I cringed when my phone angrily buzzed to alert me of a new text and saw that it was another of those group texts my septuagenarian father has lately taken to sending. In his dotage he has become a social media wizard–trolling on the Facebook, forwarding chain emails (always fully of sappy sentimentality, usually concerning some aspect of God in His myriad permutations), sending group texts to his children and grandchildren, etc. Thankfully, he’s not yet like that other septuagenarian social media wizard, the Twit-in-Chief, Donald Trump, sending his profound musings in 140 characters or less. Or, if he is tweeting, I don’t know about it, because I don’t Twitter. And I don’t do the Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat, so am spared that torture as well.
He sends his group texts and emails to my sisters and me (I’m one of four kids, with one older and two younger sisters—I’m the only male). Or, at least I think he’s sending his musings to my sisters because I don’t actually know their phone numbers or email addresses, so can only guess at the area codes in the numbers and names embedded in the email addresses. It’s a long story as to why. Suffice to say it’s better we don’t so effortlessly communicate as electronic media allows.
In this particular text, sent the day of Trump’s inauguration, he posed the question: Is it Mourning in America or a Good Morning? (An obvious allusion to Reagan’s campaign slogan in 1984). I don’t know if his aim was to inject politics into what has become, since our mother died, a violently volatile family dynamic, or he just dreamt of something clever to say and couldn’t resist. Mom is the only relative we four kids have in common—the first two of her brood, me and the older sister—were adopted by the texter as children when he married Mom, the latter two are his natural children. Mom’s been dead now for five years. At her death, I intentionally returned to the periphery of the family where I had always been before I had kids and wanted them to at least know their ancestry, something which had been denied to me. If his aim had been to get a family fight started over politics, it didn’t work, at least not with me. I did as I’ve done since Mom died and a group text or email arrived from anyone in the family. I read it and put it away, refusing rise to the bait.
Further on in the text, in an apparent attempt to prove how bigly was his heart, he remarked that whatever the future holds with the Trump presidency, he would be praying for our nation. Oddly enough, that nearly flipped my switch. Here’s what I wanted to say:
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust in his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John, Chapter 2: 15-17)
A little over a century after Christianity was adopted by Constantine as the official religion of the Roman Empire, Saint Augustine felt compelled to explain, in his theological masterpiece, City of God, that Christianity was not responsible for the decline of the Western Empire; that it was not because the Empire discarded all its pagan gods for the one true God of Abraham that Rome was sacked by King Alaric of the Visigoths in 410 ad. As the Empire crumbled around them, Augustine attempted to console the Christians of the Empire, that even if the Empire was imperiled, even if the City of Man (Rome) was vanquished, the City of God would reign eternal.
Happily, the American Empire has no official religion. Let’s keep it that way. And let’s abide the teachings of Augustine, and turn our hearts from that which can’t be loved without the fear of losing. Don’t pray for America. America is a kingdom of this world. Let’s lay up our treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Pray for the Kingdom of God, that it might reign in the hearts and souls of men wherever they might be found. The Kingdom of America will ultimately, regardless who its leaders are, go the way of all kingdoms on earth. The Kingdom of God will reign eternal.
That’s what I wanted to tell him. But didn’t. Not worth the hassle.