Reflecting upon the current state of social discourse, I have come to believe that the greatest battle of our age is not, as one might suppose, the “war on terror,” meaning terrorists. I believe it is an invisible war inside human souls that carries its own element of terror.
This invisible war, as I am coming to see it, can be understood in the writings of Pascal (the Pensées), who describes the character of a person who has who set himself up as his own god: “He [or she] devotes all his attention to hiding his faults both from others and from himself. He conceives a mortal enmity against that truth which reproves him. He would annihilate it, but, unable to destroy it in its essence, he destroys it in so far as possible.”
“He [or she] devotes all his attention to hiding his faults both from others and from himself. He conceives a mortal enmity against that truth which reproves him.”
This captures the essence of what is going off the boil in today’s public discourse generally, and particularly, as it shows itself by “progressives” on the Left and their repulsion of Donald J. Trump’s presidency.
The shocking and exceedingly troubling incitement to violence and the raging intolerance is hardly progressive; it is rather quite regressive and, in some instances, barbaric.
There is no way to engage such disgorgement on intellectual or even logical grounds. These battles cannot be won on social media, nor arbitrated on late-night talk shows or (especially) cable news programs. In the best of all worlds, the battle might be met by each person, on all sides of the political spectrum, remembering God in a world that has forgotten him or deposed him.
The cynic responds: Good luck with that. Nevertheless, those of us who believe in God are not beholden to the cynics. We know God to be good, kind, generous, mysterious and — most vexing of all His attributes, unable to be fooled.
We live in a universe of players who live by cravings to be like God. “Each degree of good fortune that raises [them] in the world,” Pascal continues, “removes them farther from the truth, because they are afraid of wounding those whose affection is most useful and whose dislike is most dangerous.”
The person or community that assumes the prerogatives of God or thinks to fool God encapsulates the greatest challenge of these times. This is especially true for those trying to navigate these difficult days as people of faith.
God does not wag His finger, contrary to the popular belief of some — and we, as His emissaries, are wrong to wag ours. He is good at exhibiting patience and practicing persistence, organizing His movements in perfect synchrony that open us to act freely and at the same time draw us irresistibly away from self-deception.
When I ask myself, What is the “truth” of our times that we, as God-bearers, are called to communicate — I come to see that the answer is quite simple: We must, like God, be good at exhibiting patience and practicing persistence. Beyond that, we (meaning humans) are well-served to remember that we are not God and it is best to leave His prerogatives to Him. (This includes determining who is or is not able to be used by God.) It is liberating if one can truly apprehend it.
I draw consolation from the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “Since you speak of peace, all the more so must you have it in your hearts. Let none be provoked to anger or scandal by you, but rather may they be drawn to peace and good will, to benignity and concord through your gentleness. We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.”
Ultimately, the challenge of our time is to impart this truth in a way that appropriately echoes God’s loving, aching heart.
Wendy Murray served as regional correspondent for TIME magazine in Honduras in the early 1990s, and later as associate editor and senior writer at Christianity Today. She is the author of 10 nonfiction books and a novel.