Fr. Dale Matson
The Heart of Darkness is a short novel written by Joseph Conrad in 1899. The story takes you as a passenger on a journey down the Congo River in Africa. On the surface, the story is thought of as an exposé of the inhumane treatment of the aboriginal culture by a ‘civilized’ imperialist and colonialist British trading company.
I still remember the story from college, mainly because the story is really about a descent into hell. Conrad states in chapter one [referring to the Congo] “…a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land. And as I looked at the map of it in a shop-window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird - a silly little bird." (Page 18)
The Francis Ford Coppola movie “Apocalypse Now” borrowed heavily from the Heart of Darkness. Kurtz in Conrad’s novel and Colonel Kurtz both offer the ending words “The Horror. The horror.” Both stories are a powerful reminder of the ease at which the current of life can carry us inexorably onward toward a destructive descent.
Both stories illustrate the thin veneer that separates society and civilization from savagery. These stories left me cold. They remind me of the end times. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12) There is no compassion and no mercy. It is matter-of-fact, commonplace horror.
Both of these stories leave one with an acute sense of how the civilized world can overcome and take captive, a culture incapable of resisting it. The aboriginal cultures may not become civilized; but the civilized cultures can descend into savagery and madness in the process.
Christians are called to be both salt (a preservative) and light in the world. In the West in general and the United States in particular, we have become the aboriginal culture. Christianity is a culture of and about life. “I am the Way the Truth and the Life.” (John 14:6) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) Yes, we are commanded to love our neighbors but this is to be a life giving love. While we know that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, we also know in our hearts and through Scriptural eschatology however, that evil will increase in the end times.
In current fashion is an advancing culture of death. We are downstream and see it approaching. There is a wink and a nod by the rich and powerful. Behind closed doors there are candid comments, referring to small town folks as bitter, gun carrying and religious as if the three things went together. The comments were both condescending and patronizing. Christians are portrayed as xenophobic, homophobic, racist and anti-feminist. We are no longer seen as welcome with our antiquated, pathological ideation.
Here is a comment that would not have been publicly stated only a few years ago. “‘If they are extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York,’ Cuomo said in a radio interview Friday. Cuomo defined ‘extreme conservatism’ as being ‘anti-gay’ by opposing same-sex marriage rights, opposed to abortion rights….’” http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/politics/cuomo-no-place-in-new-york-for-extremist-conservative-politicians-20140117.
Men who govern us made these discouraging and disparaging remarks. How long will it be before this kind of talk will give license for the civilized to descend into savagery and madness? This will all be done in the name of civilizing the simple-minded aboriginal culture. Abortion was only the beginning in the culture of death.