the proof of his teachings. Without the resurrection, Jesus would at best be rendered a mere Buddha-lite on the philosophical scale, since he would have claimed the power to defeat sin and the wages of sin (death) for us vicariously without actually demonstrating that ability. C.S. Lewis rendered this matter definitively in Mere Christianity:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Thus ‘belief in Christ’ is inextricable from belief in the historical reality of his resurrection. Anything else puts one in the category of Thomas Jefferson–taking a razor to the Bible to excise the miraculous passages, leaving only some tatters of ethical advice that, frankly, can be got from other, earlier sources.

I mention all of this to pose the following question. Why, if the historicity of Christ’s resurrection is crucial, do today’s theologians neglect to consider his historicity in general? By ‘in general’ I mean this. There was something about Jesus that struck a chord with many of the pagan Romans that he encountered. First, a centurion at Capernaum (Matthew 8) asked for his servant to be healed, and the way he asked it was with such decorum that Jesus ‘marveled’ that his was a greater faith than he had seen in all of Israel. Then, Pontius Pilate interviewed Christ and thereafter declined to have him executed, even though ego, peer pressure, and mere convenience said to do otherwise. Finally, a centurion at the site of the crucifixion (likely someone who had seen many a Jew hung upon a cross) was overheard to say ‘Truly this Man was the Son of God!’ I would like to pose that very few Christians today, especially in the developed world, and especially again in the United States, could even attempt to provide a historical explanation for this phenomenon, because Jesus is so rarely considered in a general, historical context by pastors or the endless churn of modern Biblical commentary books.

Here is how I would briefly attempt to answer the question. The vast majority of pre-Christian and/or non-Christian classical literature is tragic in nature and genre. Be it Mesopotamia’s Marduk and Gilgamesh, Egypt’s Isis-Osiris-Horus-Set, Greece’s Zeus and Heracles and Achilles, Hinduism’s Arjuna and Krishna, India & China & Japan’s buddhas, etc., all of them basically have the same formula (even more basic than Joseph Campbell’s summary).

  • The world is extremely hostile and painful.
  • Only a rare few (heroes) can excel in such an environment.
  • Even those rare few lose everything in the end.

To take this a step further–these stories are a summary or starting point for the philosophy of the ‘Mystery Schools,’ or the inner workings of the ancient religions themselves. This could perhaps be cursorily re-rendered as:

  • Accept the hostility, pain, and transience of the world.
  • Become a hero (aka, the exception to mediocrity/normalcy).
  • Those who do so reap a reward for doing so outside of the world/after death.

The latter step is often lampooned by atheism as both unprovable and immoral, since to the untrained ear it sounds as though one is being told: ‘be moral in return for cash and prizes.’ However, anyone who studies the Mystery Schools for long, and in particular the people they were known to produce, comes to suspect that this cause and effect are inseparable. In other words, there is no room here for disingenuously doing good, because the ‘reward’ for doing this good involves, or is primarily about, becoming good. Summarized in a phrase, the reward sought by the Mystery School is a ‘spiritual evolution.’

From this one can determine that most every culture before a certain date thought:

  • The world is inherently tragic
  • And there is something very wrong with us that needs to be fixed/improved.

(Those fringe groups that disagreed with these points and instead, looking at man’s existential situation, concluded ‘I see nothing wrong here,’ were considered devil-worshippers and deviants.)

Their solution to the world’s tragedy and man’s flaws?

  • Try very hard to fix yourself.

This was, to say the least, found wanting, although the Mystery Schools and their broader religions saw no present alternative. Thus even Judaism’s King Solomon–blessed (?) by God to be the Wisest Man in the World–penned Ecclesiastes, perhaps the most depressing book in the world, whose recurring refrain is:

Everything is meaningless!

Now consider the three Magi whom followed the Star of Bethlehem and (eventually) found the young Jesus. They were, though lesser than Solomon, arguably in the same philosophical boat. They had trained all of their lives to transcend the tragedy of existence and attain the awaited ‘spiritual evolution.’ Yet one strongly suspects that none of them felt they had actually succeeded in doing so. Then one day, the stars told them something that had never been told before. How to render what they ‘read’ in the sky likely requires a better mastery of astrology and Zoroastrianism than I have, but I imagine it was roughly this:

  • An exception to the tragedy of the world, and the imperfection of men, has arrived.

And this, I would argue, is precisely Christ’s general historicity. He is The Exception in Mankind’s Story. Note: Mankind’s Story is accurate, and he is an Exception to it. An exception does not invalidate a rule, unless the rule states that it cannot be excepted. Indeed, if Christ were not the Exception to a verifiable status quo, he would not be significant. To recognize The Savior is to recognize that the world needs saving.

To be fair, current Christian theology often skirts this theme with the idea of Faith versus Works salvation, and it is possible that some pastors take care to note that every spiritual-religious tactic before Jesus Christ was Works-based. But on the whole, I feel that the developed/American church has so frail of a grasp upon the classical world (both the world before and during Christ’s lifetime) that this fine point is rather easy to miss. And my evidence for this missed point is unfortunately far more than mere conjecture.

