A round, colorful church window

Coronavirus Brings Change, but the Church Brings Hope

Let's dis­cuss briefly dis­cuss the no­tion of change. I think the topic is rel­e­vant to our cur­rent cir­cum­stances. After all, since the coro­n­avirus has in­vaded our lives, things haven't been the same. And so-called ex­perts have been pre­dict­ing that our lives will likely be al­tered mov­ing for­ward even post COVID-19. The new nor­mal is change–or is it?

It seems change has al­ways been busy flip­ping things up­side down. Looking back, great an­cient thinkers have been grap­pling with how our frag­ile, fi­nite lives fit into what seems an in­fi­nitely long his­tory. From the Greek philoso­pher Heraclitus: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” According to this phi­los­o­phy, every­thing is al­ways chang­ing, but is this idea en­cour­ag­ing?

Well, ac­cord­ing to our con­ven­tional wis­dom, change is at the very least un­com­fort­able. As is said, life be­gins at the end of your com­fort zone. There's some truth to that state­ment, al­though I'm sure we could come up with a bet­ter first cause to life it­self. Nonetheless, by push­ing the lim­its of our con­structs, we do seem to on av­er­age end up with bet­ter out­comes. We make progress, and our cul­ture praises and re­wards progress.

But with progress comes the dooms­day sce­nar­ios. Technology, glob­al­iza­tion, and other har­bin­gers of the 21st cen­tury have brought us a virus that spreads faster than Amazon can ship pack­ages. I know the eco­nomic down­turn–with its losses in jobs for many Americans–have also purged hope from our lives. Many Millenials were al­ready strug­gling to keep their heads above wa­ter. Other younger Americans are pes­simistic about whether they will ever be able to own a house.[1] Change makes for a dis­tant, in­dif­fer­ent god. Her for­tunes are de­void of hope.

Chart showing why millennials can't own homes. Over 50% of millennials said they couldn't afford the down payment

In an in­creas­ingly sec­u­lar America, hope is poorly de­lin­eated, of­ten left in ab­stract terms about ever more un­cer­tain to­mor­row. I guess we're all shoot­ing for Mars. Progress must col­o­nize the cos­mos.[2] These utopian vi­sions of hu­man­ity don't seem to in­ject life-giv­ing en­ergy into our most poor and mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties. And they don't seem to do much bet­ter for every­one else. All you have to do is look at re­cent trends around men­tal health. There seems to be an uptick in de­pres­sion, sui­cides, and just gen­eral sad­ness com­pared to pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.[3] I am par­tic­u­larly wor­ried about men who at­tempt sui­cide at a rate of about 3.56x that of women.[4]

How can we em­brace change and yet still have hope? Is life noth­ing more than a gi­ant dice role? While so­ci­ety has at­tempted to re­move the di­vine and other tal­is­mans from our daily af­fairs, de­fault­ing to fa­tal­ism isn't so tempt­ing. We want to do some­thing to make things bet­ter. Many of us want to save our neigh­bors from the virus–look at the money lost and ef­fort spent on so­cial dis­tanc­ing.[5] This no­tion of lov­ing our neigh­bors sounds a lot like a Bible verse to me.

While some have been quick to mock some Churches' re­sponses to the coro­n­avirus,[6] I have been en­cour­aged by the com­mu­nity rep­re­sent­ing Christ's up­side­down king­dom.[7] Their prayers, words of en­cour­age­ment, and im­promptu wor­ship ses­sions have been a salve–de­flect­ing the gen­eral para­noia and frus­tra­tion with gov­ern­ment bu­reau­cracy. Whatever is left of re­li­gion in America, it is still good at pro­vid­ing hope. According to cer­tain tales, Jesus Christ is com­ing back some­day to re­store the uni­verse to glory. In the mean­time, death has still lost its sting. Critics may have ar­gued that Christians are opt­ing out of life, but I think we are mak­ing it liv­able right now.

  1. From this CNBC ar­ti­cle: The home­own­er­ship rate among mil­len­ni­als, ages 25 to 34, is around 8 per­cent­age points lower than it was for Gen Xers and baby boomers when they were in the same age group. ↩︎

  2. From Elon Musk: I think there are re­ally two fun­da­men­tal paths. History is go­ing to bi­fur­cate along two di­rec­tions. One path is we stay on Earth for­ever, and then there will be some even­tual ex­tinc­tion event. I do not have an im­me­di­ate dooms­day prophecy, but even­tu­ally, his­tory sug­gests, there will be some dooms­day event. The al­ter­na­tive is to be­come a space-bear­ing civ­i­liza­tion and a multi-plan­e­tary species, which I hope you would agree is the right way to go.” ↩︎

  3. From this NBC ar­ti­cle: Major de­pres­sion is on the rise among Americans from all age groups, but is ris­ing fastest among teens and young adults, new health in­sur­ance data shows. ↩︎

  4. Statistic is from the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. It's up to date as of 2018 ↩︎

  5. We shut­down the Las Vegas casi­nos! ↩︎

  6. This New York Times ar­ti­cle is good ex­am­ple of the mock­ing: Trump’s re­sponse to the pan­demic has been haunted by the sci­ence de­nial­ism of his ul­tra­con­ser­v­a­tive re­li­gious al­lies.” ↩︎

  7. As a side note, most churches did shut­down dur­ing coro­n­avirus. For ex­am­ple, ac­cord­ing to Christianity Today ninety-three per­cent of Protestant churches are closed in America, for fear of spread­ing COVID-19.” ↩︎