Random Thoughts On The Coronavirus
The Humanity of it All
This is going to be a bit of running-commentary-stream-of-conscious writing, so bear with me.
It has been an interesting experience to watch us humans respond to this global "crisis" over the past several days. Some responses are cavalier, some are indifferent, some are unequivocally over the top, and many seem fueled by click-bait news headlines designed to instill panic and fear.
It's shocking how easily we are unsettled and bumped off-center.
A few news stories out of China and the stock market crashes, conferences get canceled, business trips are scrubbed, and East Wenatchee Costco runs out of toilet paper (??).
I've talked with business owners who can't get employees to show up to work. I've talked to teachers who've said parents refuse to send kids to school. And I've witnessed first hand unfounded fear driving irrational behavior.
The economic impact in lost productivity and money spent is staggering to consider, let alone the psychological and emotional ripple effect.
And amidst it all, I've been asking myself, "What is the Christian's response to this?"
Certainly not comprehensive, here are a few thoughts that have boiled to the surface this week.
1. Life is Precious, and Every Life Matters
First of all, every life matters. Though the numbers for death rates are low by virus standards, even 1 death is a tragedy. It's easy to read numbers and statistics and blow it off as not a big deal. But when that number was your relative, it's personal.
Every life lost is a profound loss because every life matters. So it has been strangely encouraging to see a response and impulse that places such a value on sparing lives, saving lives, and battle against the curse so that others might live.
Which always then confuses me in a secular society. Why the panic? Why the stress? Why spend billions to save lives? I thought lives were expendable. If a baby is inconvenient, don't we just terminate it? Aren't the same people calling for billions to be spent to find a vaccine the same people who argue for the right to kill a baby if having it might get in the way of a raise at work?
The worldview whiplash is truly something to behold. Either life is precious, or it isn't; either it's worth fighting to save, or it's not. So while I find myself agreeing with the impulse to save lives, I am simultaneously confused at the inconsistency in which it is applied to our common human experience.
We're in a fluster to save lives. We're tirelessly reporting every death and the impending doom of it spreading to more people.
As of this writing, 14 people have died this past week in the USA.
By end of day, we will have also collectively killed 2,900 babies. In one day. Every day. In this country.
So yes, every life matters. I agree. I just wish we actually applied that to all of life. But when it's selective in its application in the media, it feels a little less genuine.
(I told you this was going to be random...)
2. Respond to Facts, Not Headlines
Here's a practical encouragement for those of us who tend to read headlines and panic. Remember, headlines aren't written to communicate nuanced facts, headlines are written to generate clicks.
One such headline had me cracking up this week. It read, "US Coronavirus death toll climbs to 6, as the virus spreads worldwide." Cue breathless reporter with pictures of important people bustling around in hazmat suits.
The problem is, there is no context for that headline. And so we rightly think, "Wow, every life is precious, even one death is too many, six is horrible..." which is all good and true, until we make the leap, "...therefore I should panic and buy all the toilet paper at Costco."
Facts Are Our Friends
But let's look at the facts. The Center for Disease Control keeps an exhausting list of the ways Americans die every year. It's a morbid list, but also fascinating, and in this instance helpfully informative.
For instance, in 2019,
- 10,386 people died for a reason listed as "fall involving bed.”
- 2,167 deaths came about as a result of "Constipation.”
- 1,413 deaths occurred falling from a tree.
- 150 people were killed by falling coconuts while vacationing on an island.
This means currently you have a higher chance of dying from walking under a palm tree, eating a banana, or going to bed tonight than you do from the Coronavirus.
I know, that's sort of ridiculous.
And I'm not meaning to poke fun (too much), or come across flippant in any way. I'm simply arguing for a little more nuance to the conversation and a little more measured common sense in our response as humans.
For instance, did you know that, according to the CDC, over 61,000 people died in the US alone in 2019 of...wait for it...the common cold and flu? And that an estimated 12,000 of those happened in the last 4 months? And yet, what's the headlines we read?
"US Coronavirus Death Toll climbs to 6..."
Allowing ourselves to be carried away by frenzied hysteria never helped anything. The disease of panic spreads faster than any virus and sometimes proves much more devastating. The antidote to the disease of panic is facts and information.
3. Be Compassionate Towards All.
I've heard all the responses. One person went and bought all of a local store's batteries. When asked why? "Well, in case I need a flashlight when the pandemic breaks out!"
Um, ok. Better prepared than not, I guess?
Different personalities respond differently. And people with different backgrounds and experiences and hang-ups and challenges. But in it all, we should be compassionate.
For some with relatives in the high-risk category, this is very serious...just like heart disease and liver disease and lung disease. Or a young mom earnestly concerned about the health of her child. Every life matters and all life is precious.
So while much of the media hysteria is laughable and should be mocked accordingly, most people's response is earnest and should be treated with respect and dignity.
4. Be Measured, Use Caution, and Let the Chips Fall
The Coronavirus is not a joke to be ignored. Obviously, some have gotten sick, and some have died. It's terrible, it's tragic.
Nor is it the end of the known world as we know it.
The Christian should never be presumptuous or cavalier in our attitude towards a potential threat. It most certainly is NOT the Christian attitude to jump out of a plane without a parachute saying "God will take care of me!" That's stupid.
But neither should we fall prey to fear-mongering, click-bait headlines, and panic-driven hysteria.
So we check the facts, consult with experts, and respond in a manner that is responsible, measured, and wise for the information we have. If there is a need to ratchet up the response later, as more facts are discovered, we can do that. If one week from now the death-toll sky-rockets to tens of thousands in our country, then we can adjust and respond appropriately.
Measured. Careful. Reasonable.
Because absolutely no one is helped when we panic. At that point, we're just puppets.
Thankfully, Christians have a wonderful history of responding with godly, measured wisdom, and brave, courageous love in the face of medical emergencies (Black Plague, 1346-1353, Cholera Pandemic, 1852-1860, and the flu pandemic, 1918).
A Final, Pastoral Word
And finally, let us remember, church...God is our refuge and our strength (Ps. 146). God reigns over all things, including the Covid-19 Coronavirus. Our world is currently subjected to futility, but it will one day be restored and set free. This is not the first time disease has run rampant, nor will it be the last (H1N1, Avian flu, Ebola, Sars, etc). So until then, we take precautions, act responsibly, and continue living life.
As Christians, we shouldn't look down on a person concerned for their elderly parent's health as "over-reacting", and we shouldn't respond emotionally and blow it out of proportion without knowing all the facts.
Measured, godly, fact-based precautions when necessary, refusing to be gripped by fear, walking in faith, and being a stabilizing presence in a culture given to over-reacting and panic...that is the road to take.
I like how my mom put it the other day. When I asked her if she was worried about the virus, she said,
"Well, I just asked myself what the worst possible outcome was, and that was that I would get sick and die. And I thought, well, that would mean I'd be with Jesus, of which I'm looking forward to. So I figured since the worst-case scenario was an upgrade, I'd just sort of move on and not worry about it unless it becomes a bigger issue."
Thanks, mom. A very helpful perspective.
So there it is. That's what's rambling around in my head on this Friday. I hope for some it's been helpful.
We live one day at a time. We don't know what tomorrow holds, but we know Who holds tomorrow. We don't bury our heads in the sand, and we don't go into hysteria after reading a few headlines. We look around, take a deep breath, remind ourselves who's in control, look to see how we can serve and help, and move ahead trusting Jesus.
Because, as Christ-followers, even the worst-case scenario is an upgrade. What good news!