II. Who Do We Think We Are?

The legacy of Christ’s disciples and the 1st century church is of faith during persecution. Of Christ’s 12 disciples, only one did not die tragically as a direct result of association with him: John, the author of Revelation (we’ll get back to him). Other, regular believers met their end at the Roman coliseum in its now unimaginably gory games. The three Apostolic Fathers, men who were ordained by Christ’s apostles to great effect, were:

  • Polycarp…burned at the stake
  • Clement I…drowned at sea
  • Ignatius of Antioch…fed to lions

This legacy continues unabated to this day in the undeveloped and developing worlds. Christ predicted numerous times that this would be the case, even summarizing his call to salvation fatally as “Pick up your cross and follow me.” So, if anything were capable of surprising Christ about his own church, it would arguably be that some portion of it would enjoy a period in the absence of persecution.

If the world is tragic, and man is imperfect, and Christ is The Exception to the status quo of mankind’s world, then it stands to reason that Christ’s followers will be persecuted as an aberration. One might even say that a Christian’s mundane existence ought to be more tragic than that of nonbelievers, in the same way that a Christian’s transcendent existence is far richer, since they have already been granted the ‘spiritual evolution’ through faith in Christ rather than paganism’s works.

Thus, a lack of persecution is actually a troubling sign. It signals that a portion of the Church has come back into alignment with the world to the extent that the world no longer finds it overtly abhorrent. This concern reaches a fever pitch when we consider that the Bible calls Satan ‘the god of this world’ (2 Corinthians 4:4) and does not appear to contradict the validity of this offer (Matthew 4):

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Yet, American Christianity has become downright notorious for:

  • its insulation from persecution
  • the great expense of its campuses (indeed, the conflation of physical buildings with the metaphysical Church)
  • the hefty salaries of its staff, sometimes comparable to or exceeding the private sector
  • cramming donuts and coffee down one’s throat before worshipping, then rushing out to lunch after worshipping
  • Irreverence during worship such as gossiping with fellow believers
  • Displays of monetary or sexual status upon the guise of ‘dressing up for church’
  • Nationalism (flags upon the dais as though God is on America’s side, rather than the other way around)
  • selective legalism, wherein homosexuality is wrong but divorce is fine, etc
  • the extremity of the ‘Health & Weath’ gospel, as though our homeless carpenter-messiah wants you to have two vacation homes and a luxury sedan
  • the insidious subtlety of ‘Optimism with a side of Jesus’ theology, wherein believers are taught to always look on the temporal bright side…while living in the world ruled by Satan

Thus I am forced to conclude that the American church has perfected the art of having Too Much of a Good Thing. We have managed to reduce the sacredness of John 3:16 to a trite meme, wherein–because we have “fire insurance”–everything is rendered fine and dandy, and we’re free to frolic like puppies through fields of wheat and StAcK tHaT cAsH mOnEy. We then have the audacity to wonder why young Americans are no longer interested in going to church. It’s because our churches aren’t particularly different from anywhere else in the country–excepting that their entertainment factor isn’t really up to snuff, and the wifi’s a bit slower.

This leads me to ponder what would happen if the Mark of the Beast came on the scene tomorrow. The excuses for taking it are obviously going to be colossal. If none may buy or sell without it, then refusing it will initially result in becoming socially marooned, with the tools and calories at one’s immediate disposal constituting one’s only options. For Americans, this will likely be the first time they’ve experienced such a thing. In this existential paralysis, the fear of death will onset. Suddenly people who suspect to varying degrees that God wants them to be happy here on earth will realize that their faith is about to get them killed. Not just they but their family members may starve or be murdered if they do not take it. All of their neighbors are taking it. Everyone on social media is taking it. Some of their church friends are taking it. Maybe even their pastor is telling them to take it. The Rapture hasn’t happened yet, so this can’t be It? God wants the best for you–‘plans to prosper and not to harm’? Etc.

Of course, some theologians attempt to write off John’s eschatological prophecies as symbolic of his own time…but that does nothing to eliminate all of the other Biblical portions, including the Red Letters themselves (Matthew 24), that deal with the massive persecution of believers during the End Times. To say that the American church is in danger of getting caught with its pants down (‘like a thief in the night’) seems an audacious understatement. In fact–how many American Christians even know Revelation well enough to recognize its signs if they were to occur? How many pastors have been crystal-clear that:

  • An Antichrist will take Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and declare himself to be God
  • He will compel all to take his ‘Mark of the Beast’
  • Those who do not take it will die or be killed as a consequence
  • Jesus has not returned unless it is in the heavens with an angel-army and reality-rending terror upon earth (anything else is an impersonation)

…much less the other relevant details of John’s visions?

Brothers, sisters…The entire world was just ‘shut down’ for the first time in history. ‘Smart tattoos‘ or ‘drawn-on-skin technology‘ are about to be the new Must Have accessory. There is talk that a gene-editing (mRNA) C*VID19 vaccine should be a mark so as to easily attest to immunity. Microsoft has patented ‘060606‘ for cryptocurrency payments based on body activity.  Elon Musk thinks we have just five years until Artificial Intelligence begins warping reality beyond human control. His solution is Neuralink–inserting a chip into the brain to become symbiotic with A.I. None of these things definitively spell ‘Mark of the Beast’ yet, but they sure do rhyme. I recommend making your decision now before necessity forces it upon you. It is not unreasonable to plan for the eventuality that you are the Last-Century Church.

If you are not a believer and instinctively recognize what is being said here, please follow these tried and true instructions (Romans 10), then share them with those who will listen:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.