Continuing to Love Our Neighbors During a Corona Virus Outbreak

Originally posted on Navigating by Faith:
via Loving Our Neighbors During a Corona Virus Outbreak

Man in mask . Protection against coronavirus, infection.Over a month has passed since I wrote and published Loving Our Neighbors During a Corona Virus Outbreak on March 17, 2020. Washington was the first state in the US to declare a state of emergency (in February) followed by a handful of States in the next couple of weeks. Donald Trump declared a national emergency on March 16th. By March 17th, the day I published the article, 48 states had officially declared a State of Emergency.[1]

When I began tracking the global number of cases, deaths and recovered patients on the Johns Hopkins site[2] as of 2:50 PM on March 16th, only 4,200 cases and 73 deaths were reported. A Business Insider article the following day reported 4,600 cases[3]. As of 1:10 PM on March 17th, the number of cases had risen to 5,702. There were only 94 deaths reported in US as of that time, but anyone could see that the numbers were going to rise exponentially.

Most of us, I believe, had been only vaguely paying attention to the reports from China. We perked up a little more as the first scary reports began to come out of Italy. Still, we were largely nonplussed by the news, going about our daily business until maybe the second week in March, after a growing murmur of the impending threat, when President Trump declared a national emergency. 

Many of us were skeptical, me included. We wanted to believe the President when he said it was “under control”, and we didn’t have to worry here in the US. Others (primarily of the other political stripe) were becoming shriller by the day in their complaining that we/the President should be doing more. Many political inbetweeners, like myself (not that there are many of us), were skeptical of both sides, but there was enough credible reporting from hard hit areas of the world that it seemed to make sense to take the threat seriously.

It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to participate in a Zoom conference on March 14th with a virologist who researched the SARS-1 virus for the National Institute of Health in the early 2000’s that I realized this was no typical flu virus. I began tracking the numbers on March 16th, and I wrote the article the next day.

One month to the day later (at 11:56 AM), on April 17th, Johns Hopkins reported 641,166 cases in the US and 31,590 deaths – the most confirmed (and reported) cases and deaths of any country in the world.

While these numbers may rival a bad flu season, we need to keep in mind that these are the numbers after we have lived under stay-at-home orders for a month or more in most places in the country. What would the numbers be like if we had not done that? No one knows.

The flu typically infects more people each year, but the death rate of the flu is a little over .01%. As of the date of this writing (April 21, 2020, at 12:47 PM), COVID-19 has resulted in a death rate of 6.89% worldwide, a 13.40% death rate in Italy (which has been particularly hard hit) and a 5.37% death rate in the US. That is over 50 times the death rate of the flu (in the US) .

As of the today, the numbers are all still climbing in the US. We haven’t peaked yet, though we hope the peak is right around the corner, maybe even by next week.

The numbers are flattening out, like we hoped, but they are still climbing. We aren’t out of these woods yet.

If the numbers flatten out soon, the number of cases and deaths will continue to rise, though the percentage of new cases will start to level out or come down. The death rate will also level off and might come down as the number of people recovering will begin to pace and then outpace the number of new cases.

But here’s the thing: no one expects for the virus to go away.

Flattening out just means that the numbers will stop increasing exponentially. When we flatten out, we will still experience a certain number of new cases and deaths every day. Every day.

The world as we knew it isn’t going to be the same for quite a while.

We are seeing quite a tension lately between continuing the stay-at-home orders and opening the country back up for business. Some people are even protesting in the streets, and others are calling them ignorant, potential killers of vulnerable people in our society.

As Christians, I submit that we should be focused on loving our neighbors through this pandemic. We should be sensitive to the vulnerable people in our midst. While most people will recover, we know that COVID-19 hits certain people very hard – the elderly and people with certain conditions, like diabetes. The death rate for those over 60 is much higher than the death rate for people under 60, and the death rate for people over 80 is double the death rate of people over 60.

As I type this, I am very aware of the devastating economic toll the State of Emergency is taking on our economy – especially small businesses and people who work (or no longer work) for them. We haven’t experienced unemployment at this level since the Great Depression. I own a small business myself and squirm at night wondering how we are going to hold on. What are we to do?

