This is the Word that created this whole world and enlightens it by his loving wisdom. — Athanasius
Alright, so here’s a little phrase that is part of the Catholics for Trump world/ QAnon Catholic Gnosticism that is lost on me. I mean, all of it is lost on me, but this phrase in particular I find more disturbing and befuddling because I find people I love parroting it.
Remember, this is not our true home!!
This phrase is less an echo of Paul’s extortions to walk as children of the light and more of a very ineffective salve for general discomfort with the status quo. The way it is being used currently online is less as a call to shine the light of Christ into reality more than it is a call to shrink away from that reality.
In its current form, it’s a mantra that ensures the believer never has to question their own version of events, does not have to express curiosity about ideas or events foreign or incomprehensible to them, does not have to listen, learn, or change. It cements the false idea that Christians have nothing to learn from the world around them, that the beloved community is a hermetically sealed sphere, sundered from any other communal reality. Rather than reinforcing the Christian value placed on growth, and growth towards what is good, it focuses instead on some sort of unchanging ideal. Instead of asking Christians to grow and change—a process traditionally called “conversion”—it reinforces a false sense of security through stagnation.
This mantra is often accompanied by continual insistence on prayer as an alternative to being tuned into the news, as if prayer meant hiding one’s head in a hole rather than bringing Christ into the world. The mantra, “Remember, this is not our true home!!” warps the Christian sense of self—as though membership in Christ’s mystical body somehow divorces us from creation rather than knits us more deeply to the Word at its heart.
This continued refrain, “Remember!! This is not your true home!!” is usually tacked to the ends of statements of dire warning that seem to portend nothing more than personal discomfort. This antiphonal refrain usually sandwiches Christian fears that they will eventually be thrown off Twitter for expressing Christian beliefs.
There’s some sort of unhealthy fissure in this sort of thinking—a wanting to over-spiritualize one’s experience on earth as a way of disengagement from one’s context—but also this strange misunderstanding about the role of the City of God in the earthly city.
There seems to be a great misunderstanding over the Church’s role in the world, a desire for Church to be the ruler of the city of men rather than a healer on its margins. As Francis—the pope that people seem to hate without questioning why they are so bothered by a pope from outside Europe—puts it, the church is a field hospital, a mystical body that goes to who and what has been broken and crushed and offers love. This seems to me to be a vocation that will endure until the end of any possible age, given that there are always those broken, marginalized, and crushed.
This despair over the ability of Christians to express Christian beliefs and encouragement to think of this world as less-than-homelike seems to come from a position of comfort seemingly blinded to the plight of the marginalized. It is not accompanied by any noticeable concern for Black men shot by police, for women beaten and killed by their husbands, children neglected, starved or raped. There’s simply this strange curling up in on one’s own self-pity, ignoring Christ in the hungry, naked, sick, and poor around you.
There’s something very disturbing about looking to heaven—as in union with God after death—for consolation rather than union with God now. In any other situation rather than faux hue-and-cry over perceived persecution, Catholics teach that what we do now is really the precondition of what our lives will be after death. The measure of union with God after death is a consistent continuation of our union with God now.
Now, now, now, now. The kingdom of God is now.
Heaven is not a mental escape chute out of earthly responsibilities, rather it is a continuation of our life here and now with God. A life that is not real, imaginary, or contingent, but that is the most present reality that any present moment can offer.
So I remain confused how earth is not our true home, even if it is not our final one, given that God has breathed it forth from love, has entered into it as infant flesh and blood, and we meet that God each day, in our hearts, in the breaking of the bread, and in our neighbor.