Here’s a fun topic – viruses. Boy, aren’t I the life of the party?
All this talk about COVID-19 has me thinking about viruses we face.
There are the physical viruses we face – Influenza strains, other corona-like viruses, viruses we have faced in the pasts like SARS, Bird flue, swine flu, etc. This isn’t the first contagious virus, not will it be the last one to impact us directly in a physical way. Plenty of people die from these things. And humanity is pretty good at developing vaccines for these too to prevent even worse death in the future. I’m hopeful that the smart people who know how to do these things will develop something that will protect us from COVID-19.
There are other viruses too – ones that don’t attack our physical bodies, but do plenty of damage and can even cause death to people.
I’m thinking of viruses like racism. That’s been a deadly virus for a really long time. It’s caused plenty of death and destruction of whole societies. Even those who don’t succumb to the virus come away wounded – unable to see the Image of God in others who look different from themselves.
I’m thinking of viruses like nationalism. I’m not talking about pride in one’s country. That’s patriotism. Nationalism is a bit different. It’s far more dangerous. Nationalism is the often attached to wars with other countries. Nationalism dehumanizes other people’s. It has an element of religiosity to it – of thinking that one’s nation is special and protected by divine intervention and that anyone who believes differently will suffer the wrath of that deity. Nationalism also often confuses things – makes a leader the personification of a nation and all it stands for. Nationalism doesn’t allow for diversity of thought or ideas. Both Fascism and Communism had elements of Nationalism built right within them.
I’m thinking of viruses like poverty. Poverty doesn’t kill directly. But it does kill and destroy ultimately. When people are in poverty – they lack basic necessities for survival. They struggle to get the daily needs met – basic things like food, shelter, and clothing. Poverty forces people to focus on survival. It is only about living in the present moment because there is not future when someone is in poverty. All energy is spent on making sure that a person can survive today. And then they have to do it again tomorrow. Poverty traps a person, like a black hole.
We could go on. There are plenty of other viruses that could be named. I wonder what you would add to the list and what details you would add. Mental Health? Pollution? Greed? Corruption? Homelessness? Addictions? etc.
When I think about these viruses, there is a common thread that runs through them – fear. Fear may be the worst virus we face. It is silent. It is often unseen. There is no vaccine for it. There is no immunity to it – it can come back over and over again and infect us quite easily. And like all viruses – it can destroy our lives, or kill parts of our lives, and maybe even kill us – either literally or figuratively.
Fear can also keep up alive – a healthy fear can do that. I can prevent us from doing something stupid. It can prevent our egos from taking over and doing something obviously dangerous.
There is a difference in these two fears though. One preserves life. The other fears the living of life – especially the living of others’ lives.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to do what we can to move towards life, towards community with others (even in the midst of stay at home orders). Be do this because at their core are two concepts that are the foundation of faith – Shalom, and love of God and neighbor. The unfolding of the Kingdom of God is about restoration and completeness. Justice has a place in all of this because seeking justice is about restoration and completeness for everyone – especially those who have been harmed by the viruses we named earlier. We don’t seek justice because it is associated with a political party – That’s just dumb. Political parties ultimately exist for their leaders to gain and maintain power. Rather we seek justice because it is the fulfillment of Shalom and love of neighbor. It is completeness. When one person in the community is sickened by the viruses we named above, then it impacts all of us and so we do what we can to restore people and community to a sense of wholeness. This is the what discipleship is about. This is what following Jesus is about. This is what our Christian faith is about.