I hope you’ve had a lovely week. A glimmer of normalcy occurred at our house last night with some intense sports arguing over the NFL draft. Sports arguing was a hallmark of our daily existence pre-COVID, and honestly I can’t say I’ve really missed it. Sports cheering? Yes! Sports playing? Oh my yes! But I’ve not been longing for the perpetual and sometimes heated debate over the worth of every athlete in every sport.
So, yes, this is my last testament, not in a morbid personal sense, but in terms of the pandemic. I’m promising myself, and you, sweet faithful reader, that this will be the last time I sound off about the pandemic. I’ve written about it for all of March and all of April, but next Friday will be May. Spur will therefore be a no COVID-19 zone. However, since this is the last time I’m letting myself weigh in, this post is longer than usual.
Mourning with those who mourn is a foundational tenet of the Christian life (this is a great article on it). Sadly, it is not a practice consistently on display in today’s culture. I mean sometimes it’s easy to sympathize: the case of that gorgeous little five-year-old who died in Detroit. Her parents are both first responders and she was their only child. It’s a heartbreaking story. Who wouldn’t mourn with them?
But a different set of facts played out in Ohio. A guy doubted the severity of the disease on Twitter and then died from it. The response was stunning: “karma is a B*%#H” and “got what he deserved” were representative. The poor family was planning to livestream his virtual funeral for friends and family, but all the mean-spirited condemnation made them change their minds. Fortunately, there is a cure for self-righteous hard-heartedness: “I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 11:19 NIV. Hallelujah, God can change hearts. I can’t. I tried to soften a hateful Facebook friend just this week. It’s futile. I can’t change a single heart, even in my own home. Why do I so often forget that only God can do that? We need to be praying for revival.
More than a month ago, when it looked like we would have major and widespread shortages of ventilators, I wrote about how important it is to have end-of-life discussions. If I were seventy-five or older, my preference would be to die at home. An increased use of “home care” was also the strong recommendation of a group of Italian doctors in a March 21, 2020 NEJM Catalyst article. But I am not at all convinced such options are being thoughtfully analyzed.
I volunteer at my local hospital holding NICU babies. Obviously that program is suspended right now, but when I was training to do the NICU program they showcased another volunteer opportunity. They have volunteers who sit with people who are dying and would otherwise be alone. Can’t we do something like that with people who already have coronavirus antibodies? Chattanooga has not yet experienced a surge, by God’s grace, but can’t New York City hospitals implement something?
It just seems crazy to me to have so many old people hooked up to ventilators, alone, when one study suggests only 12% will survive. Are families able to make educated and informed decisions? The default to extend life no matter what is not a philosophy to which I ascribe, and I worry that some of the horrific aspects to this whole situation could be avoided if we engaged in candid conversations. It’s not PC to talk about how we’d like to die, but in years gone by pneumonia was even described as old man’s friend. Emotionally charged discussions are counterproductive. I am praying that families will have wisdom in looking at the reality of death in a loving and honest way. Let’s not live in denial and let’s pray for revival. May droves of people open the doors of their hearts to Jesus who stands there knocking. After all, as Frederick Buechner so aptly quips, for the Christian, “The end is life.”
Loving your neighbor is, of course, an even more foundational Christian belief than “mourning with those who mourn.” I have been thinking about what this looks like in the midst of a highly contagious viral outbreak. It would be terrible to knowingly or even negligently expose others to the coronavirus, but the discussion of the unknowing, non-negligent transmission has gone off the rails. I’m sure you’ve seen the vitriol of those who condemn leaving the house for any reason.
If I get behind the wheel of my car tanked that is reckless endangerment, and clearly not loving my neighbor. If I get behind the wheel of my car sober, it is nevertheless possible that I could kill someone. Having no such history, I could still stroke or seize and plow into a pedestrian. It’s unlikely, but it’s possible. Still, it is not unloving or even inconsiderate for me to drive. We need to soberly analyze the rate at which we might be infecting others. There are loud voices who would have you believe that living your life is akin to driving drunk, that it is reckless endangerment to society. Again, highly charged emotional discussions are not remotely helpful. Using common sense and thinking through the potential impact of our actions are part of loving others. We may hold those who intentionally or negligently transmit the virus legally liable, but people are going to have to start living again at their own risk. It won’t look the same for everybody, just like not everybody chooses to swim at an unguarded beach. I’d love to know of someone who’s written on this more extensively from a Christian ethics perspective. I will certainly keep thinking about it, but I promise I won’t post about it again!
The bottom line is life has never been and will never be safe. God numbers our days and directs our steps. We can’t ever take “every precaution,” but we can take some, so we should be discerning about which ones. And on a macro scale, it’s no longer really debatable if completely shutting down the economy was the most neighbor-loving thing to do. It wasn’t. The resultant suffering is already enormous. I am praying that leaders will right our course and be wise, openly weighing unintended consequences. It is hard to even imagine that being the reality, but I am praying for it regardless.
Heavenly Father, help us all to number our days aright, that we may gain hearts of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). Help us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), and may we love our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18). In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.