In the providential wisdom of God we are punished by, not for, our sins.
The core sin of American conservatives–and above all American conservative, “prolife” Christianists–is Pride. They cannot accept the fact that they were simply flat-out wrong. They have told themselves for twenty years that they are the *Real* Christians, the *Real* Americans, the *Real* Heroes. They are better than all their neighbors, better than the Pope, better, above all, than the Most Horrible Human Being in America, Hillary Clinton. And in their blindness, they have become everything they hate: enemies of America, enemies of Church’s teaching on the dignity of human life, and enemies of God in their sadistic cruelty to children at the border. They began with delusional fears of persecution over coffee cups and Target employees not wishing them “Merry Christmas”. They have ended as sadistic persecutors jailing babies, causing abortions, celebrating the murder by thirst of some of the most desperate brother and sister Catholics on earth.
And so, as just punishment, they must face the fact that everything their worst enemy said here was absolutely right, Agent Orange is a visible-from-space liar whose accusations are confessions, and they are and stubbornly remain idiots for pig-headedly refusing to admit in in their towering pride.
This is a laboratory demonstration of the way sin is its own punishment. The tragedy, of course, is that sin does not just hurt the sinner. It hurts the entire community. (That’s why confession is a sacrament of Holy Church, by the way, because the sin is not just between the sinner and God. Every sin sends out ripples that shred the Body of Christ and the world too, so the priest is giving absolution not only in the name of Christ, but as the representative of the Body of Christ wounded by the sinner.)
Meanwhile, those of us who are forced to innocently endure the consequences of the sins of others can join our sufferings to that of the most innocent sufferer of all, Christ Jesus, and use those sufferings to help in the redemption of the world.
That’s what Paul is getting at when he tells the Colossians “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Col 1:24). Paul does not mean “Jesus made a good attempt at saving us, but we have to make up the difference.” Nor does he mean that he is perfect and sinless. He means that even the worst sinner (as he counts himself) has *some* sufferings that are due, not to his sins, but to the sins of others. (This is the reply to those Christianist liar who will, surely, round on any critic of Trump and shout “You’re the puppet!” or some equally moronic Whataboutist nonsense as they always do.)The difficulty of watching this liar continually exonerated and defended by his base of proud liars is simply the frustration of watching them get away with it and the knowledge that they are storing up more disaster for us all by doing so. It is a form of suffering familiar to all those who suffer innocently and is a small sharing in the sufferings Christ endured. But–mark this–it is also purgative and a chastening for each of us since there are, in this world, people who can with perfect justice say the same of us and the sufferings we inflicted on them–and got away with.
There remains hope so long as there are those willing to do that work of offering themselves in union with Christ. We are living in a time where principalities and powers that have long prospered in the dark are being exposed. That’s a good thing, because such exposure is, biblically speaking, prelude to their defeat. They are furious because they know their time is short. Think biblically. The false cult of Christianism thinks solely in terms of earthly power. That is why they follow the dimestore antichrist who promised them such power. They will see in this post nothing but politics. But we must not think in such terms. To be sure, we must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves and do what it practical to defeat this cult and the threat it poses. But above all, we must keep our minds and hearts on heavenly things and not on earthly things. As Paul says:
See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fulness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him. (Col 2:8–15).
That, not earthly power, is the goal. The triumph of the love and justice of God–especially for the least of these in whom Christ is most profoundly present to us (short of the Eucharist, of course) is our goal and object in this present fight, as in all earthly battles. Let the worldly struggle for power. Let us study to be friends in Christ and to go, even at the cost of a martyr’s cross, toward the love of God and neighbor–even when the neighbor is our enemy and consumed with Pharisaic pride. Because it could just as easily have been us and, on many occasions it has been us. We are saved only by grace. So let us extend it even to the enemy we must fight.