It should be apparent to the world that Islamists like those in ISIS are at war with everyone who does not submit to their prescribed religious tenants. Terrorists are not nihilists. There was an article published about a year ago on how terrorists are nihilists. This is false. The only thing nihilists and terrorists have in common is the use of violence and power to achieve an end. Nihilists believe in nothing. They believe there is no objective truth and that the strong must prevail over the weak. Islamists believe that the world must be brought to Allah through violence and war and that Islam is predicated upon violent domination. There is a great chasm of difference between these two ideologies, but the author is correct in seeing commonalities in violence.
As Catholics we are doing battle with both nihilism and Islamism at the same time because they are both opposed to the Living God. While force is necessary in certain circumstances in response to great evils in the world, we must also remember the spiritual weapons at our disposal. We must remember to turn to Our Heavenly Mother and to show the world God’s love. We must pray, fast, and give alms to those in need.
Mary is the antithesis of both nihilism and Islamism. Both use force, coercion, and violence in order to achieve their goals. The Triune God does not force us to come to Him. This is clearly demonstrated through the power, beauty, and love of the Annunciation.
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
God sends St. Gabriel to Mary in order to offer her an invitation. He asks her to become the mother of His Son. He is gentle and loving in His message. St. Gabriel tells her not to be afraid. This immediately flies in the face of terrorism and other ideologies that use fear to force people to submit. God does not desire to terrorize us. He does not desire to instill irrational, uncontrollable fear in us. No. He wants us to fall in love with Him. He is the Bridegroom in search of His Bride. He wants our love to come from our free will. He leaves us to freely choose Him or to turn our backs on Him. Love cannot be coerced or forced. It is not love if it is not of the individual’s free will.
The necessity of free will is apparent in the freedom of Mary’s own question. She is free to seek clarification. She asks St. Gabriel how “this” is possible given that she has pledged perpetual virginity and has never been with a man. God does not rebuke her for the question. Instead, through St. Gabriel, He lovingly answers her inquiry. Radicals and ideologues do not allow for free thought or questioning. It is here that we see God’s desire for our total freedom in responding to His call. This dialogue between Mary and St. Gabriel, God’s messenger, should reveal to us that any belief, ideology, or call to violence or force does not come from the Living God. He does not desire a violent submission from us. He wants our free, trusting, and open love for Him.
Mary provides us with our needed response in the face of Charity. Since God calls us freely, we must respond to His call freely. He will not force us or move us against our will. He is not as terrorists believe. He does not desire us to bathe in the blood of unbelievers. Rather, His love is the answer to bloodlust, violence, vengeance, and will to power. He wants us to come to Him in love for who He is, not who we want Him to be or because we are terrified of Him. Terror blinds the will, reason, and faith. God even gave us His mother as a guide and example in responding to and in seeing His love.
He also wants us to be fully human. Nihilists greatly distort human nature because they abandon the belief in God while turning to our basest desires: lust, power, violence, and total submission of will. Mary is a human being fully alive, not only because she is free of Original Sin, but because she is open to becoming who she is created to be at the ontological level. She turns to God in love, trust, and an obedience born of charity. In doing so she becomes not only the Mother of God, but the Mother of all human beings. She is the new Eve. God desires that we too become fully human and fully alive. This can only be achieved when we turn to our Creator in love and allow Him to make us new.
The desire to be God has been our struggle since the Fall. Our struggle with sin means that ideologies born out of power, might, and violence are attractive to those of us who do not know or see the Living God and His life giving water. Islamism turns God into a blood thirsty tyrant who wants to destroy all who do not submit to certain beliefs. Nihilism seeks to destroy the weak, so that the few strong men can rule. Nihilism is most on display in the world through abortion, but also through the blood of the last century. The connection, no matter how tenuous, is that violence and power are meant to achieve ends. Christianity stands firmly against such philosophies, religions, and ideologies. Instead, she points to the Living God, who by the power of the Holy Spirit, showed great love, respect, and freedom to Mary who freely became the Mother of God.
When we see news of another terrorist attack or we pray in front of abortion clinics, we must remember that God stands firmly opposed to such evil. He does not desire blood sacrifice. He wants us to love Him and our neighbor, including our enemies. It is our duty out of love to pray for the victims of violence, stand up to injustice, pray for the dead, pray for our enemies, and to evangelize the world. The world is suffering because so many do not know Christ. Far too many are enslaved to sin and violence. It is time for us to show the world the face of the Living God and the power of the Cross. Let us pray for the victims in Orlando and around the world and continue to fight these two destructive belief systems. Mary, Queen of Peace, ora pro nobis.