Long before President Barack Obama and hundreds of pundits popularized the notion of “playing the long game” in seeking societal change, a 1917 editorial in the Times Literary Supplement stated: “The long game is the Church’s game.”
Having only seen this quote second hand, I do not know what exactly prompted a London editor, living through the slog of World War I, to turn to this saying. Yet the context of millions dead in Europe’s trenches – and with them, a civilization’s optimistic illusions about the inevitability of its moral and cultural march toward “progress” – gives a good clue. It’s not hard to imagine specific sources of discouragement during the savagery of the First World War and, a hundred years later, most of us can supply a ready list of our own disappointments with the current state of the world.
We too need a reminder that the Church, indeed, is always playing the long game.
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