The Darkness Drops AgainLincoln E. Steed May/June 2021
Those words come from William Butler Yeats 1919 poem “The Second Coming.” He wrote it immediately after the Great War—expected to be, hoped to be, by many, the last war. (So much for hope over realism.) He also wrote it just after the so-called Spanish flu had killed as many as 50 million worldwide and 675,000 out of a U.S. population of 100 million. A curious side fact is that flu treatment at the time was largely a massive dose of up to 30 grams a day of aspirin. We now know that above four grams is unsafe; and one has to wonder at the comorbidity effect of aspirin overdose, which manifested as hyperventilation and fluid on the lungs!
Which makes me feel just a little less secure now that I have my second Moderna shot! No headaches yet, so no need to take an aspirin!
After a year of COVID, all signs are that people have had enough. Plenty of people seem not to bother with masks; they want to have parties and family get-togethers, and the roads are as busy as ever getting there. Yes, the number of deaths seem to be declining as we get used to treating this evolving malady; but infection rates remain disturbingly high, and mutated varieties promise continued peril.
So let the band play on. After the Spanish flu (probably originating in New York, by the way), the same eat, drink, and be merry mood prevailed. Of course, it was more than just the end of gasping for breath; the trench war was over, the old world gone with much of the new generation, and those left obviously thought it best for mayflies to flutter and be gay. It was the flapper era, and in Germany the cabaret scene for blue angels. Such a pity that barely two decades later the world would end again.
I can’t shake the feeling that we are about to dance across that no-man’s land again ourselves.
COVID has not gone; it will likely never go—just retreat for a time.
The piper has yet to be paid for all the COVID stimulus checks: about $5 trillion, by my figuring. Of course, that pales next to the U.S. national debt of around $20 trillion. And maybe vice president Cheney had it right when he said that deficits don’t matter. Not when the fiat money system itself is at stake. The state fair attraction of money on demand is at root a sideshow barker’s trick, sustainable only when the calliope drowns out reality. Ask the good and democratically inclined leaders of the interwar German Weimar Republic.
It seems, too, that we have lately overprinted that other currency of the U.S. republic: religious freedom.
Before the last presidential election the talk of religious freedom had become so loud as to be meaningless. The public manner has scarcely been more crude and vicious, so to hear it used in promoting religious freedom is jarring.
For most, religious freedom has devolved to decrying the manifestly ungodly prevalence of abortion; demanding prayer/religion back in schools; fighting against gays; and replacing bad science with bad religion.
The trouble is that most of this is carried forward in a way that would surely repulse the Carpenter from Galilee. He was pretty heavily into good deeds and kindness, and not too interested in political power or compulsion.
By my lights the biggest problem of late with religious freedom is a lack of religion itself—or at least the finer sensibilities that all religions like to think distinguish them from the unbeliever.
For most religious entities the end of religious freedom is access to government subsidy, special accommodation to their agenda, and protection for their right to condemn the sinners so prevalent in what they wish were a theocratic state. The bolder religionists think religious freedom exercised should be the ability for minority religious views to mandate behavior to others. No wonder so many “pagans” view religion and religious freedom with suspicion!
The basics of religious freedom are indeed basic. We are all deserving of respect, and as free moral agents seek God in many ways. Religious freedom means nothing unless it discounts the arm of force (the state) and grants the right of others to be wrong about spiritual things. Remember, in the Bible account, how God grants the Edenic pair the ability to make mistakes? Remember too how Jesus, the proclaimed Son of God, declined to enter the political realm and in dealing with sinners could say, “Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more”?
Read any history book, and it is obvious that in times of societal stress, politicized religion, seeking for national identity, lashes out violently against the “other.” I see that emerging model in the United States. It is our looming crisis, far more than economic apocalypse (sure to come); gun violence (Left Behind, anyone?); insurgency and near civil war (Christian militias and preppers!); fading world dominance (community of nations?) and racial equity (Christian brotherhood, anyone!).
Over the years I have had innumerable theological discussions with those confused over the distinctions between foreknowledge and predestination. God surely knows men and nations. But we had better stop thinking that God or the fates control events. We do, and our actions have consequences. No people and no nation are irredeemable. No course cannot be reversed. The darkness is indeed falling; but let us rediscover true liberty, true charity (for all, as Lincoln put it), and true security. Before the darkness settles.
The Second Coming
BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Article Author: Lincoln E. Steed
Lincoln E. Steed is the editor of Liberty magazine, a 200,000 circulation religious liberty journal which is distributed to political leaders, judiciary, lawyers and other thought leaders in North America. He is additionally the host of the weekly 3ABN television show "The Liberty Insider," and the radio program "Lifequest Liberty."