What year in our lifetimes has been more filled with angst and anxiety than 2020? The year, 1968, might be a close rival, politically and socially. Add to the political and social tensions a global pandemic, widespread unemployment and growing economic uncertainty caused by our response to it, and 2020 is easily the most difficult year in my lifetime.
The political anxiety and uncertainty has overflowed into tensions within families, among friends, in communities and even within churches. Collective and personal anxiety is even higher, now, with the Presidential election coming up. Hope is mixed with fear. What if the right person doesn’t get elected?
Everything seems to ride on this election, but there is that nagging doubt that even an election – even if it goes “right” (whatever you happen to believe that means) – will not calm the tensions and bring peace where current circumstances are boiling on the edge of overflowing.
We know in the pit of our stomachs that the “others” will not go down without a fight. A presidential election may shift the leverage (or not), but the fight is going to continue. It isn’t going away. COVID isn’t going away. The economy teeters on brink of failure.
The mantra during the 1960’s – the closest thing to our present circumstances – was peace and love. We don’t even dare hope for peace and love anymore. The hope held out in the ’60’s has been been replaced with anger, condemnation and unkindness. The peace has been replaced with rioting, gun violence and looting.
Not that the 1960’s didn’t see its share of violence and unrest. It’s just that we don’t pretend anymore that peace and love are achievable (or even laudable) goals. We will settle for an authoritarian dictatorship or equality forced by the arm of the law and reparations wrested from the clinging hands of people who inherited privilege.
It’s easy to feel that our generation faces difficulties that are unlike the difficulties faced by others in the past. We may feel that we are alone in these times, facing the anxiety of an uncertain future, but it isn’t so.
The details of our circumstances are unique, but nothing is new under the sun: other generations have faced similar hardships and much worse. Every previous generation shared the experience of angst and anxiety of an uncertain future, just as we do.
Looking back at history in static words written on sterile pages, we may not appreciate the common experience. In the fog of our present struggle, we can’t see as clearly as we do when we look back. Our emotions are in full flight as the noise and chaos happens around us. We don’t have the luxury of viewing the present from a comfortable chair in a quiet library.
On what basis, then, can we hold on to hope? What assurance do we have that peace will prevail?
The predominant view of politics, sociology and culture in academia today is idea of the oppressed ever rising up against their oppressors in an endless cycle of unrest, violence and change. Peace no longer has value. Hope is limited to the immediate future when the currently oppressed can change places – for a time – before the cycle repeats itself.
In the middle of our present angst and unease, I am reminded of a man who wrote about peace that defies that is not dependent on circumstances and hope that lasts beyond the foreseeable future. He wrote of peace that gave him confidence and sustained him in circumstances worse than you or I have ever experienced.
If we compare his circumstances to ours, I think most people would agree they were worse, by far, than anything we have experienced. Yet, he was fed by hope, and he experienced real peace in the midst of those circumstances – despite the circumstances. His story is worth considering.Continue reading “Can We Find Peace in These Politically and Socially Tumultuous Times?”