The Federal government has pumped billions and billions of dollars into the economy to try to prop it up (at no small cost to the future taxpayers), and it isn’t enough. More small businesses have been turned down for the Paycheck Protection Program loans than received them. Many of those small businesses won’t survive another thirty days of lock down.

While people that don’t own businesses may not feel particularly bad about the business owners who are suffering, those small businesses employ hundreds of thousands and millions of people. Every business that can’t open back up when the stay-at-home order is lifted represents an exponential number of people who will not return to work.

How do we balance between keeping people physically safe from the virus and keeping people employed and self-supporting? That’s the challenge.

Where is the right tipping point when people can open their doors for business again? What does that look like? Do we open up immediately, or should we do it gradually? What does that even look like?

We have to rely on the experts for that.

I have seen no end of the articles and videos on social media by self-proclaimed experts. Some of them have degrees (not always in the relevant areas), and many of them don’t. We all gravitate toward what we are inclined to believe. My “friends” on social media are a diverse mix, so I see nearly equal numbers of articles pushing to both extremes.

They can’t all be true!

I have read a fair number of them. I am smarter than the average bear (if you go by IQ, college and law school performance), but I can’t sort it out. I don’t have the right background, education or experience to be able to decipher which “experts” I should be listening to, and neither do 95% (or more) of the people reading those articles.

We do have some experts that are chosen to provide guidance on these issues with the right kind of backgrounds, education and experience. If we believe that God puts governing authorities in place to which we should submit[4], then we Christians should honor those authorities, right?

We often think we know better (and maybe some of us do, though I submit we don’t know it at the time), but subjecting ourselves to governing authorities, as Paul says we should in Romans 13, means that we don’t substitute our judgment for those in authority above us – even when we disagree.

Of course, we can all think of examples of things governing authorities might order us to do, like renouncing God, that we should not follow. Stay-at-home orders don’t fall into that category.

A stay-at-home order is not clearly against any Scriptural mandate.

Though we may think that we know where that tipping point lies between saving lives and saving people from economic disaster, we are not in positions of authority to call those shots, and we need to honor those who are. It doesn’t matter if your governor is Republican or Democrat, God has established them in authority (if we are going to be consistent in our reading of Scripture).

David honored Saul even when God had spoken through the prophet Samuel that God would be taking the kingdom away from Saul and giving it to David. Even when Saul was seeking to kill David in paranoia and jealousy, still David honored him. David refused to take Saul’s life multiple times when he had the opportunity, and David even honored him in his death – because God had established him as King.

If you are Christian and disagree with the continuation of the stay-at -home orders, you certainly have a right to your opinion, but God expects you to honor the authority He has established. You can speak your mind, but do it (as Peter urges) with “gentleness and respect”. (1 Peter 3:5) When you think about your constitutional rights, take some time to consider the well-being of others, including the threat to people who are vulnerable to the virus. 

I should point out that the COVID-19 outbreak has affected certain areas of the country more acutely than others. The president declared a national emergency before most states did. The President may lift the national state of emergency before some state governors do. Because emergencies and disasters affect some areas harder than others, control of the state of emergency for states falls on the shoulders of state Governors primarily. Not the President. 

Whenever the stay-at-home orders are lifted, though, we need to continue to love our neighbors, including the vulnerable people among us. The virus isn’t going to go away overnight. Experts are warning that it is likely to “bounce back”.

Wash your hands. Wear masks. Keep your distance from people. Use care in making sure you aren’t spreading the virus.

Don’t do it just because you might contract the virus. Do it because you might give it to others. Chances are that you will survive it, especially if you are young, healthy or both, but you could be someone else’s death sentence. Loving your neighbor means treating them as you would want to be treated. Conduct yourself as if you were vulnerable and the virus would be deadly to you, and you will be loving your neighbor as yourself.

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[1] See Almost all US states have declared states of emergency to fight coronavirus — here’s what it means for them, by Rosei Perper, Ellen Cranley and Sarah Al-Arshani for the Business Insider March 17, 2020.

[2] See the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center home page.

[3] See the Perper, Cranley and Al-Arshani article above.

