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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.

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