In America today, the bewildering “what I want” faction topples statues, rewrites history, decolonizes curricula, detaches identities from ontological realities, indoctrinates our youth, and tries to impose its utopian totalitarianism. What we see unfolding in the world and in our country is war. It is the war that began for us when a woman listened to a snake which convinced her that what she wanted was more important than what is.

Let us make no mistake. What is happening the world over is war, a war of what I want versus what is, of utopian flights of fancy versus reality, of power versus wisdom, of lies versus the truth, a war of willful blindness versus the real acceptance of what we are with our limits and our responsibilities, a war of resentment versus gratitude, of rage versus humility, of control versus joy.

It is not a new war. This war has raged since Lucifer’s resounding “No!” We, we human beings that is, entered it at the dawn of our existence. Our progenitors made it ours when they chose the what I want (to be God) over what is (God himself, His creation, His providence), when they chose power (attempting to be the sole determiners of their own destinies) over wisdom (realizing that one cannot be the sole master of what he cannot control, the standard of what he has not created), when they chose to believe lies (“you will not die”) over believing the truth (“you shall not eat of the fruit… lest you die”), when they chose control over joy.

The war was woven into the fabric of human relations, of human families, of human society, of human history when Cain chose willful blindness—telling himself that God’s refusal of his offering was in no way his own fault—over the real acceptance of his own responsibility for God’s refusal—admitting to himself that he should, perhaps, have offered God the first and best fruits of his harvest, as Abel had done of his flock. Cain chose resentment—nursing a grudge against his brother, against the rectitude of his brother’s offering, against Abel’s bowing to what is—over gratitude—for the beauty of Abel’s example, for getting another chance, for his harvest, for his very existence. Cain murdered Abel rather than learn from him: destroyed the image of meekness, rather than bend to a true standard. He chose rage over humility. And to top it off, rather than accepting responsibility for his actions, he chose willful blindness—pretending that God did not know (and should not care about) what he had done—and to lie about what he had done. When God asked, “Where is Abel, your brother,” Cain responded: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” suggesting both that he only minded what he could control, and that whatever he had done to his brother was none of God’s concern.

The war in its pure form has always there to be seen, even in the best of times, for those who humbly examine their own actions, intentions, priorities, foundations: for those who seek and love the truth. We all have to battle the internal “No!” that has been bred into us: our secret desire to control reality rather than rejoice in it, to forge our relations to each other on our own terms rather than on those that have been written in our natures; our hidden conviction that we ourselves are the standards of reality, that we are God himself, or at least ought to be, that what we do should be none of God’s concern. Our internal battle always erupts into external violence of some sort or another. Like Cain, we lash out at others when we lose a battle in our inner war.

In the worst of times, the war erupts into a specific kind of violence so that all can see it in its naked ugliness: as the attempt to cancel God from our lives and our world, to replace God, to make ourselves masters of the real. It erupted into this sort of violence in Israel when Jezebel was queen and did everything in her power to impose her what I want upon Israel and God: destroying altars, having hundreds of Israel’s prophets killed, lying, falsely accusing Naboth of blaspheming, and having him stoned. It erupted into this sort of violence when the Robespierre’s National Convention formed and sent the Colonnes Infernales (Infernal Columns) to butcher man, woman, and child in the Vendée for daring to defend Dieu et le Roi—God and the King. It erupted in this sort of violence when the Ottoman Turks decided to make a clean sweep of the Christians in Anatolia and Armenia, when Lenin grabbed power and when Hitler did, when Stalin was in power, and Mao.

In all of these eruptions, the secret “No!” against which each of us must battle became public policy, took on a public face, and those who embodied it tried to stamp out the what is, the real, and fashion it into their own images and likenesses. In all of these eruptions, the people who lived under the power of the public “No!” were given the choice of being banished to a grim Godless and lawless utopian fantasy that crushed individuals (because individuals are, after all, what is), or the choice of bending to the real and risking death, torture, and all sorts of lovely things.

