Incarnation as a sign of destiny
Whatever may happen, however seemingly inimical to it may be the world’s going and those who preside over the world’s affairs, the truth of the Incarnation remains intact and inviolate. Christendom, like other civilizations before it, is subject to decay and must sometime decompose and disappear. The world’s way of responding to intimations of decay is to engage equally in idiot hopes and idiot despair. On the one hand some new policy or discovery is confidently expected to put everything to rights: a new fuel, a new drug, détente, world government. On the other, some disaster is as confidently expected to prove our undoing: Capitalism will break down. Fuel will run out. Plutonium will lay us low. Atomic waste will kill us off. Overpopulation will suffocate us, or alternatively, a declining birth rate will put us more surely at the mercy of our enemies.
In Christian terms, such hopes and fears are equally beside the point. As Christians we know that here we have no continuing city, that crowns roll in the dust and every earthly kingdom must sometime flounder, whereas we acknowledge a King men did not crown and cannot dethrone, as we are citizens of a city of God they did not build and cannot destroy. Thus the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, living in a society as depraved and dissolute as ours. Their games, like our television, specialized in spectacles of violence and eroticism. Paul exhorted them to be “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in God’s work,” to concern themselves with the things that are unseen. “For the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal.” It was in the breakdown of Rome that Christendom was born. Now in the breakdown of Christendom there are the same requirements and the same possibilities to eschew the fantasy of a disintegrating world and seek the reality of what is not seen and eternal, the reality of Christ.
I expect that you’re all familiar with Plato’s image of the shadows in a cave. The people in the cave saw shadows passing by and mistook these shadows, supposing that the shadows were people and that the names they gave them were real. I feel that this is an image of our existence. Our television is an outward and visible sign of this fantasy with which we preoccupy ourselves.
Many people here have asked me how it was that I came ultimately to be convinced that Christ was the answer. It was because in this world of fantasy in which my own occupation has particularly involved me, I have found in Christ the only true alternative. The shadow in the cave is like the media world of shadows. In contradistinction, Christ shows what life really is, and what our true destiny is.
We escape from the cave. We emerge from the darkness and instead of shadows we have all around us the glory of God’s creation. Instead of darkness we have light; instead of despair, hope; instead of time and the clocks ticking inexorably on, eternity, which never began and never ends and yet is sublimely now.
What then is this reality of Christ, contrasting with all the fantasies whereby men seek to evade it, fantasies of the ego, of the appetites, of power or success, of the mind and the will – the reality valid when first lived and expounded by our Lord himself two thousand years ago? It has buoyed up Western man through all the vicissitudes and uncertainty of Christendom’s centuries, and is available today when it’s more needed, perhaps, than ever before, as it will be available tomorrow and forever. It is simply this: by identifying ourselves with Christ, by absorbing ourselves in His teaching, by living out the drama of His life with Him, including especially the passion, that powerhouse of love and creativity – by living with, by, and in Him, we can be reborn to become new men and women in a new world.
Malcolm Muggeridge, The End of Christendom, 51ff.