The United States simply won’t last forever. It is an idea with an expiration date, though we can’t read that date.
As Americans, we cannot conceive of such a universe. Deny it as we may, it is the world we inhabit; the reality in which we live, and move, and have our being. It is as if the very structure of the universe includes it. But it too is subject to the law of entropy; it too is a Tower of Babel, destined to end in confusion and ultimate disintegration.
And it is sin that is the fuel of this disintegration. Sin is a power, a force, which first entices, then overpowers the human soul, until it becomes the animating force in a person’s life and simultaneously works decay and ultimate death.
So it is with our political entities, particularly those entities that exist as deliberate creations of the human mind. As noble as our aspirations seem, we cannot help but infect our political creations with our disease. Our loftiest goals are a veneer for self-interest; our edifices of political thought are counting-houses in which we calculate what we deem to be owed us.
Credit the Founding Fathers with acknowledging these realities, and trying to make a system of checks and balances, albeit limiting access to check and balance status. But they could not overcome their own fallibility and the sins of our national origin: conquest, genocide, and one of the most brutal slave regimes in the history of humanity.
And we fill up the measure of our fathers. Hundreds of thousands of infants are aborted each year. Billions are owed in back child support, as millions of children have been abandoned by their fathers. Civil rights has become largely about the exercise of our libido, while law enforcement is infested with racism. The rich achieve wealth unknown to human history, while their employees are forced to forage on food stamps. We risk, against the whole world, environmental cataclysm for the sake of short term profits. We fire tear gas on would-be immigrants fleeing for their lives, and incarcerate their children. We kill innocents abroad in the name of eradicating the terrorists created by our own policies.
“Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the earth a desolation
and to destroy its sinners from it.
For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
will not give their light;
the sun will be dark at its rising
and the moon will not shed its light.
I will punish the world for its evil,
and the wicked for their iniquity;
I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant,
and lay low the haughtiness of the ruthless.
I will make men more rare than fine gold,
and mankind than the gold of Ophir.
Therefore I will make the heavens tremble,
and the earth will be shaken out of its place,
at the wrath of the Lord of hosts
in the day of his fierce anger.”
But this is the season of Advent, when we recall the first coming of Christ, and look forward to his second. It is both a remembrance and a promise. Jesus warns that nature itself will seem to turn against us, that “there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26) But then, when all seems lost, “they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:27) So when we see these things, when the world suffers from the natural and probable consequences of our own actions, Jesus tells us to “look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)
It is of the essence of the Christian faith that good will triumph over evil. This is the promise of Advent. This is the promise of the Gospel, the Good News of the Kingdom which, unlike the nation, will not pass away.
The Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1965, 1966 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The icon of St. Joseph the Worker is by Daniel Nichols.