Current Events Monday: Some observations on this side of the pandemic

James Hassell   -  

I know, I know. You’ve likely heard all you want to hear about the pandemic. A weary Austin has been heartened by the news that the latest covid have dropped below Stage 3 criteria. We even were afforded the opportunity to pass the offering plates yesterday in church! The latest tumble in numbers of infected people, as well as encouraging news regarding medicinal treatments, seems to indicate that the light at the end of the tunnel may not be a train.

Some reflection is certainly due after all we’ve been through in the past year and a half. Covid-19 has directly impacted every church member to some degree. For some it has proved a minor inconvenience, but others are grieving significant losses. The biblical mandate to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” appears quite in order at this point (Romans 12:15). What else shall we say however about a pandemic that has been analyzed from just about every angle? Here are a few observations that may not necessarily provide any earth-shattering commentary but, in the final analysis, prove helpful to those of us who simultaneously rejoice and grieve.


Observation 1: We cannot “cure” our mortality.
One of the most heart-wrenching aspects of the pandemic has been the seemingly indiscriminate loss of life and health no matter how stringent the preventative measures. Perhaps before Covid appeared, we had been lulled again into the rather incoherent pretension that we may somehow evade death, or that we are progressed enough now to accept pain and mortality through a type of manufactured stoicism. For instance, we say, “Well, did you hear about what happened to John Doe? Too bad, isn’t it?” Then we move on as fast as we can to the next item on the to-do list.

Accordingly, at the height of the pandemic, we put most of our eggs in the science basket. We even gave it a fancy name like “Operation Warp Speed.” We had daily briefings from all the supposedly top men and women in their fields of research to tell how we will cure our mortality, especially in this event. We did our best to flatten curves, socially distance, wash our hands longer than a few seconds, wear masks, and deal with all the political divisiveness that comes with the spirit of our age.

Now, don’t hear me wrongly here. Science certainly has its rightful place in helping us to overcome a pandemic in a quicker fashion, and we shouldn’t knock it. I’ve come to learn that science and faith in Christ can get along just fine and make better neighbors than most people seem to assume these days. But here’s the deal about the science: It overwhelmingly helps us to explain what we call “the natural order,” yet it cannot offer sufficient guidance as to the rhymes and reasons for us humans who live both within and above the natural order of things. For instance, how can you quantify sanctity of life, human autonomy, and the actions of renewal and reconciliation with our community with some measurements or quantitative research?

Observation 2: We have rather unsuccessfully tried to evade or escape the pandemic.
Our methods of evasion have become somewhat obvious. Sentimentality looks to have topped the list. We offer our “thoughts and prayers” as if our merely speaking or tweeting the words will change the world. The catchwords ring as hollow as those of Job’s friends.

Some have, instead of sentimentality, preferred to draw the shades and be more dismissive of advice especially through making sharp pronouncements of self-reliance. The Bible assuredly affirms individual responsibility and personal initiative, so much so that Paul offered some rather pointed and blunt words for those who don’t tend to their work and personal business (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We cannot offer however with any sort of veracity that simply saying “live and let live” is the final goal of life. Just as the Bible teaches individual autonomy, the biblical narrative also clearly stresses God’s will that we love one another and share things in common (Acts 2:44).

Still others have not let a good crisis go to waste and have opted to escape the pandemic by turning it to their political advantage. We will not spend too long belaboring this point as we saw political attempts at control on clear display during the past year. And most attempts at control came under the guise of “doing good.” We must however ask how can someone truly do good unless that person’s character is good? (See the book Christ and Man’s Dilemma by G.A. Buttrick for a lengthy reflection on ways we try to escape our mortality).

Observation 3: God has the final word.
We would do well to read Revelation 21 again. John the Apostle reminds us there of the reality of resurrection and eternal life with Christ in the fullness of the Kingdom. Remember, there will be no more crying and pain there. But why? Because Jesus was raised from the dead! He is the “first fruits” and “guarantee” (Romans 8:8; 2 Corinthians 5:5) of our future. Our hope is not grounded in our progress, sentimentality, self-reliance, and ability to do good stuff. Our hope rather is “in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

Let’s wholly lean on Jesus’ name as continue to watch and wait for the better future to come (Romans 8:19-23).