[4] See Romans 13:1-2 (“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”)

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My Corona Viral Story, So Far

I am working, but mostly I am writing, thinking and searching the world wide web for clues to the viral mystery and the meaning and purpose for life.


I am inspired to today to write a story, a corona virus story. My corona virus story, so far. Thanks to Karla Sullivan for the inspiration and prodding necessary to jump start that inspiration. I take my cue from her article on National Stress Month.

Fitting, right? She thought so, and so do I. We are in week four (or is it five?) of sheltering at home in Illinois, sequestering ourselves away from the viral outbreak that creeps like exponential statistics across the globe, a hidden threat that remains as a much a mystery as God.

Not that we don’t know a lot about it by now. We have clues to its origin. We certainly know the effects it has on people, some mild and annoying, some deadly and terrifying.

This novel virus emerges into a world filled with fake news, conspiracy theories, short presidential tirades (tweets) and unrelenting social media. It’s April, and we’ve had inches of snow twice in the last several days. People are talking apocalyptic (a little less tongue in cheek than usual).

Most of my story is internal, the thoughts (and recently feelings) of living through a worldwide pandemic in what seems like quasi-apocryphal social isolation.

Continue reading “My Corona Viral Story, So Far”

Time for a Re-Set: Repent and Return to God

I don’t believe that God caused the virus, but I believe God can use it to draw our our attention to Him


A friend of mine, my closest friend in college a dear brother in Christ, shared with me something a friend of his shared with him.  His friend claimed it to be a prophecy from God. I give it you as it was given to me. He said:

“In the wake of the panic-demic, a great national re-set will settle into the culture. We will witness clarifying ‘adjustments’ to what we value or hold dear. Healthy ones. Already this has served as a great sifting….. [W]e (collectively) have not lost much, though we have faced the specter close on the horizon. When the dust settles, we may be surprised to find ourselves in a much better place. Immunized perhaps by just a taste.”

Many people don’t believe that God gives people prophecies today as He did in Scriptural times. Indeed, if God does still do that, we should be careful to accept them. As Paul said then, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)

Were all of the prophecies Paul was talking about then written down?

No. We have letters from Paul and other close associates of Jesus, but we don’t have the prophecies Paul was talking about to the Thessalonians. Those prophecies, I believe, were for them. They weren’t to be despised [ignored, treated as nothing and lacking value][i], but they were to be tested.

Testing prophecies means taking them seriously. The word for “test”[ii] here implies that the prophecies are to be put to the test, examined and proven by testing. This is not a skeptical exercise, as a 21st Century believer (or unbeliever) might suppose. The idea was to prove what is good.

Perhaps, our reluctance to think that prophecy is a way God still communicates to us today is based in our lack of understanding of what is meant by prophecy. We think of predictions of things to come. Indeed, the Old Testament is full of such prophecies. Jesus also predicted things.

Prediction and foreshadowing of future events is partially what prophecy can mean, that isn’t all that prophecy means. The Greek word translated “prophecy”[iii] can mean simply speaking the mind of God. Hopefully, your pastor does that when he preaches!

Prophecy does tend to have predictive elements to it, but that isn’t all that it is, and prophecy doesn’t have to be predictive. It can simply be admonishment, encouragement, provide comfort or otherwise speak the mind of God in a particular moment or circumstance. When we seek to comfort or speak a timely word to a friend, praying to God for wisdom, we are attempting to use the gift of prophecy.

Sometimes we fail. We kind of know it when we do. What we say falls flat. But sometimes, we feel the Holy Spirit in the words that are spoken that confirms we have hit the mark. This is prophecy.

Prophecy is a timely word, a fitting word, a word that resonates with Scripture in the moment. It’s a word that carries some weight in the moment such that it encourages, comforts, rebukes, corrects or has whatever affect the Holy Spirit gives it. If you are blessed to have a good preacher in your church, your preacher may speak the mind of God (prophesy) most Sundays.

Prophecy isn’t to be confused with the gift of teaching. Teaching is the gift of being able to pull the meaning out of a text and communicate it clearly. The gift of prophesy is the ability to make Scripture poignant and apply it in the moment providing direction for the future. A preacher with the gift of teaching and the gift of prophecy is a rare gift.

So, back to my friend’s friend.

