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We’re all on edge. Only this morning, two of my neighbors were bickering in the lobby of our building. I was saddened but not surprised by the acrimony. The virus makes us ­anxious about our health and that of those we love. Public health measures put civic life on hold. Many of our cities are convulsed by street violence in the wake of angry protests and an upsurge in criminality.And of course an election looms, now all the more fraught since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The media bombard us with warnings of the outrages that will transpire should one or the other major candidate win.

Today’s malignant atmosphere sent me back to the Epistle to the Romans. In the first chapter, St. Paul outlines an account of the fall of man into sin’s self-defeating disorder. His account differs from that in Genesis 3, which is at once extraordinarily lifelike and timeless. Flesh-and-blood individuals engage in conversations with a mysterious serpent, and with God himself. The account is open-ended—“original,” not in the sense of being unique, but rather as the fount from which so much flows.

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