William Butler Yeats wrote his famous poem “The Second Coming,” in 1920, a time when most people assumed that what had just come to an end was “the war to end all wars.” Yeats sensed, however, that the new political and cultural configurations were wildly unstable. There was no unifying principle, or cause, that could bind nations and peoples together. He seemed the prophet by suggesting anarchy and dissolution would advance in the world as the twentieth century progressed, ultimately the bloodiest in human history. Indeed, it would only be another twenty years when a far worse conflagration was loosed around the globe and the development of a world-destroying weapon that still lies in wait like a sleeping dragon just beyond our attention.
As we move into the twenty-first century, during an election year of the most powerful nation in the world, see if his words eerily capture our moment: “Things fall apart; the centre 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.”
Man-oh-man is there ever a lot of passionate intensity from the “less-than-the-best!” Don’t be distracted: the stakes have never been higher.
Robust hope begins with the naming of truth. I think that’s the poet’s intent. Among other things, the season of Lent concerns the naming of the truth about ourselves—the good, the bad and the ugly. All of it. And locating our place in the thick of it…and then recognizing that nothing falls beyond the range of God’s embrace. Nothing.
The Reverend Dr. Stephen Bauman