Depending upon where you live, your life may or may not have been altered dramatically in the past two weeks. Depending on how seriously your leaders are taking this pandemic; depending on the effectiveness of communication; depending on the early spread of disease in your area; depending on a number of factors, you may or may not be ‘social distancing’ or sheltering in place. Your local businesses and the rhythm of public life may or may not have come to grinding halt for a season.
Living in one of those places where the shutdown began two weeks ago with school closures and has since escalated to “all but the essentials,” I can tell you– this new lifestyle is coming for you. The faster we all get prepared and comply, the shorter this season of quarantine will be. But if you live in a place where life is still clipping along as normal, I’m telling you, now is the time to get your head around what’s about to change. Because all of those little lines on the map that put barriers around our living spaces and our government entities? They are meaningless. Our lives are connected in ways we are only beginning to comprehend.
Do we get it yet? Our lives depend on so much– but first, and mostly, they depend on each other.
This is what it is to be One Body. Maybe we understand this basic tenet of our faith now in a way that life has not forced us to grasp before. We are so connected, sharing everything in common, that we literally have to remove ourselves from each other in the flesh, to keep from passing along at random–and at high speed– a destructive virus. If just one member is infected, it touches us all. When a part of the body hurts, we all suffer.
And if one city still has a beach full of people, a packed bar on a Saturday night, a crowded subway– well, you know. Things carry.
This is basic, 1st grade Sunday school, folks. But it seems we needed a refresher.
Other parts of the world have known contagion before. Have known famine, drought, unimaginable suffering. We have tried to help, sometimes in effective ways, but often in ways that don’t really cost us anything. Here in the western world, we’ve been protected by the bounds of privilege, the safety afforded to us by relative economic security. But now, we are faced with a foe that doesn’t discriminate. Old, young; rich, poor; man, woman, child; black, white, brown; gay, straight, trans; Democrat or Republican; the things that we so blithely decide can distinguish us, on any given day– those labels, like thin lines on a map, are laughable in the face of this thing.
This living, moving pathogen that has come to take up residence. In this One global Body.
And by the way, this needs to be said: God does not send pestilence. Being of higher mind and having better things to do, the Holy One is not pulling a Thanos here and reigning down judgement on a wicked earth. Speaking of 1st grade Sunday school lessons… perhaps some of those lessons are best left behind us. Or at least, they bear deconstructing. Dig a little deeper. God has not unleashed this ill on the world. But perhaps God can walk us through it with eyes to see-– as surely we see now–
that this is the Body of Christ. This is what it is to share everything in common. For better or worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. In sickness and in health. We are all one body. And if one member of the body suffers, we all suffer.
If the least among us are not cared for, the suffering will come back to each one of us; it will be felt in every part of our being, every limb, organ, appendage. The aching back, the weakened heart, the heaving lung.
God does not send a pestilence. That is just an easy bedtime story. But surely, God has shown us a better way.
In this body, which we now know is a shared being.
We see it now, wanting to or not. There is no wellness unless all are well.
Maybe once we get our heads around the truth of the interdependency of these bodies–this One Body– then we’ll be able to see the truth of connectedness in other parts of life as well.
Can we see it in the economy, in the wealth that we so blithely label as ‘ours’ and ‘theirs,’ ‘earned’ and ‘deserved;’ can we see that, if the foot doesn’t have what it needs, the hand will go wanting?
Can we see it in the environment– the dirt we stand on and pretend to possess? Surely we see by now, we can’t separate the air we pollute from the air our neighbors breathe. We cannot separate the water we contaminate from the water we will someday drink–or use to wash our hands. To wash our hands again. And again. Trying to cleanse them of the sickness that first touched just one part of the body, but
don’t we get this by now? There are not parts. There are no lines.
And this is a body, broken. Suffering, not by the hand of God, but by the harmful constructs of our own design. Lines on maps, and walls around borders, have lured us into a false sense of singularity. Systems of education and healthcare that serve only the healthy, wealthy and secure– we built those on the same lie. It’s the same story we tell ourselves when we sacrifice environmental regulations for profit–they’ll only contaminate that one part of the water supply, right? It will only affect the air in that one country; that one city; that one part of town…
But water doesn’t see lines on the map. Our border walls don’t stop the flow of air. And this disease knows no legislative boundaries.
Stay home. Love your people. Check on your neighbors. Wash your hands. Even if your governor hasn’t mandated the staying home yet, this is how the Body cares for its many parts. Even as we withdraw and refrain from touching each other, even as we avoid breathing the same air as much as possible: we are all connected.
We are so much more than our bodies. We are stories and spirit; we are love and light. In times of sickness, it is critical that we remember that. We are more than our bodies– but we are One Body. If we live like people who know that, we might all be well.