Thursday, November 18, 2021

Post-COVID Christianity

Well, the COVID crisis has sure taught us all some lessons, provided we’re conscious enough to think them over. And the purpose of this post is to help us do that; first, by listing some very obvious things we all cannot help but realize, and then by talking a little bit about how Christians should be feeling about all of it.

Because it’s really not the same for us as it is for everyone else.

Hang on. You’ll see.

But to begin with, we should pause for a bit of stock-taking. A lot of things have happened in the last year-and-a-half or so, and it’s a lot to process. But let’s give it a try.

Here are some of the things we all have learned from the experience:

We learned that …

1. The Western way of life is not nearly so durable as we thought.

Very suddenly, everything we thought normal and automatic can be changed.

We thought our patterns were strong. We thought our economy was mighty. We thought our government was basically on our side. We thought nothing could stop the momentum our social systems had. We thought our schools and jobs were reliable resources. We thought everything would continue in a linear way, not suddenly jump sideways. And we were wrong.

2. The government can close churches indefinitely at a whim.

We’re vulnerable. The big congregation with a building is the first thing to go in a crisis. If we were counting on it always being there, we’d better rethink that. In the next crisis, it’s going to be house churches that survive. So we’d all better get very serious about subdividing the congregation into smaller house-based groups that can function in every way for the spiritual health of the believers. Because one day — and soon — meeting in groups of fifty or a hundred or more is going to be a thing of the past.

3. Something like “public health” can be used to induce us to surrender all rights, routines and plans instantaneously and without a whimper.

It was amazing how fast everything — freedom of association, the right to free speech, the right to choose medical care, the right to go outside, all of it — was taken away. And in its place we faced draconian government demands, all made to seem reasonable by the threat (we thought) of imminent death to us or to our loved ones. They even got us to stop touching each other, stopped us even from the human business of seeing the lower half of each other’s faces. How dehumanizing it all was!

Nobody really fought back, and any opposition was hammered by two things: the threats of the authorities and the panic-stricken majority’s opinions.

4. We are going to be tracked.

If you didn’t have a cell phone before, you’ve got one now. You found you had to. And cell phones are all like little GPSs; they lay down a signature of every single place you’ve been, even if you weren’t using the phone. Did anybody really notice this?

And so much had to be done online. Every time you bought something or got an appointment, or applied for a service, it’s now somewhere on the internet. If you weren’t terribly trackable before COVID, you sure are now.

Related to that, did you notice how quickly the issue of identification got linked with public health measures? People began to accept new forms of ID without hesitation — eagerly, even — and to record and report things like their own whereabouts and activities, who was at their gatherings, who had had contact with whom, what their medical records were, and so on.

Churches started keeping membership and attendance lists and registering their congregants online, things that they kept for “contact tracing”, but which amount to a database of local Christians. We also started to put our services on Zoom and YouTube, totally exposing our privacy to the public. Maybe nothing’s come out of that yet (or nothing we know of yet), but somebody with that information in his computer is going to have tremendous leverage over us all. Beware.

5. Lockdowns, fears, income-threat and isolation are brutal on morale.

How bad was it for people who were locked up with little or no social contact, even if they had a family? It was tough, wasn’t it? We learned that we are deeply social creatures, and cut off from other people, we really begin to starve existentially. For some people, the sufferings of isolation were even more painful than anything the virus did. Some people died alone, having given up on life; others outright killed themselves. Even those who survived looked haggard and desperate by the end.

Now, on the good side of that, many of us also found out that our neighbors, long in the habit of cocooning in their houses and not really communicating, were suddenly happy to see us. They were desperate to talk, hungry to have human contact, and willing to take the risk of meeting strangers. There’s a real opportunity for service, plus space for the message of salvation in that. We should act while it’s still the case.

6. Public fears breed rage, self-righteousness, and cruelty … even in us.

People’s personalities on both sides of the controversy became much harder, more angry and less reasonable. People we thought would always treat us with love began to treat us with hostility or contempt. We knew why — they were scared — but man, how much did that swing the whole mood of our society, our churches, and even of some families? God forgive us for what we did. But a scared world is one mean world, isn’t it?

And division … look at how churches started to strain and rupture over this. Even when the conflict wasn’t external, a nasty, simmering spirit of resentment began against those who took a different strategy to the pandemic and to government demands.

7. The authorities and the media are united, and will lie to us.

Nobody can doubt that anymore.

Remember “We just need two weeks to ‘flatten the curve’?” Or how about “There’s no evidence that the virus came from China … from Wuhan … was engineered in a lab …” Or “Masks are an overreaction”, then “Wear three.” Or how about “AstraZeneca is good medicine … sort of …” and then gone. “Ivermectin is horse medicine … except it’s also human medicine.” CRT, the flip‑flopping CDC, Russia collusion, the election that was both honest and not, and on, and on, and on.

One thing you always know when voices reverse themselves: that either before or after they were wrong, and they know it. But they never talk as if anything they ever say is capable of being wrong. It’s never “We think …” or “Our best information right now suggests, but we are still uncertain about …” No, it’s “This is how it is, and any sensible or good person will believe us and never question.”

