Pandemic, lockdowns, shuttered churches, trillions spent, BLM protests turning violent, political rancor, hyper-partisan media, uproar after the election, a mob storming the Capitol: Strong tremors are shaking our society. If you’re like me, you’re feeling knocked off balance, and you’re casting about for explanations.
Those on the left spy resurgent racism, xenophobia, and other pathologies, which they assume are radicalizing a populist base. Those on the right worry about utopian dreams on the left, which fuel a new totalitarianism that monitors pronouns and cancels dissent. By my lights, these lines of analysis can tend toward hysteria (“Fascism!” “Socialism!”) rather than understanding. They are symptoms of our disorientation, not pathways toward a sure footing in this time of staggering and stumbling.
For help, I recently turned to the great Swiss theologian, Karl Barth. In a discussion of the doctrine of creation in the third part of the third volume of his Church Dogmatics, Barth identifies the deepest source of our unease.