Well, it’s officially been a year since the entire country was afflicted with the global pandemic of the coronavirus, or Covid-19. While some officials now say the end in is sight, others are speculating that it will be the end of the year before the world returns to something akin to “normal.”
The results, thus far, are significant. In Georgia, there have been 999,000 (likely a million by now) cases of the disease with over 17,389 deaths. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Confirmed cases plus antigen positive cases, and confirmed deaths plus “probable” deaths.] In my native state of Tennessee, 770,000 cases have been reported with 11,459 deaths. The United States has experienced 29.1 million cases with over 525,000 deaths. Worldwide, 117 million people have contracted the coronavirus and 2,600,000 have died.
The economies of the world have taken a beating. In the United States, the economy was very strong with low unemployment rates until the pandemic, the shut-downs, the loss of jobs, and the loss of income. A number of businesses have been shuttered, never to re-open. Estimates by the Barna Group are that 20% of all churches will permanently close as a result of the difficulties of the past year.
For the high school seniors of 2020, there was likely no prom, no spring athletics, no graduation exercises, and the total disruption of the educational/social experience. I have spoken with several teachers, both elementary and high school, who have stated that the pandemic has been disastrous for student learning. One teacher called it a “totally lost year” in which the children learned “virtually nothing.”
The past year has seen some politicians attempt to overthrow basic constitutional rights and make a naked grab for power while other have worked hard to try to protect people while, at the same time, being mindful of the economy.
The last few years have seen the National Debt raised to a staggering 27.4 TRILLION dollars (that’s $27,400,000,000,000) and that doesn’t take into account the nearly 2 trillion additional dollars earmarked for another round of so-called “Covid-19 relief,” most of which is to be spent on pork barrel projects and not Covid-19 at all.
Much has been made of how much debt is owed to China but the United States owes Japan even more than it owes to China. The other nations that are owed the most money are the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, Hong Kong, Switzerland, and Luxembourg.
Yes, you read that right. The United States taxpayer owes Luxembourg almost $268,000,000,000 (as in billion) dollars. No country in the world has a higher national debt than the United States of America.
Of course, we are in a terrible state in America when it comes to simply getting along with each other. The country is arguably more divided that it was during the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Politically, the situation appears to be irreconcilable.
A “culture war” is defined as “a conflict or struggle for dominance between groups within a society or between societies, arising from their differing beliefs, practices, etc.” There has been a culture war for decades but the gulf between the parties is wider than ever. There is serious discussion of “secession” or even “civil war” by some people. Hopefully, sanity will prevail.
Not all these problems are the result of the pandemic but the national climate of fear, anxiety, hostility, and anger which have been present even before 2020 has certainly been exacerbated as a result of the past year.
On the other hand, there are some good things happening. An entire cottage industry of “mask making” has sprung up. People who thought the mask phenomenon would only last a few weeks or months have seen these businesses continue to make money for over a year with no immediate end in sight.
The vaccine for Covid-19, while controversial, set records for being rushed into research, development, approval, and implementation. Only about 13% of Americans say they will definitely not get the vaccine while about half of Americans have already received at least one of the shots.
Churches and other houses of worship have learned to be innovative in reaching out and ministering to their membership. Virtual learning and experiences have increased as people view the world from the shelter of their homes. Businesses and workers have discovered that, in many cases, working from home is more doable than one might have thought.
There are those who are predicting that the world will never return to “normal,” and though I suspect there will, indeed, be permanent changes, I think the world will return to normal more completely than many people imagine.
After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, churches swelled with attendance, more public prayer services were held, inter-faith meetings were more common but, in due time, normalcy returned.
James P. McGovern of the Boston Globe wrote, “I recently came across a photo of a handwritten sign in a U.S. military facility in Ramadi, Iraq. The sign read, ‘America is not at war. The Marine Corps is at war; America is at the mall.’” The article was written in October 2007, just six years and one month after 9/11.
It took less time than that for most Americans to return to their old ways, to the extent that U.S. military personnel felt they were alone in the fight.
Normalcy will never quite return for the families of the 2,600,000 claimed by the virus. It will never quite return for those so damaged by the disease that they are impaired for life. But, for most, 2020 and 2021 (hopefully, no more than that) will fade into memory, given enough time. And all will be well. Until the next time.
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the pandemics, the church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life) He may contacted at email@example.com.]