Robert Hugh Benson is most famous for his 1907 novel Lord of the World.
Set in the early 21st century, it describes the ascent of Antichrist, whose kingdom—much more familiar in style and substance than we would care to think—emerges both naturally and preternaturally from the technological and technocratic tendencies of modern society.
As the overwhelming majority of souls swooningly surrender to the enemy of their salvation, the few who remain recalcitrant are increasingly marginalized.
A regime whose ideology is one of peace and tolerance cannot admit that a handful of stubborn throwbacks pose a mortal threat to its insatiable craving for power. So instead, it labels them as objects of pity, suffering from a mental illness harmful to themselves and society.
In a penultimate phase of this asymmetrical conflict, a new law requires each citizen to be asked one fateful question: Do you believe in God?
Anyone who answers in the affirmative will be eliminated, but not as an act of aggression. Instead, he will be “euthanized,” to relieve him of his own misery, and secure the happiness of mankind.
The reasoning is simple: if human flourishing is achieved exclusively by human agency, anyone willing to bow to divine agency undermines his own welfare, and endangers that of his fellows. Better for him to disappear quietly, if he cannot be convinced even by totalitarian tools of persuasion.
Prior to the year our vision became perfect—I mean 2020—many had remarked on the uncanny prescience of Benson’s dystopian vision. Now, unfortunately, the parallels are harder to miss than ever before.
How so? I invite the reader to make his own suggestions, and may follow up soon with some of my own.
In closing, let us consider the fate of this faithful remnant in Benson’s tale. Their prospects seem hopeless, and indeed humanly speaking they stand no chance of surviving.
On the basis of revelation, however, we know who wins the war. As for how Benson’s inspired imagination supplies the details of this victory, I will not spoil things for anyone who has not yet read this essential guide to the times ahead.
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