The great illusion is that somehow the old imperialist ways can be married to the Gospel of the Prince of Peace as “Christendom” and produce the Kingdom of God. In the New Testament that Kingdom is described as “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit”, the “peaceable Kingdom” where justice and mercy kiss each other and oppression and violence are banished for ever. The early Christian witness to their persecutors was “see how they love one another” not how they condemn and slaughter one another, let alone the unbelieving pagan masses.
…by the end of the Fourth Century CE, the Imperial Church had emerged full-blooded, while the original sense of Jesus calling His followers apart to follow a different path was far from lost among millions of his followers who looked with alarm on this heavy-footed march into full-blown political and social involvement of the most injurious kind for a movement supposed to lead people into the Kingdom of God rather than a holy-water-sprinkled repurposing of “Caesar-is-Lord” (even of the Church) as per the Roman (morphing into Byzantine by that point) model.
We think the “burglar” in this little parable is the bad-guy and the householder is the good-guy, but the whole context turns that on its head. The “householder” is the strong-man (as he is called in a parallel passage) who invaded the house and usurped the property of the rightful owner. It is the Satan who has done this to the beautiful world God created. The “burglar” is the rightful owner coming back to claim his own. That is why Jesus says “he will come like a thief in the night”.
The coming together of the Cosmic “evil one” and the human propensity to seek our own aggrandizement at the expense of everyone and everything else typically and periodically produce especially monstrous eruptions that leave the whole world reeling and the human race lying in a shambles. Shifting the blame, we point the finger at God as if the Deity is responsible for allowing us to behave demonically rather than exercising His omnipotence to prevent such horrors. The Accuser laughs all the while from behind the Oz-Curtain, and we fool ourselves that we are justified because God doesn’t just cut evil out of our hearts and kill the most monstrous perpetrators.
Now, almost eight centuries after these horrific multiple whammies, which historians and other analysts estimate to have wiped out between a quarter and third of Europe’s total population of perhaps sixty million between 1347 and 1351, we have mostly forgotten this even occurred. We imagine the calamity of World War 2 to have been the worst event in human history, but it pales in proportion to this period of woe. The devastating Spanish flu of 1918-19, the last real pandemic in recent history, pales in perspective despite its estimated global death toll of sixty million. The plague did not tear or bomb down structures, but it left whole towns and regions deserted, ghost-like vestiges that the wilderness swallowed in a few decades.