8. Deny us entry, and we will do whatever the government wants.

The tool that the authorities will use to crush dissent is permission to do things. Want to fly? Sorry, you can’t. Take a train? Nope. Cross a border? Are you kidding? Want to go to a restaurant? Not without a proof of injection. Want to go to church? Better you stay home. Hoping to earn a living? Not if you are unvaccinated. Want to see your elderly loved one? Are you kidding?

How many things does the government have to take away from you before you feel you no longer have any choice — that you can’t live at all — without knuckling under and doing whatever it is they want you to do? Not many more than we’ve already seen, if you’re like most folks.

9. There is more fanatical craziness in this world than we realized.

Could anything really have prepared us for the frenzy of ideological nonsense that flew around during COVID, whipped into a fever pitch by the ever-present, barking media? How many “fake news” rumors broke out over that period? How many crazy things did we start to believe for a bit, before we realized they were crazy? How much partisanship, conspiracy-thinking, rumor-mongering and overreacting went on during the last year and a half?

And look at how fast people stopped behaving morally. We can see now what a thin veneer this “Judeo-Christian public consensus” thing was. (I’m speaking, of course, about the idea that secular folks and our public square can be depended upon to keep on “being good” or “behaving Christian-like” indefinitely.) That cannot be depended upon at all, we now see. Fear, and inauthentic moral outrage can be employed to kill real morality, and that is exactly what will go on. Those who are doing evil will be full of moral earnestness, and will tell themselves they’re doing right, and you’re the evil one.

10. The Lord was right … again.

We’ve been told this world is doomed. Its systems will all become corrupt, its ways of life will collapse, natural disasters, wars and plagues will break out and the whole human race, the unsaved world, will start spinning down into the pit. We were told it is coming, but we thought we had time. And we lived as if probably things would go on as they had, at least for our own lifetimes, no matter what the alarmists might say.

We were wrong. We were investing too much in a doomed system, and in plans that required the world always to work favorably to us. We were asleep. We spent far too little energy on the truly valuable things, the things of eternity, and far, far too much investment in the things of this world.

And that absolutely must change.

What’s positive here?

In a way, all of it.

That sounds like a really bizarre thing to say, but it’s true. The prophets, both Old and New Testament, and the Lord himself told us how things would play out in the human drama. It’s a bad ending for them, but a glorious destiny for us. But in order for all that to come — for the Lord to call us home, for justice to be brought to this world, for evil to be extinguished forever, for Christ to return triumphant, for his enemies all to be defeated, and for us to shout “Hallelujah: the Lord God Almighty reigns”, all these things have to happen.

We don’t know for sure that this is the end. But it sure looks like a dress-rehearsal for it, doesn’t it? And everything that the prophets said would happen now could happen … anytime.

No fear. The Lord is king forever and ever.

So Then …

So, look up, dear Christian. Your redemption draws near. And let us work while it is still day, because the night comes, when no man can work. There still remains to us some daylight; every moment of it a gift from the Lord. And as the world starts to hate us more and more, rejoice: for inasmuch as you share the sufferings of Christ, you are blessed beyond all measure.

This world is poised to play out its last great drama. But we are on the winning side: inevitably, unchangeably, eternally. So we’ve got to lift up our hearts and voices, redouble our joy in the Lord, and go forward. Onward, Christian soldiers: we serve the Lord of glory. Nothing we do out of love for him will ever be wasted or lost. And since we must give an account of our stewardship, let us be all the more earnest to be found in him working, worshiping, remembering the Lord, treasuring and building up one another, and reaching the lost, just as our triumphant Lord has commanded us, and all the more as “the day” draws near.

Do not be discouraged, brothers and sisters: the last convulsions of this world are a final chance for real service and deeds of eternal greatness. Let us not now let our hands go slack. Anything we ought to have done, that we have up to now left undone, let us do … as soon as we possibly can. There isn’t much time: but it’s going to be a good time to be on the side of Christ.

And we’re going to win. Let’s make sure we win well.

1 comment :

  1. From the now-suspended Twitter account of Nina Leone, this series of tweets:

    It’s all dead to me. Celebrities. Sports. Concerts. Bars. Travel. None of it matters anymore. During 14 days to stop the spread, which turned into 7 weeks of lockdown, I would have done ANYTHING to go to a concert.

    But now? I count it as loss. It means nothing to me anymore. The people I once idolized are puppets. The politicians I once applauded are embedded in their own interests and have sold us out. The companies I once shopped with are colluding against us.

    The celebrities I once looked up to I can’t look at. It’s all gone. 2020 changed me. And I don’t miss any of it. I only wish I had ditched all of these false idols sooner.

    The truth is that I’d give up any of these things sooner if I had truly understood. But now I do. And it set me free. I’ll walk the narrow road with my eyes fixed on the finish line. None of what is here matters. The earth and everything here is temporary.

    There is life after death. So I count this all as loss. 2020 was the year that separated the wheat from the chaff. There are still people straddling the line, but soon they will have to choose where they stand too.

    “Do you know know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

    If disagreeing with what is happening causes me to lose my seat at the table and to lose my status in society, I’m willing to sit alone.