Life on the Edge

The Times Require Mercy for the Fight
by Thomas S. Buchanan

Society is on edge. We have seen friends turn against friends and churches split over preventive measures against a virus. We have seen colleagues lose their jobs for showing support for someone out of favor on social media. People have been assaulted for their political views, and religious liberty is dangerously in peril. Our young people are said to be easily triggered, as if they were guns ready to shoot and destroy unless handled very carefully.

Many of these problems exist because we have seen the Church weakened. It has lost its voice in society, as people turn away from the Living God and embrace false philosophies. Many have described the fall of the West's faith and suggested ways to redeem us, such as Rod Dreher in The Benedict Option and Live Not by Lies, as well as Anthony Esolen in Out of the Ashes. Touchstone has published and hosted conferences on this topic.

Remember Nineveh & Repent

Nevertheless, it is important to state in these tumultuous times that our God is still with us (as he always has been) and our only hope is to turn to him.

In times like these, we need to stand by the roads and look and ask for the ancient paths where the good way is and walk in it and find rest for our souls. It is not a time to lose heart or to succumb to the destructive desires of the Evil One, who seeks to tear us apart. It is a time to turn to God, not away from him.

One might think that a time of such difficulties might bring a people back to God. Yet that does not appear to be happening. We see churches emptying and Christians giving up. This should be a time for us to remember Nineveh and, like the people of that ancient city, to repent. This should be a time to ask God for his mercy and to examine our souls. This should be a time to be in our churches, on our knees before God.

Yes, we live in a time of plagues, wars, immorality, and apostasy. The Church has withstood all these in the past and come out victorious. The early Church withstood Nero and Diocletian, it withstood Arianism and the attacks of the Ottoman Empire, and the Church withstood the rise of Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

The Church has also withstood plagues. During the Black Death, more than one third of Europe's population perished within two years. Preaching at that time was Gregory Palamas, who said,

Death is a grievous thing, both when it happens and when it is awaited, but not turning from our sins is far worse. . . . The terrors of the present seem unbearable, even though they pass and only affect the body, but those others punish both body and soul without any expectation of deliverance. Let us, brethren, repent and turn back, demonstrating our penitence in word and deed. Let us fall before God with a contrite heart, saying to him: O Lord, rebuke me not with Thy wrath; neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure, but do unto us according to Thy mercy and not as we deserve. As Thy greatness is, so is Thy mercy.

Beseech the Lord's Mercy


Thomas S. Buchanan is the George W. Laird Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Delaware. He has studied at UCSD, Northwestern University, and MIT, and has held visiting professorships at the University of Western Australia and the University of Aix-Marseille. He has served as department chairman, deputy dean, and institute director, president of the American Society of Biomechanics, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Applied Biomechanics. He is on the Board of Trustees of Saint Katherine College, the editorial board of Touchstone, and the board of The Fellowship of St. James.


more on culture from the online archives

34.1—January/February 2021

Jeremiah Revisited

Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents by Rod Dreher by Hans Boersma

33.4—July/August 2020

No Option

Clear Out the Rubble & Rebuild! by Anthony Esolen

23.2—March/April 2010

Job’s Progress

on Maturity for a Rising Generation by Peter J. Leithart

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more from the online archives

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