COVID-19 as Catalyst for a Revival of Christianity?

COVID-19 as Catalyst for a Revival of Christianity? March 30, 2020


The Wall Street Journal has published an article by Robert Nicholson entitled A Coronavirus Great Awakening? with the deck Sometimes the most important ingredient for spiritual renewal is a cataclysmic event [subscription required].

Nicholson cites the religious revival and upsurge in church attendance that took place in the aftermath of the horrors of World War II.  Since then, and contrary to the human experience through most of our history, we have become complacent and trivialized.  We thought we had conquered nature.  Life had become easy and totally under our control.  We thought there was no need for God.  But, he says, “the pandemic has humbled the country and opened millions of eyes to this risky universe once more.”
Nicholson quotes from a book by the important Cambridge historian Herbert Butterfield, who, in the rubble of the war, started reading the Bible.  He wrote a book Christianity and History (1949) that shows the connection between catastrophe and faith.  (The book is out of print, but you can get it through a library.)  Here are some passages, as quoted in Nicholson’s article:
The power of the Old Testament teaching on history—perhaps the point at which the ancient Jews were most original, breaking away from the religious thought of the other peoples around them—lay precisely in the region of truths which sprang from a reflection on catastrophe and cataclysm. . . . It is almost impossible properly to appreciate the higher developments in the historical reflection of the Old Testament except in another age which has experienced (or has found itself confronted with) colossal cataclysm. . . .
Men may live to a great age in days of comparative quietness and peaceful progress, without ever having come to grips with the universe, without ever vividly realising the problems and the paradoxes with which human history so often confronts us. . . .We of the twentieth century have been particularly spoiled; for the men of the Old Testament, the ancient Greeks and all our ancestors down to the seventeenth century betray in their philosophy and their outlook a terrible awareness of the chanciness of human life, and the precarious nature of man’s existence in this risky universe. . . .

Sheer grimness of suffering brings men sometimes into a profounder understanding of human destiny. . .It is only by a cataclysm. . .that man can make his escape from the net which he has taken so much trouble to weave around himself.”. . .

The ancient Hebrews, by virtue of inner resources and unparalleled leadership, turned their tragedy, turned their very helplessness, into one of the half-dozen creative moments in world history. . . .It would seem that one of the clearest and most concrete of the facts of history is the fact that men of spiritual resources may not only redeem catastrophe, but turn it into a grand creative moment.

The conventional wisdom is that catastrophes cause people to turn away from God, questioning His goodness and His existence.  And yet history and experience show that catastrophes instead drive people to God.

Are you seeing any signs of this yet?  Are you feeling any signs of this yet?


Image of the Cross of the Pyrenees on the Vera Cruz trail in Spain, by Hans via, CC0, Public Domain

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