The age of uncertainty and anxiety

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Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, recently celebrated its centenary. Since its first publication in 1922, thousands of articles have helped shape the course of US foreign policy and international relations. It is said that even the Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin was an avid reader.

So, what theme was chosen for this historic issue?

“The Age of Uncertainty.”

It’s not hard to see why, certainly on the international relations front. Consider the titles of some of the articles filling its pages:

“The Chinese Trap: American Foreign Policy and the Perilous Logic of Zero-Sum Competition”

“The World Putin Wants: How Distortions of the Past Fuel Illusions of the Future”

“Ukraine Holds the Future: The War Between Democracy and Nihilism”

“Spirals of Illusion: How AI Distorts Decision Making and Makes Dictators More Dangerous”

This mood is not only reflected on the international front, but also on the national front. Just a few months before the issue was launched, I read an article in the Washington Post with a similar theme, titled “‘Nothing Feels Safe: ‘Americans Are Divided, Anxious and Quick to Panic.”

The article went beyond the fear and paranoia associated with mass shootings, where any sound of “pop, pop, pop” can send thousands on the run. “There is fundamental national insecurity now, after a perfect storm of social chaos where covid forced us to stay apart and the murder of George Floyd sparked a movement that shattered trust in the people who protect us,” citing Thane Rosenbaum, a professor who directs the Forum on Life, Culture and Society at Touru University in New York. “We’re in a moral panic: ‘Will someone pick up the phone if I call for help?'”

This section of the article was the most revealing:

“Although the country has seen much higher crime rates and similar periods of deep political division, ‘we are in uncharted territory in terms of anxiety,'” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum and former Boston police official. . “With the murder of George Floyd, the war in Ukraine, the questioning of the election, people don’t know who to trust.”

So with the “age of uncertainty” comes the “age of anxiety” – and both are associated with a loss of confidence. Or as social psychologist Jonathan Haidt wrote in Atlantic, “We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth.” Or as Fisher himself notes, increasingly separated by

“Because of media regimes and social relationships, Americans have lost faith in each other and in the institutions and authorities that have traditionally brought people together, including government, police, schools, scientists and others. experts, as well as religious leaders and business leaders.”

Is there a way forward? That is to say, put in parentheses the main competitor, which would be the return of Christ.

One of the articles in the centenary edition of Foreign Affairs, “The Dangerous Decade”, written by Richard Haas, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, explores the many challenges facing the United States at this critical moment in history, such as reviving competition between major powers, imperial ambitions and battles. on resources. It describes the many challenges that come with tyrant-ruled Russia and China’s quest for potential regional and global primacy. He then reminds us that these challenges collide with complex new ones, such as climate change, pandemics and nuclear proliferation. As if that weren’t enough, America itself is in a state of disarray. And it was his words on this final challenge that I found most compelling:

“Ultimately, however, the greatest risk to American security in the coming decade lies with the United States itself. A country divided against itself cannot stand; nor can it be effective in the world, because the factious United States will not be seen as a reliable or predictable partner or leader. Nor will it be able to meet its national challenges. Bridging the country’s divisions will require sustained efforts from politicians, educators, religious leaders and parents.

Repeat:

The politicians.

Educators.

Religious leaders.

Parents.

It’s time for all of us to get to work.

James Emery White

Sources

Foreign AffairsSeptember/October 2022. See Foreignaffairs.com.

Marc Fisher, “Nothing Seems Sure”: Americans Are Divided, Anxious, and Quick to Panic,” The Washington PostJuly 5, 2022, read online.

Jonathan Haidt, “Why the last 10 years of American life have been particularly stupid”, Atlantic, April 11, 2022, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founder and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I believe” is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. To take advantage of a free Church & Culture blog subscription, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture podcast. . Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

James Emery White is the founder and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president.

His latest book, After “I believe”, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. To take advantage of a free Church & Culture blog subscription, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture podcast. .

Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

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