Timothy George has some words of wisdom and truth for us in this age,
There are two major (and regrettably common) mistakes Augustine wants us to avoid. One is the lure of utopianism. This is the mistake of thinking that we can produce a human society that will solve our problems and bring about the kingdom of God on earth. This was the basic error of both Marxism and 19th-century liberalism.
The other error, equally disastrous, is cynicism. This creeps up on us as we see ever-present evil. We withdraw into our own self-contained circle of contentment, which can just as well be a pious holy huddle as a secular skeptics club.
Fragile World, Strong Faith
How can we avoid such reactions? Perhaps another great Christian of the past, Francis of Assisi, can help. One day when Francis was riding to Assisi, he saw a leper on the road. He reached out to embrace the leper and actually gave him the kiss of peace. While embracing this filthy, diseased outcast, Francis said, he was overcome by a dual sensation. One was nausea. The other was a sense of sweetness and well-being. Like Francis, we need both.
If all we experience is nausea, we will become cynics. We will give up on the world and turn away. But if all we have is sweetness, then our faith will amount to little more than sentimental fluff.
Genuine Christian faith, and true ministry, takes place on the thin line between nausea and sweetness. Feel-good Christianity, so common in our popular culture, actually masks the suffering and pain of the world for which Christ died.
George goes on to remind us that C. S. Lewis spoke at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin at Oxford on October 22, 1939. Less than two months earlier, Hitler invaded Poland and Britain was about to face the demonic Nazi onslaught. This is what Lewis told the assembled students:
It may seem odd for us to carry on classes, to go about our academic routine in the midst of a great war. What is the use of beginning when there is so little chance of finishing? How can we study Latin, geography, algebra in a time like this? Aren't we just fiddling while Rome burns? This impending war has taught us some important things. Life is short. The world is fragile. All of us are vulnerable, but we are here because this is our calling. Our lives are rooted not only in time, but also in eternity, and the life of learning, humbly offered to God, is its own reward. It is one of the appointed approaches to the divine reality and the divine beauty, which we shall hereafter enjoy in heaven and which we are called to display even now amidst the brokenness all around us.
Blessed be the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city. (Ps 31:21)