About a week before the 2020 election, while driving home from Orlando, I saw a sign that read, “In Trump We Trust.” And all I could think was, “that’ll have to be answered for, and probably sooner than we expect.”
God will not be mocked.
Now, seeing America’s Charismatic and Evangelical Christians teetering on the cusp of an existential crisis fills me with hope. Perhaps I need to see a pastor and, you know, get that looked at…
What follows is my personal, frail attempt to make sense of a devastating event.
(because prologues are cool)
While dining at my sister’s house, I sat beside my nephew, Leader, who was seven or eight years old at the time. He is eleven now. Guided by a profound impulse, he decided to ask me a series of theological questions, which he has been known to do at odd times (for example, he once told me I had to “fight the dragon” so that I could become “a king of forgiveness”).
“Unky Adam,” he said.
“Yes?” I said, turning toward him.
“Do you love God more than money?” he asked, his smile as big as a crescent moon.
“Yes,” I said. I went back to my food, thinking that would be the end of it.
“Do you love God more than houses?” he asked, his tenor elevated. He seemed to know well enough that sequels should raise the stakes.
“Yes,” I said.
His smile broadened. I decided not to take the next bite, knowing that another question must follow in the series. To him, it was a kind of game where the questions must be part of a trilogy.
“Do you love God more than the world?” he asked, raising his volume to something like half a notch above inside-voice acceptable decibels.
I waited, wanting to give myself a moment to be honest even if it led to disappointment. Anyone claiming to be a believer would want the answer to be “Yes”. But I gave myself enough time for it to be a cold, cowardly “No” if the truth of my heart demanded it. I gave myself time to fall if fall I must.
“Yes,” I said.
As soon as I spoke, I knew I had done what for me had always been unthinkable. I had made a commitment. Leader smiled bigger, but not because he had trapped me. He smiled in a kind of child-like awe. You see, because I had affirmed my love for God above money, houses, and the world—because of these affirmations of faith, he seemed to think I was some sort of hero.
“If you want to see what it looks like for God’s renewed people in Christ to be ‘royal,’ to be ‘rulers’ in the sense indicated by the vocation to be a ‘royal priesthood,’ don’t look at the fourth and fifth centuries, when the Roman emperors first became Christian. That raises questions and challenges at other levels, but to begin there would be to miss the point. Look, instead, at what the church was doing in the first two or three centuries, while being persecuted and harried by the authorities—and announcing to the whole world that Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah of Israel, was its rightful Lord. That is what it means to be ‘rulers’ in the sense we’re discussing here: to be agents of that King’s reign, the reign of the Prince of Peace, the one through whom tyranny itself (not to mention any individual tyrants) was overthrown with the destruction of its most vital weapon—namely, death—and the one through whom therefore was brought to birth a new world in which order and freedom at last meet.” – N. T. Wright, After You Believe
My life has been marked by symbolism, with video games providing some of the most poignant moments. Yes, you read me right: time-ravaging life-debilitating muscle-atrophying video games.
When I first held the original Nintendo controller, I held it upside down. The black cord jutted toward me, level with my bellybutton, and then curved down and away—an umbilical between me and the 8-bit box. Mind you, it wasn’t that I thought the controller was right-side up. Rather, I was convinced that upside-down was the better way to play. That Mario and Luigi had a hard time conforming their behavior to my inverted will was not really my problem.
Phase one usually doesn’t harm a soul. It’s the thinking phase, the inceptive hovering over the face of black waters. Nothing is spoken and no promises are made—there is no law and no one to break it, no light and thus no understanding of darkness. Nothing is right and nothing is wrong. A voice says “light be.” Suddenly a veil splits from top to bottom and it is this perpetual tearing of the immaterial that carves its way toward the farthest reach of eternity. This is phase two, the vocalizing of the concept that causes a new world to envelop the old. If this stage is initiated, the one in charge is responsible for making sure that the original idea is sound and, most importantly, something that produces life.