From A.D. 500 until A.D. 1500 (give or take), the western world went through a period known as the Dark Ages. While many factors contributed to the “darkness,” I’d like to highlight one that has an interesting corollary today—the domination of the Roman Catholic Church. As the Roman empire slowly eroded and fractured, the glory of ancient Greece and Rome was extinguished and would not be reignited until the Reformers, Renaissance artists, and later, Enlightenment thinkers struggled to break the chains of darkness.
Over the thousand-year span, the official Church (by official, of course, I mean the religious institution self-declared to be the one-and-only true church and the one most commonly endorsed by the political elite) engaged in many adulterous relationships with political organizations to increase its power and further solidify its stranglehold on Europe. The corrupted Church maintained its influence by leveraging political power and by controlling the information flow among the masses. Religious services were conducted using the Latin language, maintaining an air of superiority, mystery, and inaccessibility to “lay people,” who were considered spiritually inferior to the clerics. The bible (assiduously withheld from the common people), religious tradition (as defined by the religious overlords), and the “magisterium” of the Church were held up as the authoritative sources of divine truth to be dispensed by the priests—the sole keepers of The Word of God.
(Magisterium simply means that an organization’s doctrine is authoritative because it has an innate authoritativeness. This is really convenient for those who want to hold authority over others.)
During the Dark Ages, independent inquiry was discouraged. Dissenting voices were suppressed. Those, such as Galileo, who sought to better understand the nature of the physical universe were zealously persecuted. The Church provided a narrative that explained the physical world. False though it was, the narrative provided a rationale for the perpetuation of the religious ruling order.
The Dark Ages culminated when a combination of reformers and scientists boldly chipped away with the hammer of Truth at the deceitful bulwarks of the corrupt religious order. A courageous commitment to truth and freedom rekindled the flame of the human spirit; and where truth and freedom were extolled, humanity flourished.
Moses’ timeless story of the serpent in the garden echoes throughout history and has been proven true time and again. The universal temptation to use the knowledge of good and evil to cure the human condition has always lurked like a serpent. “You can be like God,” the voice whispers, and we are only too eager to listen.
The initial justification always wears an altruistic veneer. We can prevent crime. We can end hunger. We can win the war on poverty. We can defeat illness. We can stop the pandemic. We can “fix” the earth’s climate.
But the veneer is always quickly dropped as the allure of attaining godhood becomes irresistible. The pursuit of absolute power corrupts absolutely, and those who pursue it soon show themselves for what they are: evil tyrants who care only for power and who will resort to any destructive means to hold onto it.
While this has been a human tendency from the beginning, the human race is currently in the middle of a unique confluence of circumstances which make its position precarious. The industrial revolution and the electronic revolution have given us powerful tools which have resulted in higher levels of productivity than the world has ever seen. New communication tools give almost everyone global reach. Like children wielding power tools, some have been seduced by electronic fantasy worlds, and others manipulate those fantasies to accrue power.
We’ve become so enamored with our own cleverness that we’ve come to view God as not just irrelevant, but impossible. We’ve bought the lie that Science is the only god we need to cure the human condition and bring about utopia. It is just that lie that has made us susceptible to those who use the label of Science to weave a narrative that justifies their self-serving actions.
The research-derived data is assiduously withheld from the common people. A scientific “magisterium” is the authoritative source of truth to be dispensed by the “experts”—the new keepers of The Word of Science. The secular overlords infiltrate religious and political organizations to increase their power and further their stranglehold on the masses. They coerce corporate entities to control the flow of information and to pressure the public into compliance by holding their livelihoods at risk.
Independent inquiry is discouraged. Dissenting voices are suppressed. Those who seek to better understand both the nature of the physical world and the nature of the spiritual world are decried and zealously persecuted. False though it its, the prevailing narrative provides a rationale for perpetuating the secularist ruling order.
Authoritarians around the world are doing everything they can to increase their power. As is always the case in such situations, many will be seduced by the utopian promises and will willingly become slaves. If we permit the truth to be suppressed, humanity will voluntarily bring inordinate tragedy upon itself.
We are in danger of entering a Second Dark Age, where truth is outlawed, and the frightened masses hypnotically repeat The Narrative and participate in their own oppression.
Our choices seem to be few. We can exploit others to gain as much power as we can, we can bury our heads in the sand and see how long an alliance with the Big Lie will shield us from the coming storm, or we can take a stand for the truth.
The powers of darkness are playing for a stake in an earthly kingdom whose temporal glory will fade as surely as the glory of every human empire has faded. The True Light of which John spoke was kindled 2,000 years ago when the Christ laid the foundations of an eternal kingdom which will prevail over all others and whose glory will never diminish.
It remains to be seen whether our society will enter a second dark age or whether it will stumble along in pursuit of the status quo for a few more years. While not impossible, the pessimist in me thinks we may have made too many bad decisions to presume that we’ll experience an awakening any time soon.
Either way, now is the time to commit to living as citizens of the deeper kingdom. While earthly kingdoms only generate bad news and darkness, the deeper kingdom is the source of good news; and in that kingdom the light of truth continually shines.