I’m really torn.
On one hand, we’re told that we must all mask up, hunker down, avoid all people by at least 6 feet (or completely… now playing in some insanely locked-down cities and states), and live in fear of COVID-19 or people will die!
On the other hand, we’re told the possibility of catching the c-bug is somewhat higher than the flu, but it can be asymptomatic (meaning no symptoms, you’re not sick) or it can be mildly symptomatic (you’re a little sick, take care of yourself) or in some statistically extreme cases you can be intensely symptomatic (hospitalization, intensive care, death).
Both sides cite statistics and science to justify their positions.
Yeah, the c-bug can harm you and even cause death. But compared to other mortality stats, (based on the most recent 2018 CDC data I could find) both heart disease (655,381) and cancer (599,274) outnumber the total of 2020 c-bug deaths to date (246,232). Read more
But this is not about whether or not the c-bug is a concern or not. It is. Like the flu. Or any other infectious disease.
It’s about being fear-driven.
And that’s why I’m torn.
As a normal (relatively speaking), intelligent, and reasonable guy, I often like to double-check the information being fed to me. Is the source credible? Is the data accurate? Is the information interpreted well? Is there an agenda being pushed?
Why? I want to know all this so I can make the best decisions possible for my benefit, my family’s and congregation’s benefit, and the benefit of all those around me.
And yet, the information coming from the plethora of sources and their interpretation of the data seems to indicate agendas are being pushed that go way beyond simple community health care. And fear is being used as a tool to accomplish those agendas.
I’m reading and hearing conflicting info with conclusions that swing wildly between a terrified “Be afraid! Be very afraid!” to the laid-back “No sweat, bro!”
Yeah, well there is sweat. I can bow to the “lock-down-the-house-and-crawl-into-a-corner-in-a-hazmat-suit” response to avoid the risk of catching or spreading the c-bug and suffer the harms that come from isolation and living in fear. Or I can naively stride forth into the world, minimizing any risk, and wind up spreading an illness that could kill a susceptible person.
Now that last one really is fear talking, because how do I know I’m directly responsible for infecting any person who dies? Do viruses come equipped with a collar and owner tag like dogs and cats do?
Both options carry the element of fear and that’s why I’m torn. So the question I ask myself is not, “How do I eliminate all risk associated with the c-bug?” Rather, it’s “How do I minimize the risk the c-bug carries wisely and prudently?”
Let’s face it. We live in a sweat-inducing world.
No, not caused by effort, but by fear. Fear is part of our base nature. Here’s where it came from and why we all suffer fear.
After Adam and Eve fell, God started dishing out punishments that fit the crime. For Eve, who had a problem governing herself, she found herself under Adam’s governance (Genesis 3:16). God said she wouldn’t like it and would push for the original equality status, but that wouldn’t change God’s decree. (Have no fear women. Jesus has restored your status, but that’s a different talk. Stay tuned.)
For Adam, the punishment was a curse on the ground which provided food for them. Since he wanted to make right or wrong decisions on his own, then God would withdraw His blessing and let Adam farm all by his lonesome self. God said,
“The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust” (Genesis 3:17-19). How’s that working for you, Adam?
Okay, a couple of points here. First, humanity was originally vegetarian (Genesis 2:16. 3:18). Animals weren’t on the menu until after Noah’s Flood (Genesis 9:3). This information alone is worth the price of admission, isn’t it, dear reader?
Second, this means that Adam’s only source of life-sustaining nourishment was the ground, the same ground that apparently used to produce with ease, but now will be a major problem for him. Along with insecure food production, it will also produce inedible plant life – thorns and thistles. It will require painful labor to raise whatever edible commodities could be raised. Sounds like a party, right?
Side note here. Does that mean there were no weeds in the Garden of Eden? Inquiring minds want to know.
Here’s the crux. Adam (and all humanity after him) will now eat “by the sweat of (his/their) brow.” That phrase is an ancient Middle Eastern idiom (Mesopotamian) for fear, not effort. It means from that moment on Adam will eat in fear. Fear that the ground won’t provide enough or the right foodstuffs and he will die. Fear is linked to death.
