Pandemic: where’s God then?

Posted: 2 May 2020 in Covid-19
Tags: , , , ,

coronavirus-Christians.jpgHundreds of thousands dead and millions in fear, economies and schools at a standstill, Where is God then?  Atheists say God died long before the virus came a visiting.  They say there is no basic good and evil.  There is no special sacrifice of love by Key Workers, other than a self-interested group decision to defend a wider collective.  There is no purpose, no meaning, no hope.  Well that fits neither ancient wisdom, the understanding of the major religions, nor the enduring hope expected by Jesus[ii].

Is this divine punishment
God’s judgement on some because they are wicked, while the not-wicked live.  This kind of story gets peddled by fringe groups and rebroadcasted by the media as it makes wonderful copy.  Jesus and his teaching is dismissive of such claims.  Anyone who says they are 100% good, righteous, spotless in behaviour is kidding him/herself..  Jesus call us instead to learn, from disasters and plagues.  To learn from our hubris, our fragility, our mistakes.  For instance, our Government learns to be slow to lift lockdown – because  – it realised it was slow to bring in the lockdown.

Did God make coronaviruses
Some things have gone wrong, for sure.  Some governments have responded better than others.  But some have prioritised business over people, others fear of public deaths over  realistic understanding of mortality.  Or even the way we relentless exploit meat and fish.  There is human moral failure within this pandemic.

However, the origin of this and prior plagues is different.  It is systemic.  It is part of creation.  Is Covid-19 evil?  I remember standing on a hilly roadside in Nepal looking down onto a crushed bus just ahead of me, with many dead inside.  Where the rocks that came down the hillside that swept that bus to its doom evil.  Or the river that swept away the houses not too far from where I lived in Uganda.  Wicked water?  Or the cells in my own body that caused my cancer a few years back?  No.  There is no “evil Covid-19”, no wicked floodwater, no sinful cancer cells.

This is the stuff of superstition.  I have lived and worked in Nepal, Uganda and Haiti and each of those societies had strong elements that feared a crotchety spirit world that was only too ready to inflict pain on hapless humanity.  My great grandfather collected lucky amulets from Edwardian London and the trenches of Flanders, tokens to ward off the evil eye, or German bullet[i].  The Ancient Greeks thought creation intrinsically malevolent[ii].  The Bible clearly says it is not so.  Creation is good, but is now damaged and repair is a work-in-progress.  Strutting arrogance, or wilful ignorance prevents understanding that floods, disease, earthquakes will still hurt us modern societies.  Listen.  God is whispering to each of us to:

  • discard our childish pride, naïve hype about modern science and economics,
  • understand the fundamentals of mortality, and
  • actively work against the spiritual and ethical failures.

Our state of mind
Jesus’ friend Lazarus unexpectedly died.  When Jesus got to the scene, Lazarus’s two sisters both complained to Jesus face that he could have saved their brother.  To the articulate one, Jesus explained the situation, and the meaning of it.  To the weeping one, he just wept[iii].

To you who wish to complain about pandemic, we must pass on the Divine whisper.
But if you are weeping today, we should weep with you too.

Bill

[i] “Magic in Modern London” Edward Lovett 192, republished 2014.
[ii] “Dominion: The making of the Western Mind” Tom Holland 2019.
[iii] Insight from John Lennox Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University

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