Ethics & Public Policy Center

Until We Rest in Him

Published in First Things on November 1, 2020


I’ve been dreading this November for the past year. In half a century of voting, I’ve been worried or frustrated by our public life many times. But 2020 has a unique toxicity, as if the whole nation were heaving, rudderless, on an ocean of poisonous blame. There is no peace and no dignity in our political storm. So in recent months, I’ve held tight to the two oars of my lifeboat.

The first is a verse from Sirach: “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray” (28:2). This is hard, because I love my anger. Not publicly, of course. That would be bad form. But secretly, yes—it’s consoling and familiar. It’s also self-exonerating. I nourish it every day in my resentments about people and politics, about issues in the Church, and in a dozen other ways, all of which leave me feeling vindicated, then empty, and then powerless—and thus angrier still. And I know I’m not alone. I see the same struggle in too many other faces. It’s the disease du jour. This sort of anger, unrighteous, unhealthy, but earnestly nursed, is the current terrain of American life. It’s also the doorway to despair. So, I cling, or try to cling, even more firmly to my other oar. It’s a verse from Revelation: “And he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (21:5).

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