It’s time we recognize the multiple lessons and blessings from Covid. From this growing national tragedy, we can actually emerge wiser and stronger if we take a hard look at ourselves and see what we can learn from these travails.
Lesson and blessing one: The Redesigned Meaning of “Going to Church.”
Churches may shift from being primarily building-defined, i.e., they are a physical place to go, to primarily worship and service-defined, i.e., they are a place to connect to God and others. And this may be the salvation of the church.
I admit I have never been so grateful to be a retired clergy as I have during this crisis. I have also never been so in awe of what dedicated clergy can and will do to take care of their people and to continue to be in ministry to their communities, both local and extended, by electronic means. God-given creativity flows through them and their talented staff and volunteers to keep ministries alive and vital.
Right now, buildings have become a liability. They’ve long been problematic. Even when essentially empty, they still have to be maintained, heated/cooled, grounds maintained, and repairs up-to-date. With church gatherings staying very, very high on the list of the most dangerous activities that people can engage in, and with the likelihood that lives will never return to “normal” again, we have before us the perfect time to rethink, yet once more, how to “do church” in a culturally appropriate way.
And to say this will throw a monkey wrench into sacramental theology is one of the greater understatements for the ages. But we can do this and emerge, radically changed, but free.
Lesson and blessing two: Political leaders DO need science
Do we really have to say this? Apparently so. Because political leaders set national and local health policies, they really need to listen carefully to health experts, particularly those with expertise in epidemiology.
Diseases like the one caused by the SARS-cov-19 virus don’t just magically disappear. Appropriate vaccinations will soon be available. The effects of the virus will eventually die down, but not until after causing giant damage. And either this one will mutate and continue to cause problems, or another will arise in the foreseeable future–and it may be far, far more deadly than this one.
Personally, I’ve given up on any morality in politics, but at least we can elect people smart enough to be aware that they don’t know everything and need outside expertise.
Lesson and blessing three: The tragedy of the commons is being exposed
Too many people have forgotten that the common good is also the individual good. When we cannot be good to one another collectively, we cannot be good to ourselves individually.
Our nation is in a crisis. Period. The only way to get through this is to pull together. That means all of us pay some cost, mostly in the effective use of facemasks, clean hands, and distance from others.
It’s not that hard. But, apparently, such a thing cannot be done. We appear to be a nation of unbelievably selfish people. I very much expect mandatory seat belt laws to be soon repealed as well as standards for child safety seats in cars. After all, don’t such things limit our individual freedoms?
While we are at it, we may as well eliminate all traffic laws–clearly, such things limit our freedoms as well.
Lesson and blessing four: We now all know how horrifically we treat our older people
The virus made visible what most prefer to keep invisible: the horrible ways we deal with our later-in-life and end-of-life issues in the US.
Most of the world wants to avoid living in a nursing home anyway, but how about one where, suddenly, with mind and body failing and more need for the familiar and friendly than ever, we imprison our vulnerable elderly in their depressing 10 x 10-foot cells, tossing in food a few times a day, never touching them, never singing to them?
They are denied access to family, who often serve as necessary watchdogs to ensure their loved ones are not being abused or neglected. This is beyond nightmarish.
We must completely rethink how we want to spend our declining years. Let find the freedom of honesty: we all will die—time to be far, far more intentional about the process.
Lesson and blessing five: We are humbled before something so tiny—brought to our knees by it
A virus is, after all, a tiny little thing, unseeable except by the most powerful of microscopes. It can’t live on its own–it must have a host of some sort to reproduce. Most of them that hit humankind are immediately stopped by our generally well-performing immune systems. But SAR-COV-19 has wreaked havoc across the world.
Perhaps it will help bring a bit of humility to our thinking, to help humans recognize that our place as a part of earth’s ecology may not be as dominant as we’d like to think it is.
Perhaps, even, we might begin to recognize that the earth is itself a living organism upon which the health and well-being of all of us depends. The better we treat our planet, the more we honor God as creator and offer health to the inhabitants of this planet.
One of the earliest stories to emerge from the early lockdown days was what happened to the extremely polluted waters of Venice, Italy. Without the normal hordes of tourists daily descending on this ancient city, the waters cleared rapidly.
Just one striking example of the power of nature to heal itself when it is no longer being abused by humans.
Lesson and blessing six: Sugar is killing us
Those getting hit the hardest are those whose diets tend to be dominated by fast-food, sugar-laden products. Few want to talk about it, but it is nonetheless true: those suffering from obesity are dying at far higher numbers than the more slender.
Those with obesity are not bad people, undisciplined gluttons who deserve bad things to happen to them. Nope. they are normal people eating the worst of all possible diets: the standard US sugar-laden, high-calorie, highly-processed products that are foisted upon us as “food” when they should be better defined as “slow poisons.”
Over 40% of the US population are currently classified as “obese,” and this figure is not declining. This trend is also another national health emergency. It will not change until politicians get their hands out of the deep pockets of the “food,” i.e., “slow poison” producers of these addictive and destructive products.
Lesson and blessing seven: We really, really, really need schools
It seems so silly that it would take this disastrous mess to help us wake up to the fact that in-person education for all our children is far more than a basic human right. It is also utterly essential to the economic health of our country.
In line with that, it is also shameful that we are just now figuring out how utterly essential skilled educators are and how poorly we have both paid them and recognized them for their tireless work.
This is a lesson we must not forget because it folds into the next one:
Lesson and blessing eight: “Essential workers” are generally the lowest paid in society
I wrote about this extensively here and don’t want to repeat myself. But the reality: the dirtier, the nastier, the more dangerous the job, the more likely it is utterly essential to our society’s functioning. A
nd the more likely it is that the workers employed in that occupation are exceptionally low paid and have almost no job protections—time to wake up to this dirty underbelly of US society.
The list above is just a few things that sprang to mind as I began to consider the multiple lessons and blessings from Covid. From this growing national tragedy, we can actually emerge wiser and stronger if we take a hard look at ourselves and see what we can learn from these travails.