“God wills it”

Natasha Moore on the Crusades, the burning cross in the Grampians, the Capitol insurrection - and the danger of claiming God's will as your own.

“God wills it” was a Crusader battle-cry near a thousand years ago. Reading and writing about this history, I’ve shuddered at the serene assurance of these men who massacred and looted and felt the divine warmth at their backs all the time.

Long ago and far away, right? But I’ve felt sick and ashamed in just the same way reading the news of late.

Maybe the cross that burned at the foot of the Grampians over the Australia Day weekend, as a group calling themselves the National Socialist Network chanted white power slogans and gave Nazi salutes, was an empty symbol. I don’t know whether the group claims Christian faith – but certainly those who over the decades made the symbol one of terror believed themselves to be carrying out God’s will.

And then, that footage of the insurrectionists in the US Senate chamber, pausing in their camo and face paint – MAGA hats removed out of respect – to pray to the God I also believe in. “I praised the name of Jesus on the Senate floor,” one man declared afterwards. “That was my goal. I think that was God’s goal.”

It’s a dangerous game, appropriating God’s will to your own. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. It endangers us all, here and now. But those who believe (or claim to) should also recall that one day they’ll meet the one in whose name they say they act.

Jesus offered vivid snapshots of the reception his followers might expect. On the one hand: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

On the other: “Many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”