Here are the headlines optimists and conservatives want to see in 2019:
• Economic growth hits 4 percent!
• Unemployment falls to 2 percent!
• Stock market hits 30,000!
Here are the headlines pessimists and liberals want to see in 2019:
• Trump impeached! Second president forced to resign from the White House!
• Economy tanks! It is all Trump’s fault!
• America gives up on capitalism and turns to socialism!
Will any of these come true next year?
No one knows what will happen one year, one month or even one day in the future with 100 percent certainty. Think of the poor weathermen — they have science and satellites on their side, and they often predict a snowmageddon that turns into nothing.
Each person can control how they respond to life, however. They can turn off the 24-hour news and cable show talking heads if they are driving them crazy; shut down their social media accounts; start reading great literature; go on daily hikes; volunteer more in their after-work hours to help others in need and generally take better care of their own personal health, physical, mental and spiritual.
One truth of the matter in 2018 is that many of us spend far too much time worrying about politics and what other people are doing when we could spend that same amount of time doing whatever we can do to make things better in any number of ways.
A dear departed friend, Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington. D.C. (yes, there is such a place), used to talk about returning to an “Augustinian sensibility” about the role of politics in our daily lives. As he described it:
“We need to adopt a form of Christian realism that recognizes that, because of the Fall, we live in a world that will remain sinful and broken until the end of time. While living in a broken world, our task, if it’s political, is to help the state curb that brokenness and that sinfulness in a way that aims toward justice. I use the phrase ‘Augustinian sensibility’ to lean against a Utopian temptation for people on the Right or the Left who give the political realm more significance than it should be given.
“So it’s a chastened view of politics, but it’s not anti-political. People should have firm, clear political convictions on what justice means, without becoming so ideologically wired that they have over-expectations for what can happen in the public policy realm. It’s a Christian cast of mind. Having that cast of mind can help nurture a form of Christian civility that is really important in these times, when we have a culture that is more shrill than ever.”
The same should be said by the atheist, the agnostic, the Jew or the Muslim. We can all lean against the temptation to think that mere mortal men can establish a utopia here on earth through politics and coercive government and seek to do justice and spread mercy through our daily interactions with as many people as we can.
Will universal adoption of this “Augustinian sensibility” mean 2019 will see a historical budget deal to balance our budget signed by President Trump after 100 percent buy-in from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and all the Republicans in the U.S. Senate and Congress? Will it mean The Wall will be built? Will it mean any of the big public policy problems we face will be solved by some clever creative bipartisan compromised legislation
Probably not all by itself.
However, if we adopt Michael Cromartie’s “chastened view of politics,” we will be spared the hypertension of watching the evening news or listening to talk radio 24/7 and be pleasantly surprised by anything positive happening in 2019 instead of disappointed by the new year.