I am not going to hang on what he said like Scripture. I don’t think that is the purpose of prophecy, and especially not since the time of Christ. Still, I take it seriously. It rings true to me.

Continue reading “Time for a Re-Set: Repent and Return to God”

Pilgrimage to Another World

Pilgrims along the way of St. James – Spain

The baser instinct in me wants to write about the great frustration that is politics and the incongruity of people believing, perhaps, that they are preaching to a unified choir when they post their rants and memes on social media. Several people posted in my feed recently about how the Democrats unbelievably killed “the Coronavirus Bill” without a single vote in favor of the relief offered by the Republicans. While several people in my feed posted about how the Republicans tried to pass a Coronavirus bill that only benefited corporations to the detriment of all hardworking Americans.

Do we bother to listen to what each other is saying?

But I will resist the temptation to jump into that fray. Again.

I would rather write about the coronavirus… and death.

Not that I am being unduly morose. The reality of a deadly virus, and of death itself, is top of mind in these trying times of sheltered isolation social distance.

In more normal times, we are pretty good at keeping the thoughts of death at bay, even when they creep close to the threshold. We seem to have no end to the diversions gladly available to escape them or to drown them out.

It’s a brute fact, though, that one day we will die, and probably much sooner than we like to think. Not even taxes are as relentless as the inevitability of death.

In times like these, we are much more aware of it. We can’t escape it. It’s everywhere we turn, and we aren’t used to it.

We have it pretty good in these often not very United States. We haven’t had a war on our own soil since 1865. We are healthy and wealthy in comparison to much of the world. We have many diversions: national pastimes, myriad hobbies for every kind of enthusiast and we have as much entertainment at our fingertips as we can access beyond our front door.

But death inevitably lurks. With the current corona virus outbreak, the United States is experiencing something like the emotions we might feel in a war. Like Britain in WWII, death lurks closely to all of us in a way that most people alive in the United States have never really experienced unless they fought overseas.

As CS Lewis said to his British audience during the last World War[i], it (war then, the corona virus now) forces us to remember death. We have learned to deal with (and hold at abeyance) the cancer that steals the unfortunate life of a 60-year old, 80-year old, or even a child, accident statistics and such things.

The deaths that take the unfortunate and the vulnerable seem distant to most of us, but a war or a pandemic sneaks death into the bedroom of our thoughts where they presently haunt us.

And maybe that is just as well. We are going to die. “All the animal life in us, all schemes of happiness that centred in this world, were always doomed to a final frustration. In ordinary times only a wise man can realise it. Now the stupidest of us know.”

Nothing has changed. It’s just that we are now more aware of “the sort of universe in which we have all along been living”, and we have to deal with it. Humanist hopes are shattered in times like these. “If we thought we were building up a heaven on earth, if we looked for something that would turn the present world from a place of pilgrimage into a permanent city satisfying the soul of man, we are disillusioned, and not a moment too soon.”

The disillusionment inevitably, eventually will come sooner than we think, even if we escape these times with our lives, which most of us will do.

For the Christ believer, we have occasion to question: “Death, where is thy sting?” And we can answer: “This world is not the end game; it is the pilgrimage to another world.”

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[i] Yet war [the coronavirus] does do something to death. It forces us to remember it. The only reason why the cancer at sixty or the paralysis at seventy-five do not bother us is that we forget them. War [the pandemic] makes death real to us, and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past. They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality. I am inclined to think they were right.

All the animal life in us, all schemes of happiness that centred in this world, were always doomed to a final frustration. In ordinary times only a wise man can realise it. Now the stupidest of us know. We see unmistakably the sort of universe in which we have all along been living, and must come to terms with it. If we had foolish un-Christian hopes about human culture, they are now shattered. If we thought we were building up a heaven on earth, if we looked for something that would turn the present world from a place of pilgrimage into a permanent city satisfying the soul of man, we are disillusioned, and not a moment too soon. But if we thought that for some souls, and at some times, the life of learning, humbly offered to God, was, in its own small way, one of the appointed approaches to the Divine reality and the Divine beauty which we hope to enjoy hereafter, we can think so still. (C.S. Lewis, “Learning in War-Time”, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Harper San Francisco, 1980), pp. 62-63)