Sometimes it seems as if the world, and especially our nation, has gone mad.
And the anxiety that many of us feel isn’t helping matters. Yet somehow, we feel not just a compulsion to be anxious, but an obligation, as if worrying can hold back the apocalypse.
So many things are going wrong, from nuclear fears with North Korea, to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in our streets, to environmental degradation. And how about that Russia investigation? And fears of future Russian interference. The White House staff seems to exit through a revolving door faster than we can learn how to pronounce “Scaramucci.”
On social media, we are beset by activist friends who have article after article they want us to read. It’s almost as if people are screaming their fears at us.
Here’s something you need to worry about — a national park in peril, a dangerous pesticide suddenly removed from regulation, an iceberg the size of Connecticut being cut loose somewhere, civil rights protection collapsing.
Or at least, that’s the subliminal — and not so subliminal — takeaway. We’re asked to sign petitions, call our representatives, attend a rally.
Activism, of course, is necessary for the triumph of good.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (or people) do nothing.” The origin of this quote is debatable, but Edmund Burke, John F. Kennedy and a host of good people used it often enough to convince me that in times like these, we can’t sit around, shake our heads and do nothing.
However, in times like these, sometimes our biggest temptation is to “do” anxiety.
The publication “The Atlantic” weighed in on the subject Aug. 17 in an article titled, “Constant Anxiety Won’t Save the World.” It acknowledged what we’re all noticing: People are increasingly on edge, sleepless, scared.
But being aware is one thing. Simply caving in to anxiety is quite another.
Here’s my modest proposal, one you won’t find in secular journals and in many Facebook postings. I believe the place to begin is prayer. Not just prayer for this weary world and nation, although that’s needed, but a deeper place of prayer to align us with God, whose Son promised a peace that the world cannot give.
Of course, we don’t just turn our problems over to God and walk away. As St. Teresa of Avila told us, we are God’s hands and feet on this earth. We need to be activists, but healthy ones.
We begin in prayer. We also end there.
One of my favorite quotes is from the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred by the Nazis for opposing fascism in World War II. I’ve quoted him before, but it bears repeating: “Prayer does not replace any deed. But it is a deed that cannot be replaced by anything.”
So, start with God. And then move to what most calls you to action. I have worked in opposition to the death penalty, so I frequently write letters and make calls on behalf of death row inmates.
I have my senators’ and congressman’s numbers in my phone contacts, and call their offices frequently. I’ve attended rallies and stood up for refugees. I’ve contributed money to new causes this year. Do what you feel God is calling you to do.
Then relax. Exercise. Socialize. Laugh. Don’t become addicted to social media, political websites, cable news.
I try to do my part to be an involved citizen, and then I try — oh, how I try — to leave the anxiety to him who told us “my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”