What a strange time. 2020 could easily be written up like an Old Testament minor prophet rant about the general sinfulness of the people and the inevitable, and deserved, wrath of God. The fact that us post-modern, liberal Christians don’t feel as comfortable as we’d like when we accidentally open the Bible to Lamentations or Amos doesn’t invalidate those litanies of harsh judgment – though we don’t have to take them the same way they’ve been taken in the past. They don’t have to be read as God getting pissed off and delivering a beat-down to His chosen people for the nth time. The writers of the OT were using a form of narrative that made sense to them, which seems a bit unfair to many folks now. They attributed emotions to God that might not have been accurate based on their perspective and understanding. We have more information than they had – specifically, the New Testament, and a different understanding of causality.
God didn’t cause COVID19. We did. Our interactions with the world God made created the conditions for this particular coronavirus to develop and spread, and our systems of social injustice ensured that specific populations would be hit harder than others. Those harder hit groups are harder hit because they’ve been on the shit end of centuries of injustice, and apparently, they’re not happy about it. None of that is God suddenly kirking out and punishing everybody for the sins of a few. All of that is the collective chickens coming home to roost.
God provided clear and concise instructions for how people should live. People have consistently ignored that good advice. Our refusal to follow directions has created the shitstorm that we are currently enjoying.
Personally, though I am certainly bothered about the specific individuals who are suffering right now, I can easily see how this moment of sturm und drang could lead to something better. Racism, the great and enduring sin of the USA, has come bubbling up again, this time within the context of a pandemic which has caused widespread fear and financial insecurity. We have an opportunity to address our collective guilt, to do something deep and meaningful – as opposed to the half-assed bandaid-on-a-bullet-wound bullshit that’s been done in the past – to dig in and look hard, to admit our own part in the oppression and disenfranchisement of people of color. (The fact that you and me are good little progressives who aren’t racist don’t mean a thing. We’re part of it.) From where I sit, systemic racism in America is directly related to capitalism – I’m a “no war but the class war” radical at heart. People of color are oppressed using the tools of capitalism, shut out of economic security, forced into poverty at higher rates than white people. The fact that some white people are also poor doesn’t change that fact. Eliminating racism completely – if one could wave a magic wand and make it go away – would just shift the oppression to a more racially diverse group, which might be more fair, but not right.
The system has to change. Really change. Little fixes have been tried and have failed. The inevitable result of pruning the branches of the tree of evil is another generation rioting and demanding change.
Capitalism is based on the love of money. It creates poverty because it has to. If some people aren’t poor, capitalism can’t work. If most people aren’t constantly trying to better themselves at the expense of their neighbors, capitalism can’t work. The idea that capitalism can be tweaked to raise all boats is inherently flawed – as should be obvious by now. Shit, the fucking boat metaphor doesn’t even hold – most of us don’t have boats. That whole concept is just a modern version of “let them eat cake”.
This moment, this right now, is a harsh and ugly moment. People are wailing in anguish. Cities are burning. There’s a disturbance in the Force. This has to be. Statues and institutions have to be torn down. There will be blood.
We who wish for a better world, the kind of world Christ described as the Kingdom of the Father, should mourn those who have died to set the stage. We should support those who are fighting – if we can’t actually join them – and bind the wounds of those who are hurt. We should stop defending our egos and get to work.
God tells us to care for the poor. God tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. God tells us to give without concern for what we might receive.
– Racism must be rooted out. Every one of us has been affected by it. Everyone of us has integrated some of it. We must look within ourselves, admit our fault, and then do the work to get rid of it. The rallying cry right now is “Black lives matter”. We should affirm that truth and carry that banner, while knowing that brown, red and yellow lives also matter. Ending racism must mean ending all racism.
– All marginalized people should be lifted up. All. That means all. The fact that some people don’t live as we might like them to doesn’t matter. No one who claims to follow Christ can justify not working to lift up the LGBTQ community. No one who claims to follow Christ can say they don’t have to help sex workers because it’s immoral. No one who claims to follow Christ can ignore drug addiction on the grounds that “they brought it on themselves”. No one who claims to follow Christ can pretend the prison system is acceptable.
– Capitalism has had time to work. It doesn’t. As much as I would like to immediately live in a society based on the early church, I know that isn’t realistic. But that should be the goal. We should do all we can to alleviate the suffering of the poor now, while also working toward a better system. Northern European social democracy looks best to me, but I’m open to ideas.
– Health care and basic income for all.
– Freedom of religion and from religion. Those who do not worship as we do, or who don’t worship at all, are children of God and should be treated so. It is right and good that we announce the Good News, but we are not excused from helping those who reject it. We can’t change hearts. God can. If He chooses not to work through some individuals, that is His will.
The way of Christ is not easy. He told us it wouldn’t be.
I am actually quite optimistic – an unusual thing for cynical me. I’ve never seen so much social upheaval, which means I’ve never seen so much possibility. A different world is possible, perhaps even now being born.
Opening my Bible at random, I found Habakkuk, who finishes with
Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails,
and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off
from the fold,
and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the God of
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like
the feet of a deer,
and makes me tread
upon the heights.