Thinking Well About Covid-19
As we continue to journey through a world-wide pandemic, it is important that we remain ‘sober-minded’ not ‘simple-minded.’ Since the disease is touching every aspect of life, we want to think wisely about its various effects. On our Facebook page we are posting videos on how staying at home might be anxiety-inducing, and how that relates to parenting and marriage. Later today we are posting one where Ginny Jacobson explores how sickness highlights our Savior as Healer. I think it’s an example of one of the ways we can respond to the pandemic by doing what Paul encouraged us to do in Romans 12:2.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Covid-19 is causing adjustment and change and damage to many aspects of life, but as it drags it will be increasingly easy to fixate on whichever aspect is causing us the most pain or consternation. I think it’s something Paul would include as part of ‘the pattern of this world.’ Fixation on a particular aspect of a complex problem isn’t necessarily bad. We want certain very smart people to fixate on the structure and characteristics of the virus itself in order to find remedies. But there is a bad type of fixation, and it is going to be sorely tempting. The bad type is the type that takes whatever is personally vexing and turns it into the only thing that matters, at the expense of our neighbors.
I thought it would be helpful to provide just a few resources to help think through the complexities surrounding Covid-19. I’ll link to them below with a description of why I think they are helpful.
Nathan Ecelbarger pointed me to an article where Andrew Walker does a good job arguing against a simple-minded ‘this is about lives versus the economy’ approach to Covid-19. A decimated economy is going to have ruinous consequences, and our leaders need to be willing to tell the truth. Read here: Moral Realism
Martin Luther wrote a letter addressing whether it was right or wrong to flee a plague. It has been helpful to me in the way he addresses and balances the issues of fear, love, and prudence. He has his typical moments of sarcasm and prickliness, which makes it a fun read. It is also brilliant, and has sections that reward rumination.
“It is not forbidden but rather commanded that by the sweat of our brow we should seek our daily food, clothing, and all we need and avoid destruction and disaster whenever we can, as long as we do so without detracting from our love and duty toward our neighbor. How much more appropriate it is therefore to seek to preserve life and avoid death if this can be done without harm to our neighbor, inasmuch as life is more than food and clothing, as Christ himself says…”
“No, my dear friends, that is no good. Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
Read the whole thing here: Martin Luther
Joe Carter has two articles that work through the complexities of the virus as it relates to churches gathering. They also serve as an objective review of the stakes involved, with no political or social or theological position being argued for or against. If you want a better handle on how churches will be assessing when to begin meeting again, I recommend these:
In the early days of the outbreak (days and days ago) my favorite political analyst, Jonah Goldberg, dubbed Covid-19 the Confirms My Priors virus. Everyone on the national stage of politics (which increasingly influences day to day social interactions across the board) seemed to think the virus confirmed their already longstanding beliefs about politics, economics, and culture. The logical leaps were impressive in alacrity and magnitude. The best way to avoid that sort of simple-mindedness is to avoid mentally quarantining yourself in any particular intellectual echo chamber. Which is why I won’t link to anything directly here. I recommend reading widely and critically, keeping in mind that if what you read (or watched) maps exactly and directly onto how you already thought about something, or perfectly confirmed a suspicion you had about something…it probably wasn’t the whole picture. Unless it was the Bible. And your mind is fully renewed. In which case…