I was raised in a small town on the second coming. It was to be feared, of course — the dies irae, dies illa when all souls will be judged (“Are you washed in the soul-cleansing blood of the lamb?”) — but it was comforting, too. And not comforting in the schadenfreude-way of seeing all those sinners suffering in hell. Comforting in the sense that we sheep have an advocate with the Father who lets us enter into that unconstructed temple where crying and sorrow, bad things, bare cabinets and being forgotten are no more. Seeing Jesus is not terror, but release. I suckled on this through my childhood. And even though I’m now an enlightened postmodern bourgeois Episcopalian (pardon the redundancy) living in a larger town, I still find myself returning again and again to the second coming.
I’m convinced there will be this moment — and, I’m sorry, I don’t have any evidence to back this up — when we will all suddenly realize that everything we thought was important and everything we thought mattered will suddenly not matter anymore. I’m convinced it’ll be like God (deus ex machina) flipping a switch and we’ll suddenly realize most of this life was meaningless. I’m convinced this will happen during the second coming.
I await that moment. I await that moment more than I watch for the sunrise after a long despondent night of self-doubt and pity. I lean towards it when I’m constantly being told to quote-unquote live my best life now and when I’m told to get my shit together. I lean towards it when all the voices in my head scream to decamp and deracinate and giggle drunkenly in the small hours of no-sunshine like a stupid fool. And all those times I wasted by getting and spending on ________. And a body that will break/is breaking down. And a body that will never be perfect. And a mind that will never be smart enough. And words that never quite, well, flow. And books that will never be dogeared, underlined. And a self that can never confidently fake authenticity. And when I hide behind layers of irony and subterfuge and obfuscation because — damn it — I don’t know why. And when I don’t know why. And when Christ returns to judge the quick and the dead, I’ll realize ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THIS MATTERS. What a relief, right?
There have been some developments as of late with my beloved Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina. The situation should be familiar to anyone who’s been following Episcopal Church politics since Gene Robinson’s election as Bishop in 2003. I’ll summarize the developments this way: Blah, blah and blah.
I wonder if any of this will matter at the second coming. Will it matter that we had homosexuals who were living in committed relationships? Will it matter that the Church elected some of those to positions of authority either as priests or bishops? Will it matter who owned which building? Will it matter if the Bishop and the majority of the Diocese leave the Episcopal Church? Will we even care, then? Another point: does anybody even care right now about this territorial fight between two rabid dogs in miters? I mean, does anybody care who is not an informed Episcopal blogger with a Twitter account? I mean, does the average Christian or non-Christian care? We do not live in the Middle Ages, so the political concerns of bishops seldom impact anyone not involved — thanks be to God for that.
What will matter and what is always meaningful (either in this world or the next) is faith, hope and love. And, of course, the greatest and most meaningful of these is love. We cannot litigate love, or love through political maneuvering, or love by hairsplitting definitions, or love through schism. But we can love in how we treat our enemies and the people who disagree with us and how we treat the people who think we’re fast-bound for hell. This, I think, is what we’ll be judged on because love will retain its meaning in the life to come. The rest will fade to meaninglessness, perhaps like a dream at the break of day. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes is right: everything (save love) is meaningless.
What a relief that with New-Jerusalem-Eyes (or even non-believer eyes), these fights look so small, so ridiculously small. The Church’s puffed-up sense of self and assumed relevancy is shown as we litigate and schism further and further into a non-relevant obscurity of only specialists applauding their own mission amid hollow graves. We Episcopalians and these breakaway Anglicans have made ourselves so post-interesting.