Why We Should Fight

Lepanto
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When I was a very naïve eleven years old, a gang of boys from school caught me in a neighbor’s backyard by myself. A girlfriend had been with me, but she ran away. I barely knew enough to be afraid, but I did know that I didn’t like being held down by someone bigger than me. 

Since I was clearly outmanned, I didn’t fight. And I didn’t tell, not until sometime in my twenties. I expect there was damage I don’t begin to understand, but I worked my way to forgiveness through Christ, and I put it behind me. 

What I have never gotten over is the pain and shame of not fighting back. I abandoned myself in the face of a stronger enemy. I cooperated in my own destruction. I empowered evil by not bringing the act to justice.

I have vowed for the last 50 years that I would never again allow evil to take me without a fight. 

And here we are. Evil has never been more prominent, potent, and pervasive. I fight in little ways: writing articles, public witness, signs in my yard. But make no mistake, there is a Big Fight coming. It will give rise to either songs of triumph from the ramparts, or songs of lament from the cattle cars, but there will be a fight. Every day, it becomes more inevitable, as Satan pushes his agenda forward.

Are we ready? Are we going to stand up, or passively surrender to a stronger enemy? Are we going to abandon ourselves and our children, our Church, the noble ideals of our country, without a struggle? There is no glory in passively allowing evil to steal everything we hold precious, everything God holds precious. We have to fight the fight. There is a reason we are called the Church Militant. There is a reason we are confirmed soldiers of Christ. 

Good, devout Christians are making the mistake of thinking that God will save us without a fight, while we passively watch the fireworks. That is not the pattern of salvation history; God requires us to act. I’ll call them the “pious fallacies,” the reasons we give ourselves to avoid having to risk everything in a battle. I’ve heard three:

  1. God is in control. All I have to do is pray. 
  2. If they kill me, so be it. I’ve lived a good life.
  3. I must obey the authorities because they’re the authorities.  

God certainly is in control, but the very fact of the Incarnation demonstrates that God requires us to do our part. He could have reached down and saved humanity without Mary’s fiat, without the apostles and the Church, but He didn’t. That says everything about our role. We all have a part to play, as St. Paul says:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church. (Colossians 1:24)

What a radical statement that is! St. Paul is actually saying that his actions, our actions, are required for the salvation of souls, even after Christ completed His saving mission. 

Paul could have remained in Damascus after his conversion and simply prayed for the brethren. He was a world-class pray-er, even to ecstasies and visions. He didn’t need to make dangerous voyages, be brought up before hostile judges, and eventually lose his head by the sword. God could have saved all the Galatians, Corinthians, Ephesians, and Romans without the help of Paul. But no, He asked Paul to step out, way out, of his comfort zone and put his life on the line again and again to plant the Church and help fortify the Body that would endure throughout human time. 

Christians remember Lepanto as an example of the power of prayer; and it was. But they forget the manpower, courage, and risk that went into the war to save the Faith in 1571. If the Holy League had not sailed bravely into battle, with 65,000 men risking their lives and 10,000 losing theirs, how could Mary have won the victory for them? How could 12,000 Christian slaves have been rescued without battleships ramming the slave ships where they were held captive? Many believers were praying the Rosary back on the mainland, under the leadership of Pope Pius V. And indeed, Our Lady of Victory won the day; but she couldn’t have wrought the victory if there had been no human efforts for her to empower. 

God could have stopped legal abortion by divine decree decades ago, but He required that we show up on the sidewalks, work for decent candidates, speak at public rallies, and intercede for others. During his campaign in 2016, Trump had a private meeting with a longtime pro-life activist, a veteran of many battles. It lit the fire under Trump’s somewhat vague stance on life issues. 

When he went up against Clinton in that third debate, we all knew something amazing was going on because he was feelin’ it! It was like an intangible exchange: the long years of sacrificial work by pro-lifers transfused straight to the heart of the candidate. Then, as president, Trump nominated upright justices, confirmed only after horrific personal torment and persecution. Finally, June 24, 2022, came along. So much work, so many battles, and so much prayer fed a river that could no longer be contained.  

If all we had done was pray about abortion, it might still be legal nationwide, and doubtless our nation would be in even more serious trouble than it is now. The fight itself held back some of the worst of the evil. Prayer was the biggest part of the fight, but it wasn’t the whole fight. Prayer is like the body armor a warrior puts on before embarking on a mission. If all he did was suit up but never left home, evil would win by default. 

Under the second pious fallacy, we believe that if evil comes for us, we might as well hand over our lives and just go on to be with Jesus. Here’s the thing: if we don’t fight to keep our lives as long as we can, how do we know that there wasn’t something more God meant for us to do? A person committing an evil act has interrupted God’s plan for us (it being impossible for God to will evil), so what marvelous thing is being lost if we allow evil to cut short a life? 

When we have done all we can to defend ourselves and those in our care (CCC 2263-5) but are still overcome, then we “die like champions,” as Doug Barry of the Battle Ready Coalition puts it. 

The third pious fallacy is that of “resigned obedience.” Archbishop Viganó used this phrase in an interview on June 30, just a few weeks ago. 

Honest citizens find it inconceivable that those who govern them could do it with the perverse intention of undermining and destroying them, so much so that they find it very hard to believe. The main cause of this very serious problem is found in the corruption of authority, along with the resigned obedience of those who are governed.

In other words, when the people continue to obey even corrupt authority, it is the people who are enabling evil. If we weren’t so resignedly obedient, the authorities couldn’t take away our livelihoods, energy, food, and health. We know that our presumed leaders are given to evil, we know the vaunted shot is dangerous, that working-age people are dropping dead without explanation, that our government is provoking war with another nuclear power. And yet we go about our lives, grateful that the blade hasn’t fallen on our own necks yet. 

We quietly hope that election fraud is corrected…by someone in authority. We hope to be saved from nuclear catastrophe…by someone in authority. We trust authority with no evidence of their goodness or wisdom, just that we count on them to do our fighting for us. 

Christians, wake up! If those in authority are evil, resigned obedience is unreasonable. We can’t just sit by when they steal our children through oversexualization and perversion, when they coerce shots that are emergency-use only, when they open our borders to unknown hordes without background checking, when deranged citizens are allowed to harass and criminally threaten anyone who disagrees with them. 

Where is our fight? It is one thing for an 11-year-old girl to give up in the face of a stronger enemy; it is quite another for adults with resources to cringe from a fight. Let’s not wait until we’re in detention camps to muster the will to fight back. There is nothing worse than wishing you’d done something long after it is possible to do it.  

As Joshua cried to Yahweh at Ai, “O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies!” And our great God answered him, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?…Up, sanctify the people!” so that they will be fortified for the battle. After Yahweh’s commands were fully observed, Israel took the city of Ai in the name of the Lord (see Joshua 8). 

Let us then stand up and be sanctified, ready to fight when the Lord calls us to the coming battle.

I am grateful to the fighting spirit of Doug Barry for elucidating the first two pious fallacies and for devoting himself to building readiness in the people of God.

[Image: The Battle of Lepanto]

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Sheryl Collmer is an independent consultant for several non-profit organizations. She holds a Masters in Theological Studies from the University of Dallas, as well as an MBA. She lives in the diocese of Tyler, Texas.

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