The world is now witnessing a violent eruption of the war, and on a global scale. In the Far East, China is aggressively persecuting people of faith, those who would live by what is, rather than being crushed by others’ what I want. The Laogais are apparently packed with them, and new ones are being built. Africa is ridden with extremists attacking Christians. In the Caucasus, the would-be Caliph, Erdogan, is pounding Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) through his proxy Aliyev, and shouting that he will finish off the job begun by his forebears: exterminating the “leftovers of the sword” (the descendants of the survivors of the 1915 Genocide, the Christian Armenians in their ancestral homeland) and molding the land and history in the image and likeness of his what I want. In Europe, the remains of Christendom is riddled with anti-Christian and anti-Semitic violence and heads of state who seem to prefer pursuing some utopian notion of peace over acknowledging (and taking responsibility for) the crippling reality that their population is declining and their world diminishing: that they have no children, no plan, no constitution, nothing real to stand for. In our own Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, the bewildering what I want faction topples statues, rewrites history, decolonizes curricula, detaches identities from ontological realities, demands that it be given the power to determine who can and cannot be born, insists that the obvious fact that abortion is murder—the intentional taking of innocent human life—be denied, indoctrinates our youth, and does everything in its power to impose its utopian totalitarianism upon all of us: to make itself master of the real.

Let us make no mistake. What we see unfolding in the world and in our country is war. It is the war: the war that began for us when a woman listened to a snake, that convinced her that what she wanted was more important than what is.

This war cannot be won overnight. We must, to be sure, pray for Africa, China, and Europe, and especially for their brave what is factions who are being quietly strangled. We must hope and pray that the Armenians continue to hold the front and that political leaders finally come to their side and address the injustice that has been piled upon them for over a century. We must hope and must pray that those who would rewrite our history and destroy the foundations of our country—mimicking what happened to the Armenians themselves—be soundly defeated at the elections. We must all play our parts in that. Every victory, however small, of the what is folks over the what I want legion signals hope for us all.

But let us make no mistake. Even if, Deo favente, the Armenians win, and the nuclear family killers, the brain washers, the what I want faction in our own nation are vanquished in the elections, we still will not have won the war. We will not even have come close to winning this particular battle in the war.

Our nation’s battle—like Europe’s—is not one that can be won by crushing an adversary, by defeating those midget Nietzsches who defend trying people for a claim of sexual assault whose only evidence is “indelible in the hippocampus” of the accuser, for none to see. It is not a battle that will be won by trouncing those diminutive Sartres who would countenance gutting real human identities, real human uniqueness, real human togetherness in the name of some specious (and diabolical) notion of freedom: the power “by oneself to determine oneself to wish,” or, to phrase it as another person famously did, “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

Our nation’s real battle is taking place in the individual minds and wills of each and every one of us. We are, each of us, fighting the war. Publicly trouncing the Protagorases, the Marxes, the Nieztsches, the Sartres, the legion of liars does not help people see what they must in order to win the real war raging within themselves.

When the serpent slithered into the garden, intent on bringing the war to mankind, it did not do so with a roar, with a sword, brandishing fire. It did not frighten Adam and Eve into submission by showing its power. It did not place its army on an open battlefield. The serpent seduced Eve in the quiet of her own mind: “you will be like God,” it whispered. It insinuated that God was a liar, that He was frightened by the possibility of Eve’s becoming as powerful as He:

for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

And Eve let her mind be seduced by the image of herself as someone powerful, someone frightening, someone who was entitled to being God: a woman of consequence. It was then that she began to see the fruit of the tree not for what it was—who really wants to know evil?—but as the serpent wanted her to: as the what I want divorced from what is. Eve made herself willfully blind and plunged:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.

So too was it for Adam, who was lured by Eve into the same interior battle, and like her lost. Like the serpent, Eve had conveniently hidden the real consequences (the what is) of “the knowledge of evil”—of the “No!”—from him: that it had snuffed out her innocent gratitude and pure joy, and made those who could still feel them loathsome to her.

