Excerpt #14

A society that cannot imagine placing the weak at its center, that forgets that society exists for the weak, will be drawn towards the Manichaean modes of cancel culture. We see sin but not grace – we try to find and throw out the bad apples, whom (we think) no one can restore to righteousness. Or we see ourselves mirrored in the most notorious sinners, and work to deny sin, since we don’t want to be cast out with them.

Paul points us towards the proper expression of our vulnerability in his second letter to the Corinthians. He struggles with his own thorn, and asks the Lord to spare him. “Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor. 12:8-9).

To give an honest accounting of ourselves, we must begin with our weakness and fragility. We cannot structure our politics or our society to serve a totally independent, autonomous person who never has and never will exist. Repeating that lie will leave us bereft: first, of sympathy from our friends when our physical weakness breaks the implicit promise that no one can keep, and second, of hope, when our moral weakness should lead us, like the prodigal, to rush back into the arms of the Father who remains faithful. Our present politics can only be challenged by an illiberalism that cherishes the weak and centers its policies on their needs and dignity.

Leah Libresco Sargeant, “Dependence: Toward an Illiberalism of the Weak” in Plough No. 26, page 58.

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