In the Garden of Eden, humanity had everything they needed. No fear. Outside of Eden, in a fallen world, life became a fearfully, risky business. Risk implies danger and danger invokes fear, a fear that one may not survive the danger. So, taking risks is to be avoided. Sometimes at any cost.
Adam (humanity) from that point onward will live life in fear. And that’s what we see today.
Where you find an emphasis, especially an over-emphasis, on risk aversion, you will find a fearful person behind it.
Life is a risky business. The c-bug is just another risk along with driving cars, maintaining an income stream, staying healthy, and a myriad of other “dangers” out there. And these risks can be real or imagined. Not only do we experience reality-based fear, but we also face imagination-based fear.
And so, to stave off all risks, we take or accept upon ourselves draconian measures that will in any way offset our fear for “assured” security. People will easily trade their liberty for security. Does that sound like our current risk-aversion situation or what?
“Mask up! Don’t stand close to people! Put plexiglass between every worship team member (Yes, that’s on the list for churches in Minnesota)! Don’t sing in church! Don’t chant in church! Don’t do anything but sit there in church!”
It was bad enough that many Christians treated worship services as a spectator sport. Now it’s actually required by the c-bug restrictions. But I digress.
For the sake of risk avoidance to minimize fear, we regulate ourselves. That’s not bad. That’s wise in many cases.
But at what point do we let fear rule our lives?
At what point do we let others’ fear rule our lives?
I have friends and family who are scared witless over the c-bug. Not only do they mask up everywhere they go, but they also rarely leave the house. They eat what can be delivered to their door or what they can quickly buy at the local grocery lest they contract the virus in the produce section or by the dairy case. They have the right to live that way. To me, it indicates a fear-driven life because the response seems to outweigh what I think is reasonable. But again, it’s their life. But it’s not my life.
However, they’ve rebuked other family members for doing or not doing what they think is reasonable. And by that, I mean live in fear of contracting a disease. A disease like other coronaviruses (the flu and colds) that has a 97.8% survival rate. Read more
But again, I digress.
This is not about the virus pandemic. This is about a fear pandemic.
A pandemic is defined as a “rapidly spreading and extensive infection” Read more “over a wide geographic area and affecting a large proportion of the population.” Read more Today we see fear spreading rapidly and extensively over a wide geographic area affecting a large proportion (yeah, ALL) of the population.
Every person carries this fear virus. (Thanks, Adam!) For some, they’re asymptomatic. Others have mild symptoms. Some are sick with fear unto death.
Because of fear, there’s a huge rush to develop a c-bug vaccine to prevent the spread of infection. But I believe we first need a “fear inoculation.”
When tempted to let fear rule our lives, we need a dose of God saying to us as he said to His people, Israel, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Often God tells us not to be afraid and assures us of security because He protects us. Psalm 91 is a treasure of calming assurance:
“The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say concerning the Lord, who is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust: He himself will rescue you from the bird trap, from the destructive plague. He will cover you with his feathers; you will take refuge under his wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield. You will not fear the terror of the night, the arrow that flies by day, the plague that stalks in darkness, or the pestilence that ravages at noon” (Psalm 91:1-6). What a fitting promise to embrace!
You don’t think God didn’t see this c-bug thing coming? “Oh wow!” He exclaims as the virus runs past Him. “I guess my infinite and unlimited knowledge missed that!” He most certainly saw this coming. As surely as he saw the Spanish Flu (1918-20) and the Plague (1347-53) and every other infectious disease in history.
Our Heavenly Father also sees all the risks surrounding us. Rather than let us cower in fear, His Word encourages us to trust in Him as we walk through those risks, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Trusting God is the antidote to the fear pandemic. And thus vaccinated against fear, we can then take a deep breath, assess our situation with peace and clarity, and make our best decisions with our Father’s guidance, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Rather than live a fear-driven life, we should revel in a trust-driven life! Trusting God is our only vaccine to “bend the curve” and stop the fear pandemic’s spread.
We need not ever fear, for our Father has us in His hands. Our song should be what the Psalmist composed, “But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God’” (Psalm 31:14).
And with that He gives us peace, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful” (John 14:27)”
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going outside (maskless, so He can see me smile) to thank the Lord.
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts