Lines at grocery stores. Empty shelves. Schools and churches and restaurants closed. Hospitals without a sufficient number of ventilators. Store clerks walking around with hospital masks and gloves. Maybe it’s me, but I just don’t find it in my heart to write about speculative fiction in a time of upheaval. And believe me, this is a time of upheaval.
Sure, a lot of people are passing along hopeful messages: this too will pass and we’ll be able to get back to normal; we’re all in this together and we see a lot of good coming out of it; kids are reporting that a large majority prefer working from home rather than going to school. But does the public mostly need to hear encouraging messages in a time of crisis?
I heard a bit of the Queen’s message to the UK yesterday, in light of the Prime Minister contracting Covid-19, and it reminded me of the great speeches Winston Churchill delivered before and during World War II. One of his most famous contains these lines:
I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. This is our policy. You ask, what is our aim?
I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory, there is no survival. (Historical Highlights)
Notice, Churchill was not saying, it’ll all be over soon and we can get back to being comfortable and living in ease. He held up one hope: survival. And to achieve that, he asked his people for blood, sweat, toil, and tears.
Maybe my perspective is skewed because I live in a more populous area, very urban. Not as densely populated as New York City or the surrounding areas, to be sure, but still, we are not miles from our nearest neighbor. From what I see, the virus and its effects are on the mind of most people. Yet, what I hear is how bored the kids are, how long the grocery lines are (they aren’t long any more), how store shelves don’t have all the things we want (a result of hoarding, not of a lack of supply), how easy the technology of today makes “doing church” or working from home or completing studies.
My point is simple: God has offered us an opportunity to return to Him, and we in the US seem to focus on different gods—the god of “things will return to normal,” or “the government will fix it,” or “the doctors or medical researchers will find the vaccine,” or “we can survive if we keep a positive attitude,” or “we’re in this together” (as if that is somehow a cure to anything.)
The fact is, the Coronavirus has brought the world face to face with our mortality, and we are trying to find ways to avoid dealing with it.
I remember the initial response in America to the 9/11 attacks: people prayed and even our government embraced the statement on our currency—In God We Trust.
After evacuating the Capitol earlier in the day, roughly 150 Members of Congress came together in the evening on the building’s East Front steps to convey the resolve of the nation during a time of great tragedy. Senators stood by Representatives, Democrats next to Republicans, and the leadership of both houses gathered as a symbol of strength for a country shocked and saddened by the day’s barbaric acts of terrorism. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert of Illinois addressed the Nation . . . After Members observed a moment of silence over the day’s tragedies, those assembled broke into an impromptu rendition of “God Bless America.”
Yet how quickly things “returned to normal,” with America no longer valuing prayer and no longer united in an expression of faith.
I think of Nineveh in the Bible. A city faced with destruction because God determined He would bring an end to their wicked ways. They repented, and God spared them. Yet in approximately a generation, they were back at their violent attacks on other nations, conquering and killing and enslaving.
What happened to their repentance?
What happened to ours in 2001? Or was there any repentance? Maybe all we wanted was God to be on our side. Maybe that’s all we want now: God to bring an end to this virus so we can get back to business as usual. In other words, we want God to work for us.
But isn’t it interesting the things we can no longer do: sports, congregating in bars and theaters and concerts, going to stores for a buying spree, going to many work sites, and yes, going to church.
It’s as if God has taken apart our idols, including “religion” and has said, Focus on Me. I alone am the LORD.
And yet, our messages of encouragement, if they mention God at all, have little to do with getting through the virus because God is sovereign and a just judge, a righteous God who never gets things wrong.
In reality, what we are going through, is what we need to be going through. And the best way through is, to pray for repentance—in our own hearts first, but in our nation, in our world.
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
And rend your heart and not your garments.”
Now return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil. (Joel 2:12-13)
At least that’s my perspective.
Featured Photo by Samuel Martins on Unsplash.jpg