One of the impressions that I have in the midst of this modern plague is how terribly fragile our nation is. I would not have thought so a month or two ago. Prior to this coronavirus, the economy was surging, unemployment for all population groups were at historic lows, consumer confidence was high, and it seemed that nothing could hinder us. And then came the invisible enemy. This virus has done more to cripple the United States than the attacks on September 11, 2001.
In Georgia, the governor has basically ordered the churches closed. This hasn’t happened since the Civil War. In fact, all over the nation, churches are closed — something that the Great Depression, the Japanese Empire, the Nazis, the Soviet Union, and the threat of terrorism has been unable to do.
Businesses everywhere are closed. When 9/11 happened, the nation’s leaders urged people to get out and live life. We were not to let terror win. Now, we are urged or even ordered to “shelter in place,” to hide in our homes. When we do make social contact, we are to stay at least six feet away from each other — no handshakes, no hugs, no high fives. Look (at a distance) but don’t touch.
Schools are shut down. Graduations canceled. Sports seasons canceled or postponed. The stock market has been brutalized and it may take ten years to recover. People who were set to retire, or who recently did, now are faced with a very uncertain financial future.
In fact, everybody — at least for the moment—faces an uncertain future. Will the job be there tomorrow? Will that business be there next week? Will a local church that has been worshipping continually for 100 years survive even the next few months?
And then there’s the “coronavirus stimulus package.” The Senate has approved some 2 trillion dollars for corporate, business, and personal relief. That’s $2,000,000,000,000 dollars. That’s two thousand billion dollars. Or two million million bucks! And guess who’s going to have to pay that back? That’s right — the taxpayer.
And you thought your children and grandchildren were gonna be stuck with the debt before. And, as one would expect, there’s enough non-crisis pork in the bill to gag an entire country.
We’ve learned some things. The main thing we’ve learned is that we were not ready for this crisis. Hospitals weren’t ready, the government wasn’t ready, nobody was ready. We’ve learned that most of our medicine comes from the very same country where the virus originated and they are not our friends. We’ve learned that there is no real financial security — not for the vast majority of people.
We’ve learned that some people are idiots. Like the man who licked a toilet seat as a part of some numbskull “coronavirus challenge” and caught the coronavirus. We’ve learned that some people apparently hoard enough toilet paper and paper towels to last for years but we still don’t understand why they do that. We’ve learned that scam artists abound, like the televangelist who tried to sell a “cure” and was sued by one or, perhaps, several states.
But we’ve also learned that others are heroes. Like the doctors, nurses, and medical staff that, though frightened, go to work and put themselves at risk daily. Like the 67-year-old priest who caught the virus, gave his respirator to a younger patient because there weren’t enough respirators, and died as a result.
We’ve learned that many of the people who vehemently oppose socialism don’t oppose it nearly as vociferously when they are on the receiving end of the stimulus money. We’ve learned that some people just want the elderly who become sick to be refused treatment and die. But we’ve also learned that others care deeply for the elderly and go to the supermarket for them and carefully watch over them in this time of need.
Many parents have learned that it’s not as easy to teach children as they thought it was back in the days before the schools were closed and they had to participate in their children’s learning experience. We’ve learned that our daydream of staying home for days on end and doing nothing is really not all it’s cracked up to be.
We’ve learned that most of us have no survival skills at all. We are so dependent on technology, convenience, and the modern world that, if we had to fend for ourselves we’d likely starve. We’ve learned that we are a fearful people. Gun sales are up. Bank accounts are, or are likely to be, down. We are worried about everything in the future if the present conditions continue.
But we are also learning to adapt, to innovate. Churches, for example, are finding creative ways to hold their people together, to reach out, and to stay in touch.
We, for example, had had a live stream service for quite some time now. I never thought much about it as I assumed it was for the folks in our church who were sick or traveling. But then, a couple of weeks ago, we let it be known that we were going to live stream the service and do it especially for the folks who were sheltered in place.
I thought we might have 50 views at most. Within a few days over 500 people had checked in and viewed. We’re re-thinking everything now.
The big question that I have is this: Will everything go back to what we know as normal or is this the beginning of a radical change in America and even the world? In other words, what happens after the plague? It may be that in a few months, we’ll be back where we were three months ago. Or it all could be totally different. Only God knows.
In the meantime, we do what societies must do. We try to take the next steps, to do the next right things, to provide for and to protect those we love, to trust God for the present and for the future, to try to discern and take advantage of opportunities, and to put one foot in front of the other. We go forward or we die. There is no going back.
There are two Old Testament passages that are among my favorites. One is Isaiah 41:10 which, I think, speaks to us in this crisis:
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
The other, Jeremiah 29:11, speaks about the future. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
That’s a future, after the plague, with which I can live.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctk.life). He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]