When God spoke to the enraged Cain, whose offering He did not accept, He warned him of the insidious battle that was taking place within him, the same battle that his mother and father had lost. Look at what is, He said, at the reality of your own actions and the real standards. If you are not true to what is, if you make your what I want antithetical to what is, you will succumb to the seducer, “whose desire is for you” and who “is crouching at the door.” Look within yourself, He said, where the battle which you, and you alone can win, is taking place:

Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.

Cain did not heed God’s voice. He did not master sin: the serpent whose prey he was. He destroyed the image of what is righteous: his brother.

If we do what Cain should have done, we will all see the war simmering within us. The serpent’s “desire” is for each of us. It is “crouching at” our own doors. We are the prey. It is each of us in the quiet of our own minds and hearts who must “master it.”

It is on the war’s real battlefield that we in our beloved nation are weak today. We would not be surrounded by the unintelligible garbage that fills our books, our newspapers, our airwaves, were the differences between what I want and what is not as blurred as they have become in the minds of too many of those who write, who speak, who report, today. Utopian flights of fancy would shine as clearly vacuous as they inherently are for many to see, had minds not become so unaccustomed to what is. Resentment, rage, willful blindness would not fill the air that we breathe, were love of truth and innocent gratitude easy for us.

Just how weak we are on the real battlefield can be seen in who is being violent and what he is targeting. The who is our youth. The targets are the statues of those who did understand the difference between what I want and what is, rational and civil discussions of standards, the coherent application of principles, truth, trust, joy, families, children.

Just how weak we are on that battlefield can be seen from the fact that those who should be loudly and clearly pointing to the location and nature of the real battle are not doing so. Those who should be thundering against the destruction of the statues, of discourse, of families, of children seem to have lost their voices. Those who should be informing everyone that the violence that we witness is aimed at our defenses against the serpent’s “desire” and that their destruction will make for open hunting season have gone quiet. The shepherds too seem to be mistaking what I want for what is. They seem to have confused the Way, the Truth, and the Life—the Son of Man who made and wielded a whip in the Temple—for someone who has no standards. The shepherds seem to have forgotten Jeremiah’s warning to those who scatter sheep.

Just how weak we are on the real battlefield can be seen in the fact that we do not seem to be actively protecting the most vulnerable in this war against the whisper of the snake: our youth. The curricula of our universities, colleges, and high schools are filled with the unintelligible garbage, the echo of the beguiling whisper, “you will be like God.”

That whisper has taken root in the minds of our youth. Our children’s ignorance has been carefully cultivated. They have not been taught grammar. They do not know logic. They do not know history. They cannot distinguish Jesus Christ from Luke Skywalker. They are told that they do not have to know how to do so: “reality,” the beguiling whisper says, “is what you want.”

The serpent is knocking at the doors of the souls of our children. It desires them—them especially. And the means with which the children could “master it,” those means that we ourselves could give, that we have learned, are being deliberately withheld from them in the classroom.

Let us make no mistake. The primary front in our battle in America today lies in our minds, and the most vulnerable minds are those of our children. We can take a stand. Our children can. They will take a stand, but only if we have the calm wisdom of those whose statues are being toppled: the true joy of fighting the good fight.

This battle cannot be won overnight. But it can be won if we learn, as St. Paul says, “to walk circumspectly,” as the wise do—“understanding the will of God”—and “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” It can be won if we walk joyfully: “speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord: giving thanks always for all things, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God and the Father.” It can be won if we win our own interior battles and make ourselves “subject one to another in the fear of Christ.”

The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.

The featured image is “St. Michael” (c. 1663) by Luca Giordano (1634–1705) and is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. It has been brightened for clarity.

All comments are moderated and must be civil, concise, and constructive to the conversation. Comments that are critical of an essay may be approved, but comments containing ad hominem criticism of the author will not be published. Also, comments containing web links or block quotations are unlikely to be approved. Keep in mind that essays represent the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Imaginative Conservative or its editor or publisher.

Leave a Comment
Print Friendly, PDF & Email