God and Coronavirus Revisited

God and Coronavirus Revisited March 12, 2020

“As a former presidential speechwriter, my careful rhetorical analysis is that he’s gonna get us all killed.”

-David Litt, speech writer for Obama

I am trying hard not to continually post about Trump, I really am. But he doesn’t help himself. So, just quickly, before I get on to God (yes that other god, you cultists):

At 9.02pm, Trump began as presidents so often do: “My fellow Americans.” But in the next breath, he reverted to his familiar us-versus-them nationalism, referring to the coronavirus outbreak “that started in China” and is now spreading throughout the world. “This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history.” Not just a virus. A foreign virus.

The president touted his own sweeping travel restrictions on China and, far from expressing sympathy and solidarity with allies, argued the European Union “failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hotspots. As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe.”

Trump announced the US will be banning travelers from many European countries to the US for the next 30 days with exemptions for Americans, permanent residents and family of US citizens who have undergone screenings and, mysteriously, the UK, despite it having a higher caseload than some other European countries. Could Brexit be the new TSA PreCheck?

The president then made an awful bungle. He said “these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval”. Such words could trigger global economic panic. Trump was forced to hastily clarify on Twitter: “… very important for all countries & businesses to know that trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe. The restriction stops people not goods.”

He went on to talk of the pathogen as if it was a foreign army or terrorist network. “The virus will not have a chance against us,” he said. “No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States.”

And seen in the midst of an emergency, Trump could not resist some campaigning. “Because of the economic policies that we have put into place over the last three years, we have the greatest economy anywhere in the world by far,” he said.

I’ve been arguing on my last thread on this that Trump is mishandling things, but you know what Trump’s cultists are like: there’s no reasoning with them with regard to anything critical against their saviour.

It’s also worth noting that the main countries not covered by Trump’s European travel ban, the UK and Ireland, are where three of his good resorts are situated.

How convenient.

Back to the less-orange god, God. I talked in my last piece, albeit briefly, about Coronavirus in the context of the Problem of Evil. What theodicies, or defences (broadly speaking), do Christians actually employ to rationalise such natural evil in light of God’s omni-characteristics?

This comment comes from Slograman.

It’s choose your own adventure, whichever benefits your belief system the most.

Coronavirus as punishment. Against those godless communists in China? You bet. I’m sure those who make this claim have carefully dissected all actions of the deceased as inherently evil, especially the children who have died. We’ll explain the Christian deaths as martyrs or something. Maybe dead Christians were just Not True ChristiansTM.

Coronavirus as a lesson. As we all know, the best teachers infect and ‮llik‬ a number of their students so that the survivors might learn something. Too bad the lesson is so muddled that you can’t know what the lesson was.

Coronavirus as a mysterious way to a mysterious means. We can’t know the mind of god! (I’ll set aside the age-old fact that if this were true, then that means that god created us with this deficit of knowledge, this inability to pierce his holy veil.) Whatever god was trying to accomplish, it’s indistinguishable from a bizarre mixture of statistical noise (any number of people catching corona and dying from it) and mixed lessons (humans seemingly help themselves, so… we don’t need god?)

Coronavirus as a small drop in an infinite pool. C Peterson will hopefully appreciate this. People dying of coronavirus doesn’t matter! Nothing matters compared to the infinity of afterlife! Just… ignore the fact that your eternal life is judged by this finite period of life, and, well, sorry that said life was cut down by corona.

Did I miss anything?

Luke Breuer added a further one (from a theistic perspective):

Coronavirus as exposing our incompetence, laziness, and arrogance. That is: we had the choice to allocate more time & resources to understanding reality, but we instead chose to entertain ourselves, mass ‮redrum‬ each other, vicariously live through sports stars, and so forth. Nature breaking down in the midst of our breaking down offers us a common enemy—although it is much better to be motivated by a common desire.

This is interesting because it still requires God to use people instrumentally – i.e., to employ some form of consequentialism – in order to allow for the victims (sufferers and dead) to be used as a means to an end. This is another example of a solution to a Christiaan problem creating a problem of its in either independently or in the way it struggles to cohere with other Christian claims or solutions.

Any other additions to make?

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