We are barely two weeks away from an election day that, to paraphrase Churchill, is not the beginning of our end (our end as a nation has been, like the end of each human life, a process built-in at conception, with our last gasp set in motion by our first breath) but may signal the end of the beginning of our end.
Our unemployment has fallen in no small part thanks to a terrifying reduction in the labor force, and we can reasonably say that under-educated women and minorities have been the hardest hit. Cliches are grounded in truth.
Our churches—at least the politically incorrect ones—are encountering an unprecedented assault on religious conscience that will only broaden in suppression as secularist social thinking continues to ferment.
Our society, unschooled in critical thinking and distracted by the world of 10,000 things, cannot tell you whether for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, or who governs their state, but can say who is “Dancing with the Stars.”
In what can only be considered a clarion call for the restoration of high school classes in civics, philosophy, and some history classes with depth of perspective, supporters of both presidential candidates were recently on social media sites threatening to commit suicide if their candidate does not emerge victorious on November 6. Less morbid ideologues are merrily smiling for the cameras and aligning themselves with their candidate of choice even as they admit that they have no idea what is happening in the world, or what their men propose for the next four years.
We are a nation becoming unmoored from the historical social stabilizers, and we are too morosely or giddily benumbed to understand how quickly we can lose sight of our certain shores, or how arduous our paddle-backs might be.
The usual campaign ironies have emerged on schedule, with people who formerly took issue with the deified images of Barack Obama in 2008 now carving Mitt Romney’s features into their crops and women demonstrating their umbrage at being objectified by cavorting around dressed as binders and artistically rendered vulva.
Our presidential candidates move about like appetites on legs. They remind me a little of the vampires populating our pulp-fiction and our airways: good-looking men whose smiles belie the fangs they routinely expose toward each other. Their vice-presidential candidates are comprised of two Catholics, one a clown and the other a clerk.
Often, while pondering this election and whether any of these men are up to the task of helping America become engaged, serious, and ready to start dreaming—because it is in our dreaming that we will come back to ourselves; as Montaigne said, “we sleeping wake, and waking sleep”—I feel the urge to weep. I’m not feeling despair, exactly; I have enough faith to accept that God’s hand is ultimately in all things, and that his plans may require something to happen in my lifetime that will serve his purpose in my grandchildren’s.
Still, there is a restlessness, and in recent weeks, when that feeling comes upon me, I have found an outlet in an unexpected source—Baronius Press’ newly released edition of Msgr. Ronald Knox’s translation of the Saint Jerome’s Vulgate Bible; The so-called Knox Bible, which he began at the urging of the bishops of England and Wales in 1936 and completed nine years later. A beautifully bound volume, I find myself responding with fresh eyes to the layout, which is formatted like prose, and the minimal distraction of footnotes. This is not a study bible; it’s a reading bible, and Knox’s language pulls us into the scriptural stories and images we know so very well and then elevates us with its staggering beauty.
Opening the book at random, I encountered the Song of Songs:
What a wound thou hast made, my bride, my true love, what a wound thou hast made in this heart of mine! And all with one glance of an eye, all with one ringlet straying on thy neck!
There, in a few dozen words, I got a glimpse of the whole mystery of God’s design and his ineffable love for us. The Creator so beguiled with his Creation that he is willing to become vulnerable to it; willing to live and bleed and die for the sake of such a love. Knox’s translation crystallized the truth that we can too easily forget in our electoral anxieties, that yes, God’s hand has been involved—from the first nanosecond, in all of our human affairs—and it remains, even when society seems adrift, and when the princes of the world seem wholly inadequate to their offices.
Yes, I read it and I wept. Not in fear, not in despair, but in consolation at the reminder, rendered so beautifully by Knox, that the world has resided in the madness of sin and shadow since Eden, but we are never abandoned, and need never be afraid.
Elizabeth Scalia is the Managing Editor of the Catholic Portal at Patheos and blogs as The Anchoress. Her previous articles for "On the Square" can be found here.
Suicide Threats on Social Media
Ohio Students; What Benghazi Attack?
Become a fan of First Things on Facebook, subscribe to First Things via RSS, and follow First Things on Twitter.