The world turns and the world changes,
But one thing does not change.
In all of my years, one thing does not change,
However you disguise it, this thing does not change:
The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil. -T.S. Eliot
While those in the halls of power are unable or unwilling to call the killing of Christians by Islamists what it is – martyrdom – they will not be unrecognized forever. As St. John the Apostle describes in his vision of the future, “and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God… and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Christians understand that the evil of the Islamic State comes from “that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.” The willful ignorance of those who deny the specifically religious impulse behind the beheading and the religious significance of the martyrdom are incapable of effectively understanding, let alone addressing the problem posed by the Islamic State.
Worse still, those who cannot – or will not – understand that moral problems are fundamentally spiritual problems are unable to find meaning in the martyrdom of innocents. Martyrs are more than mere victims of senseless tragedy or the barbarity of others. Christians understand that martyrs are victors in the unseen war that God allows between his servants and those in rebellion against him. As St. John notes, Satan, cast out of heaven, goes to earth to make war against those “which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Martyrs have overcome Satan “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” Every Christian martyr’s death is a participation in the victory of Christ’s death and resurrection when he harrowed Hell, triumphed over Death, and crushed the Serpent’s head. As Pope Francis remarked, “Their blood confesses Christ.”
Though “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints,” and though their glorious welcome and honor that awaits those who have persevered through death, the blood of our brothers and sisters cries to God from the ground. God will judge those who set themselves up against himself and his anointed; he will “break them with a rod of iron [and] dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” The makers of martyrs will be given as an inheritance for the martyred and the meek will inherit the earth.
The blood of the martyrs calls to those Christians in positions of safety and influence as well. Will we escape judgment if we fail to act against the evil that would swallow all goodness if it were able? When will this persecution merit a response? What will we answer when Christ says, “I was persecuted and you did nothing”?
Confronting the evil of the communist regime in Russia, President Ronald Reagan boldly called it an “Evil Empire.” Where are the political leaders of today willing to be courageous and call out evil for what it is? When will our leaders stop apologizing for mistakes made decades and centuries ago and end the paralysis that is enabling the destruction of Christianity in the region of its birth? This paralysis ensues when the spiritual element of evil is ignored. In order to understand evil, our leaders must first accept that there exists a spiritual struggle between our loving Creator and between our Accuser and Enemy. Those who choose to be children of darkness – those who seek power and use any means to attain that power – have allied themselves with the great Enemy of the human race, Satan. While mercy can be granted to the truly repentant, destruction is the only fit end for those who persist in allegiance to the one who hates the very fact of our existence as image bearers of God. The West, if it remains interested in liberty and the protection of the innocent and vulnerable, must mobilize and defeat those who attempt to impose Islam with the sword.
Moral outrage is not enough. Swift action and just retribution is a necessity. Christians must boldly proclaim that the Islamists are evil and have put themselves in Satan’s service. They must call on their government officials to act in every way possible to protect the vulnerable and punish the evil ones. They must proclaim the triumph of the martyrs even as they weep for their loss. The blood of the martyrs from Abel to the twenty-one Copts killed in Libya cries out from the ground. We cannot be silent.