This is a scary time and as someone with Complex PTSD, I am personally struggling with the stress and anxiety that the Corona virus pandemic is causing. It’s hard to know whether to turn off the news and stay off of social media because it can be overwhelming to be inundated with the updates, or to stay tuned in so as not to miss anything important. Then there is the stress being caused by the incompetence of the Trump White House and how his administration is likely causing the suffering to be worse for so many people. His lies and obfuscations have caused many to completely ignore the experts’ recommendations about gathering in crowded places, social distancing, hand washing, et al. Things have been bad enough, and our national leadership is actively making the problems much worse. Where, if anywhere, is there grace to be found in this profoundly scary and socially disruptive time?
The grace may come in the form of massive social change when this storm is at last weathered. Nations with a national health care program are handling things better than the U.S. has. To highlight this disparity, a Norwegian University told its students to immediately return to Norway if they were in nations with poorly developed health care systems such as the United States. (1) What a stinging rebuke from the Norwegians, who despite living in a cold, often dreary place, are far happier than Americans, in large measure due to the well developed social safety net that Norwegians maintain. Imagine the U.S. with a robust Universal Health Care system that replaces the avaricious for-profit system we have now. That would be an example grace emerging out of crisis.
Grace may come in the form of civilization’s realization that our systems are fraught with perilous problems in many sectors of society in the event of massive disruption and these sectors often contribute in major ways to climate change. Emissions are down in China as a result of factories being shut down and people being forced to self isolate. (2) Supply lines around the world will likely become disrupted as people are forced not to work, factories close, and any sense of normalcy is put on hold. Imagine people starting to grow food instead of lawns in response to the potential fresh food shortages in grocery stores. Imagine local, state, and national governmental agencies in the U.S. actually taking climate change seriously instead of constantly bending over backwards to serve those who are most contributing to climate change, ecological collapse, and suppressing human rights. Imagine building a sustainable world for our loved ones and for all of God’s creatures. If this pandemic leads to truly substantive change in terms of helping ALL people to live life with dignity by ensuring that all their basic needs are met in a sustainable and regenerative way, then I would call that grace.
Grace may come in the form of a more equitable economic model. The pandemic is highlighting the enormous problems with concentrating wealth into the hands of fewer and fewer people, while making ordinary working folks – be they service industry employees or college professors – worry about losing everything in a time of social disruption. Billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer could easily redistribute their wealth to help people and still be incredibly wealthy. Getting them, and others like them, to do so voluntarily may be a stretch, but getting it done politically could come about as a result of the hundreds of millions of working people whose lives are being turned upside down by the pandemic in the form of lost wages and benefits. Imagine political decisions being made with “the least of these” in mind instead of being made for the benefit of those who have accumulated the most wealth. Imagine a tax system that saw hyper-wealthy people, who use inordinate amounts of resources, had to pay their share. Imagine that there were ZERO successful corporations paying no taxes. Imagine a nation and world where everyone has sufficient food, health care, meaningful work, an excellent work – life balance, and where no one has to think about losing their home, transportation, or other necessaries of life during a crisis. That would be grace too.
Grace may come in the form of nations around the world drastically contracting the sizes of their military forces while slashing their military budgets. What would the response to Corona virus look like if the U.S. didn’t spend truly obscene amounts of money on “defense”? (3) What would the response look like if there were hundreds of thousands of people doing national service that had nothing to do with the armed forces? Instead of invading and occupying foreign lands to steal resources and enrich defense contractors, people could choose to work in rural areas doing anything from conservation work to providing social work services, or in urban areas addressing everything from urban blight to inner city poverty. Imagine a mobile service corps that could respond to medical crises, disruptions in supply lines, weather disasters, etc, instead of a mobile force that drops bombs on impoverished peoples who we are told are “enemies.” Imagine that our military personnel were retrained to provide humanitarian relief, engage in climate change mitigation strategies in vulnerable places by planting trees, digging swales and other water catchment, flood control, fire suppression, food drops, etc instead of going to combat to kill poor people. Imagine reallocating the defense budget to programs of social uplift and true service to the nation. (4) If America goes from militaristic warmongering to using its resources to serve others, that would be grace.
This pandemic is scary. It’s systemically disruptive. It’s a global health crisis that may last several months. Of this, there should no longer be any doubt. Sadly, it often takes a severe crisis of this magnitude to bring out the best in humanity, often while exposing the worst. There will be much grief, annoyance, anger, and perseverance as well. My prayer is that people individually, as well as those in positions of political power, will do everything conceivable to minimize the suffering, and that God too will intervene in miraculous ways. My prayer too, is that the kinds of grace that I have described above, and other manifestations of divine grace, will abound all around the nation and the world. May this time of fear and trembling remind us that we as human beings on a finite planet are all in this together. May it remind us that life is both short and precious. May it bring people together in a way that is unprecedented so that we respond to other calamities with grace and humility from the outset, such as global climate change and poverty. May we learn to see the humanity in every person we meet, and those whom we don’t, regardless of their religion, skin color, nation of origin, ethnicity, sexuality, or language they speak. Like a forest after a fire, may we regrow, regenerate, and reinvigorate humanity to love our neighbors as ourselves as this public health crisis continues and long after it ceases.
God in your mercy, hear our prayers.
(3) See chapter six of Go Golden
(4) Thank you for your service
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