An eerie mood of pessimism seems to have seized America—right, left, and center; believer and nonbeliever alike. Public opinion polls confirm what everyday conversation suggests. Last October, for example, SurveyUSA conducted 50 surveys—one for each state—and concluded that, nationwide, only 29 percent of Americans thought the nation was headed in the right direction. Sixty-six percent thought the opposite. In no state, red or blue, did a majority of adults believe America was on the right course. Only in five states did as many as four out of ten think so.

True, some surveys (like one in May by Rasmussen) report that most Americans are satisfied with their own lives. But the broader sense of worry lingers and will likely have negative implications for our politics and our culture for years to come. As the late Presbyterian minister Frank Crane once said, "Depression, gloom, pessimism, despair, discouragement, these slay ten human beings to every one murdered by typhoid, influenza, diabetes, or pneumonia."

For Christians, of course, the hope of the gospel should temper our response to a broken world. Still, we are human, and we worry. Some of us are depressed by the war, others by the opposition to the war. Some are worn down by economic news. Some mourn the direction of American culture. Others are exhausted by theological battles within their denominations.

Facing such depressingly persistent battles, we cling to the words of the psalmist, hoping that we have the strength to hang on: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea" (Ps. 46:1-2). Sometimes, however, that is easier said than ...

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Civil Reactions
Stephen Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale University. He is the author of The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln (2012), The Violence of Peace, The Emperor of Ocean Park, and many other books. His column, "Civil Reactions," ran from 2001 until 2007.
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