by Gene Edward Veith
A recent poll found that 80% of Americans believe the country is “spiraling out of control.”
The Wall Street Journal/NBC News conducted the survey during the Black Lives Matter protests, but what seemed to bother Americans the most was not so much the civil unrest. The same study found that two-thirds of Americans agree with the protests and were more troubled over the police killing of George Floyd than they were about the looting, vandalism and violence that sometimes broke out during the demonstrations.
The findings suggest a widespread disillusionment. When those sworn to enforce the law break the law, things are out of control. When a nation founded on the principles of freedom and equality is still struggling with racism, things are out of control. Disenchantment with the government, our politics and the culture are all contributing to the sense that America is coming apart.
The COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown have added to the perception of the lack of control. Not only is the pandemic seemingly out of control, making Americans fear for their lives, but the shutdown intended to slow the pandemic has taken away Americans’ control over their own lives.
The national emergency has meant that Americans have not been in control of what they do or where they go. They have not been allowed to go to work, operate their businesses, go shopping, go to a restaurant, travel, go to church or even leave the house. Americans are used to being in control of their lives, not being controlled.
With the pandemic, the shutdown, police brutality, protests, riots, economic collapse and political turmoil, no wonder Americans feel that their country is spiraling out of control.
But that can be a dangerous feeling. Out-of-control societies often lurch to the other extreme, from chaos to totalitarianism. The French Revolution led first to the Reign of Terror and then to the dictatorship of Napoleon. The Russian Revolution overthrew the czar, but after a period of social disorder reverted to Communism, which controlled the entire society. Germany’s Weimar Republic spiraled out of control, leading to the tyranny of National Socialism.
Americans should not give up on their ideals and institutions. Those very ideals — such as freedom, equality and inalienable rights — make it possible to reform those institutions when they fall short.
Christians should also realize that even in our current year of troubles, God still reigns. Ultimately, despite sin and its consequences, despite trials and tribulations, He has everything under control.
Dr. Gene Edward Veith is the author of over 20 books on different facets of Christianity and culture, including, most recently, Authentic Christianity (CPH), with A. Trevor Sutton. A retired English professor and college administrator, he also directs the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, and blogs regularly at patheos.com/blogs/geneveith.