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Even Austrian Darkness Cannot Overcome the Light

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 27, 2011

In February of this year, an Austrian teacher, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, was found guilty of “denigration of religious beliefs of a legally recognized religion” because, during a seminar course on Islam, she stated that “Muhammed had a thing for little girls.” Sabaditsch-Wolff’s conviction was appealed, but it was upheld earlier this month.

The conviction was upheld despite the well-attested historical fact that Muhammed married his wife Aisha when she was six years old, and had relations with her by the time she was nine. Given the shift in the juridical climate in Europe, in which Sharia law is a growing force, Sabaditsch-Wolff would clearly have been wiser to simply state the facts rather than interpret them in a manner which can be taken as negative.

But one wonders when, in Western society at least, sexual relations with a nine-year-old became something that can be construed as positive—or, if such a thing can be construed as positive, one wonders why stating that Muhammed had a thing for little girls should be considered a denigration of Muhammed. Does this have something to do with global warming?

Some may see in all this a simple concern for religious feelings, but I see something much larger at work, for this case is not as much about sensitivity as it is about truth, and perhaps not as much about truth as it is about the deliberate flight from any values which can be, through cultural inheritance, associated with Christianity. What we are witnessing here, I believe, is the inescapable fact that a post-Christian society will invariably define itself in opposition to Christianity. But precisely because Christianity strengthens and corroborates our perception of the natural law, this very often means a post-Christian society must define itself in opposition to truth itself.

We do well to reflect on this during the Christmas season, which teaches much about darkness and light. It is one thing to be in darkness and grope toward light, as was the case in pre-Christian cultures. It is quite another to have seen the light and have rejected it, which is the central problem of the West. Isaiah prophesied that “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Is 9:2; Mt 4:16). To turn away from this light is to define oneself or one’s culture in opposition to it.

This is why Christianity is so often feared and even portrayed through a web of lies, such as the lie that those with strong Christian beliefs are necessarily intolerant and warlike, or the lie that the natural law is nothing but a misguided Christian claim, or the lie that the Catholic Church has generally been a force of darkness and shame in the world, or that the sins of Christians can be attributed to their faith. It is also why those who live in Western nations like Austria are far more likely to be allowed to lie about Jesus Christ, or to call him unspeakable names, than to repeat unpleasant facts about the leaders of other religions.

A great deal of this tendency to define oneself or one’s culture in opposition to Christianity is rooted in our tendency toward sin, “for every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (Jn 3:20). But we must admit that some of it comes from the general weakness of human nature, and even the many failures of Christians themselves, and even of the Church. Saint Augustine wisely attributed a large part of this problem to what he called restlessness in a now very famous aphorism: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Indeed, all people are restless. We constantly seek to make things better, though we seldom know what it is that we are seeking. This is so true that even if all of our friends, family and neighbors were perfect Christians, we would still experience this restlessness, and some among us would seek fulfillment in all the wrong places. But when we consider how many evils infect even those societies which have claimed the name Christian, we can hardly be surprised that restless souls very often rebel against what is only partially good to seek something better, and that they not infrequently end by throwing the Baby out with the bathwater.

Nonetheless the light remains. Isaiah spoke of the great light of the Messiah. Saint Matthew quoted this ancient prophecy and applied it to the beginning of Our Lord’s public ministry. John the Baptist came to “bear witness to the light”. As John the Evangelist explains, the Baptist was not himself the light, but “the true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world” (Jn 1:5-9). St. Paul learned the hard way what this light was. He reported that “about noon” on the road to Damascus “a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me” (Acts 22:6).

“Saul, Saul,” said this Light, “Why do you persecute me?”

Perhaps this is clear enough. So while nations may define themselves against the light, we Christians define ourselves according to the light. Indeed, there is nothing better, nothing more satisfying, no more effective cure for restlessness, and no possibility for greater safety. We may admit that the light shines in a frightening darkness, but we also know that the darkness has not overcome it (Jn 1:5). And why should this be so? Because the darkness is still gathering strength? Because there are many battles still to come? Because we cannot know the end?

No, life is actually far more simple: The darkness has not overcome the light because it cannot. Christmas is a feast of light forever.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: John J Plick - Dec. 30, 2011 11:00 AM ET USA

    Light ALWAYS overcomes darkness; that is axiomatic. What is not "axiomatic" is whether we ourselves are part of "that light." The entire advent season was practically and still is formally "penitential..." Again, there is "no problem" "with God..." He was able and actually did "show up (in the manger no less)" at that first Christmas. As Father Benedict Groeschel says as well concerning "Eucharistic adoration," there is no problem with His Presence, but rather with ours.

  • Posted by: chefmand13292 - Dec. 29, 2011 11:00 AM ET USA

    Richard John Neuhaus put it succinctly: "Where orthodoxy is optional it soon becomes proscribed."

  • Posted by: garedawg - Dec. 28, 2011 5:26 PM ET USA

    We can thank the Protestant founders of the United States for one thing especially: the Bill of Rights.

  • Posted by: spledant7672 - Dec. 27, 2011 10:45 PM ET USA

    Amen, amen.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 27, 2011 8:43 PM ET USA

    That's 'Aisha'. 'Alisha' is all a bit too contemporary, and no-one would dare to accuse Mohammad of having a wife as much younger than himself as the Alishas running around today! God bless your work--great piece.