Recently, Bishop Caggiano tweeted out something that was so profound that it stopped me in my tracks. I could not find the exact quote again, but the core of it is that the devil has three weapons in today’s modern world: deception, division, and distraction.
A penetrating analysis! Our world is filled with these three D’s – and we can see examples of it every day.
Deception – the confusion that reigns over the simplest truths has gigantic implications. For example, in 2016, ten percent of the population of the United States said that they do not believe in God. This is a ten-fold jump from 1944, when only 1% of the population was an officially-declared atheist. (Interestingly, in 2016, the city with the highest percentage of atheists was… San Francisco, with over 20% of its population not believing in God). We live in a world where many people hold erroneous beliefs about human dignity, the right to life, what marriage is, and so many other fundamental topics. Even in our everyday life, we may struggle with deceptions such as “Oh, I don’t really need to pray” or “I’m so worthless, no one could love me.”
So how do we defeat this tactic of the devil? We must live in the truth. The truth comes from Jesus Christ, not from the world, or from our culture, or from ourselves. St. Josemaria Escriva said, “For the modern apostle, an hour of study is an hour of prayer.” Of course, we must pray as well, but it is equally important to know what the Church teaches and what Christ has revealed about who God is, who we are, and how we are to relate to the world around us. We must have the truth so interwoven into our lives that we “are transformed by the renewal of our minds” (Romans 12:2) and start to see the world with the eyes of Christ.
Division – every day it seems like the world is getting more and more shrill, as people live in their online camps and do not know how to have respectful dialogue with people of opposite opinions. Every now and then I wade into the “comments” section of an online article, and immediately I regret it! It seems like many people are content to just shout at each other – and this happens in real life, too, in our own families and neighborhoods.
I believe the answer to division is love. Love always assumes the best about the other. As St. Paul said, “it is never rude, or envious, or self-seeking. It does not rejoice in the wrong but rejoices in the truth.” Love means that even though a person may have a different opinion from ours, we can still recognize the good in them and acknowledge it, treating them with the respect that they deserve as a child of God.
(I believe that the answer to division is love and not unity per se, because we can still love those with whom we do not have real union. Unity implies that there is a shared, common truth that we all live by; but it is possible to love those who do not share our common values. Of course, the truest form of love is to help others encounter the truth!)
Finally, the Bishop says that the third tactic of the devil in the modern world is distraction. Nielsen released a study in 2018 that claimed that American adults spend over 11 hours per day interacting with media – from TV to radio to internet and everything in-between (and we’re only awake for 16 hours total!). With all that time in the digital world, is it any surprise that we have lost touch with nature, each other, and God?
The way to overcome this distraction is disconnecting from the things that do not lead to real encounters with God and one another. Do we really need to check our email one more time? Will that extra article really enrich our life as much as a walk through the woods on a Fall day? When is the last time we used our phones to talk to a real, live person instead of texting them? Disconnection leads to real connection – with God, with ourselves, with one another.
Classically, the Church has always seen the world, the flesh, and the devil as the triumvirate of temptation. Bishop Caggiano’s insight, though, is that the devil is now using three strong tactics in the modern world – deception, distraction, and division. But we can overcome these three tactics through truth, love, and real connection with God and one another. How can you set to work on these in your own life?