Reflections on Christianity and COVID-19
A Long Foreword to this Blog Entry: This blog entry is different from what I usually write. I have engaged in some soul searching, doing some reading when I consider what's been happening as a result of COVID-19. I've had to examine my own beliefs in the face of COVID-19, an virus that has killed so many. But what causes my examination isn't the illness itself. After all, plagues are not unknown to human beings. We are subject to the laws of nature.
No, what causes the concern and examination of the soul is how believers have responded. If you are offended, then reassure yourself that I am a sinner, ignorant, needful of correction.
|Michael the Archangel. Image Source: https://www.pxfuel.com/en/free-photo-xzmcd|
Wrestling with Old Questions
The state [Mississippi] has now recorded 8,279 fatalities. But Gov. Reeves does not seem that worried."I'm often asked by some of my friends on the other side of the aisle about COVID … and why does it seem like folks in Mississippi and maybe in the Mid-South are a little less scared, shall we say," Reeves said at a fundraiser, the Daily Memphian reported."When you believe in eternal life — when you believe that living on this earth is but a blip on the screen, then you don't have to be so scared of things," he said, adding: "Now, God also tells us to take necessary precautions."Reeves has refused calls for a statewide mask made in public schools.... (source)
- What would Jesus do? Would he get a vaccine and mask up?
- Would Jesus grab a gun, a holy text, and threaten and yell at people?
- Would Jesus stand guard at his front door armed with a weapon and fear?
- Would Jesus say, "COVID-19 is a precursor of my Second Coming? Prepare ye sinners!"
- 84 percent of white evangelicals agreed with this statement, "God controls everything that happens in the world is a core tenet of evangelicalism"
- White evangelicals were more likely than any other Christian group to believe that God would punish nations for the sins of some of its citizens and that natural disasters were a sign from God.
- Evangelical Christians rationalize illnesses like cancer as God’s will.
- 28 percent of white evangelical Republicans agreed that “God always rewards those who have faith with good health and will protect them from being infected with COVID-19"
- the pandemic also fits neatly into “end times” thinking — the belief that the end of the world and God’s ultimate judgment is coming soon.
- 64 percent agree that the chaos in the country today meant the “end times” were near.
- 69 percent of white evangelical Republicans who said they refused to get vaccinated agreed that the end times were near.
The Divine Punisher
- God does not control everything in the world. The god involved here is our conception of whatever we believe. I don't think that my God is wrathful as described in the Old Testament, and that plague/disasters are his way of sending a message. Rather, there are other processes at play that we simply don't understand. We DO KNOW, from experience, that Bad things are going to happen, and we must do our best to mitigate the effects. I love the story of The Drowning Man (more on that in a moment). In the final analysis, however, those bad things won't matter if we cling to faith and accept that faith as a gift of God. Theologian Dick Westley put it this way in his book, Redemptive Intimacy, and I have not found a more clear rendition anywhere else:
- Religious view: "Fear not, trust in God and he will see to it that none of the things you are afraid of will happen to you" (this is the view I suspect evangelicals have adopted when they eschew anti-vaccination and anti-masking views)
- Faith view: "Fear not, the things you are afraid of are most likely going to happen to you, but they are not really the sorts of things that believers ought to be afraid of, and have very little significance compared to transforming the world into the Kingdom."
- God does not punish, if He ever did, people and nations with bad things. Rather, when people and nations engage in actions out of alignment with His will, bad things happen, not because He is smiting them, but rather because these are troubles we bring upon ourselves. Simply, human beings are allowed to own the consequences of their own actions (or the actions of others).
- Climate change is the result of our actions (for which we have free will)
- When we catch COVID-19, or any other disease, it may be as a result of our actions or in spite of them. God does not give out good health or prosperity to a nation as a reward for good behavior. Rather God gives us the freedom to act as we choose, and only will judge us for those actions when we stand before him at the Throne of Heaven.
- The End Times are not for individuals, prayer groups, or any one group to predict or bring about because it suits our ends to smite our enemies. Our enemies will do their best to hurt us, and we will do our best to defend ourselves because we live in the world, not in heaven. An omniscient God must know that no longer live in Eden. Instead, we live in a dangerous space where our only solace are those who rise up and welcome his Spirit of lovingness and forgiveness.
Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, "I had faith in you but you didn't save me, you let me drown. I don't understand why!"To this God replied, "I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?"
If Jesus was in peril, God would have to save Him. Jesus refused to test God in such a way. We are to accept God’s Word by faith, without requiring a sign (see Luke 11:29). God’s promises are there for us when we need them; to manipulate situations in an attempt to coerce God into fulfilling His promises is evil.
“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
If there is plague, it is inconsequential. If it is consequential, it is to be dealt with with prayer and faith, not human means. If human means are insufficient, if God doesn't intercede, then it is a sign of the end times.
From Darwin to COVID the church has been wrong. It's really about fear among the Christian faithful when they turn away from science. Even scientific theory is dismissed out of hand by the church because of a fear that somehow science will prove that God does not exist.
As the pandemic spreads from one church to another and global warming continues to be ignored by the evangelical movement, it is clear that practitioners of the current Christian faith have not evolved from their ancestors who condemned Galileo and Darwin.
There is nothing to fear from scientific data and proper research. There is something to fear from the fearful and ignorant. Anyone who is not willing to question their own belief structure, or anyone that remains in their own echo chamber, is dangerous. That is why there is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.
It is expressing the fear of people who claim to have none. It must be addressed, but that will not be easy.
"Fear not, the things you are afraid of are most likely going to happen to you, but they are not really the sorts of things that believers ought to be afraid of, and have very little significance compared to transforming the world into the Kingdom."
So, let's work to save as many youngsters as possible, and their teachers, too. And the parents of those. Everyone that can be saved so that they may see God's hands are our hands, our spirit is His Spirit flowing through us, redeeming us and assuring us that even Death does not reign supreme.
A final note: This reflects my current thinking on the matter. I could be wrong about many aspects of what I've written here.