For those of you who slept through World History in high school, listen up now: there was no war more brutal and dehumanizing than the 30-Years War that ravaged Central Europe in the early 17thcentury. The number of deaths, the displaced persons, the burned villages, the mayhem, chaos, cruelty–foreign armies pillaging and raping their way across the countryside—the stories surpass the horrors of any modern war.
Why did they fight? Religion. The Emperor of Austria, raised by Jesuits, couldn’t bear the idea that so many of his subjects had rejected the Catholic Church and become Protestant. He gathered his armies and sent them out to bring the True Religion back, even though it meant destroying much of his empire. The Protestants, knowing that theirs was the True Religion, fought back furiously and both sides were equally un-Christian—it would be more accurate to say inhuman.
Is there anyone today, from the smallest child to the Pope himself, who looks back on that time and thinks that particular war was justified? Of course not. We shake our heads in disbelief and ask ourselves how could anyone professing to be a follower of Jesus Christ turn “love thy enemies” into “Onward Christian soldiers”? The blindness of the participants is shocking to our modern sensibilities.
And yet that’s exactly what is happening once again in Afghanistan and in the Middle East. Soldiers have been killing each other for decades, civilians have been slaughtered and raped, entire towns destroyed, and all for what? So that Islam, the “true religion”, may reign supreme, with the Taliban or ISIS or Al Qaeda calling the shots on what the practices of that religion are. To be honest, the Western World could most likely live with whatever practices these guys came up with if they would just stay in their homelands. Let them treat their women however they want, we’d say, and let them pray in their mosques, if it were not for the threat those groups pose to our security. They are determined to launch terror attacks on us, largely because of the United States’ support for Israel vs. the Palestinians, and even if they promised in a peace conference that they would leave us alone, who would believe them? The road out of this morass is not yet clear.
But if anything is written in the stars, it is that one day our descendants will look back on this era and once again shake their heads in disbelief at how blind people were: “Our forefathers were sure they had found the true religion and must convince everyone of that at gunpoint. Madness! We now know there is no true religion other than that based on the sanctity of our humanity and all of its sacraments.”