Due to the Corona virus pandemic, the apocalypse is truly upon us, but not in the Left Behind series’ way of misinterpreting scripture. Rather, the Corona apocalypse is revealing many aspects of the world we live in as they truly are. The word apocalypse means “unveiling” in its Biblical context and not some horrifying doomsday scenario a la John Hagee and his wildly off the mark “blood moon prophecies.” As New Testament scholar Mark Allan Powell notes regarding the Biblical book we call ‘Revelation,’ perhaps the most well known piece of apocalyptic literature in the world, it “seeks to pull back a veil and show Christians the truth about God and the truth about the world in which they live.” It may be the end of the world as we know it, but it ain’t the “end times.”
The Corona virus pandemic is pulling back the veil on a number of things related to our civilization and the societies we live in. It is exposing the flaws of many of our global systems and the rampant inequality that is created by an avaricious economic system that is tremendously skewed to favor those with a great deal of wealth. It is sending a beacon of light into the heretofore dark places in the political sphere allowing us to see the real motivations behind the political process here in America and abroad. It’s also showing that rugged individualism and self-sufficiency are nonsense. Let’s take a quick peak and see some of what we can see now that the veil has been lifted.
Grocery stores around the nation are a good place to start looking. Items have flown off of the shelves as people began to stock up or even hoard supplies. Depending on the duration of the pandemic, and experts warn that this could go on for a long time, the shelves will become increasingly hard to restock thus highlighting an enormous problem with the current supply chain system. Lack of local production of food and necessary goods makes the supply chain much longer and thus more susceptible to disruption and shortages of necessary goods, foods, and medicines. An appropriate correction would be to re-localize economies and especially food production so that people can get as much as possible form local sources. A shift from disposable products to reusable ones makes a lot of sense too, because that means less trips to the store for more people. Production of disposable products could be shifted to the production of durable, longer lasting, multi-use items. A local food system helps create good local jobs with people doing meaningful work while cutting down on food-miles, carbon footprint, and commuting times. The impacts of such shifts would be felt throughout local communities and likely help the poor and marginalized, which are of course key elements of Jesus’ teachings. It would make us all more resilient in the face of pandemics and other disruptions to the norm like climate change.
The economic disparity that has been created in this country is due to avarice, which means not just greed, but a greed with malicious intent behind it, such as the avarice seen in Charles Dickens’ character Ralph Nickleby in his novel Nicholas Nickleby (1) and in Donald Trump. At a time when millions of people nationwide are losing work and health care benefits, certain politicians have purposefully held up getting aid to people during the pandemic because they claimed it might incentivize people to lose their jobs on purpose. (2) It’s highly unlikely that after a long period of isolation that people would just lose their jobs on purpose. Their ploy was just another in the long list of ways politicians have worked to hurt the poor. The minimum wage in 2010 was a paltry and inadequate $7.25 per hour. It still is. Far too many people are scraping by on less than a living wage because politicians have favored the wealthy for many years. The Corona virus pandemic is showing that this economic model is a failure, is woefully inequitable, and in many ways simply evil because it actually creates poverty for the many while concentrating wealth in fewer and fewer hands. It says that wealthy corporations should get bailed out with huge sums of money while normal people are left to pick over the scraps. It says that the wealthy can hoard wealth but normal folks shouldn’t hoard toilet paper. In short, it says that far too many leaders are worshiping the golden calf and laying their sacrifices on an altar called “the love of money.” We can and must change this inequitable system. Such economic changes were also one of the focuses of Jesus’ ministry on Earth.
Meanwhile, other conservatives have shown that all of their “pro-life” and “all lives matter” rhetoric was phony and only used to pander to wedge issue voters while attempting to hide their lack of racial awareness and white privilege at best, and overt racism at worst. They showed this when they stated that older people should be willing to die to save the economy. Clearly the lives of elderly Americans are as expendable to them as the lives of poor young Americans who die in the military to expand empire. The current occupant of the White House, in an attempt to pander to his evangelical base, had suggested that the social distancing restrictions be lifted by Easter so the churches can be full and the economy can get started again. (3) There are exactly zero pandemic experts that agree with Trump and he finally changed his tune. The veil has been lifted. These so-called pro-life conservatives have only been pretending to be pro-life. Contrast the above with the conservative response to their response to abortion, to Dr. Kevorkian, the Terri Schiavo case, or when they claimed that there would be “death panels” for senior citizens under Obama care.
There are people who are genuinely pro-life, but most politicians do not fit the description despite campaigning on that as a wedge issue. It’s really more about controlling others than the sanctity of life that they claim. If they were truly pro-life, there would be no warfare, a robust social safety net would be implemented so all children, rich or poor, can be well cared for and have their needs truly met. That safety net should also extend to all human beings whether they have children or not. If these politicians were truly pro-life, there would be no concentration camps on the border, nor border walls on the U.S. -Mexico border, nor around Gaza. There would be no hyper wealthy people as long as there was poverty in the world. There would be no political protection of corporations who make toxic products and flood the market with them. There would be no death penalty. To actually be pro-life is to be holistically pro-life and not just pro-fetus. Now that this unveiling has occurred we must never let politicians hide behind the curtain of their “pro-life” pandering to get votes while they undermine life with almost everything else they do politically.
Like Hurricanes Katrina and Maria showed, the corona virus has revealed the need for competent leadership and governance. George Bush’s disastrous decision to appoint Michael D. Brown as head of FEMA and the problems that that appointment caused, has been exponentially magnified by the Trump administration who bungled the response to Hurricane Maria in criminally negligent ways, and has since completely flubbed the government’s response to the pandemic. Trump’s overt racism and bigotry doubtless hampered the response to Puerto Rico’s dire emergency in the wake of Maria. His obvious narcissism has doubtless led to an inept response to COVID-19’s exponential spread in the U.S. He is actively making things worse for countless people with his blatant narcissism and far too many people are believing him over trained professionals. This ineptitude is already causing harm to vulnerable people and that is why this is a theological issue. We cannot love our neighbors by continuing to support an utterly incompetent, avaricious, narcissist who couldn’t care less about people like you and me. I believe that while it is wrong to celebrate when someone gets the virus like so many have done since it was announced that Rand Paul tested positive; it is just as wrong to pretend that Trump is doing a good job or that sacrificing vulnerable people to help the economy is a good idea.
This pandemic has also shown that the ethos of ‘rugged American individualism’ is bogus and that there is no such thing as unskilled labor. The virus’ exponential spread gives lie to the fact that we are separate or that we can rely simply on our own ability to pull ourselves up by our boot straps. Even within permaculture circles (see chapter seven of Go Golden for an intro to permaculture) there are those who have espoused the myth of “self sufficiency” despite their training. We are all connected to one another. We are all reliant upon our neighbors, be they near or far away, to help us as we endeavor to live meaningful lives in this crazy world. We are all often especially reliant on our neighbors who make pitiful wages, like retail workers and others in the service industry. We rely on one another for social connection, and though the introverts among us may be able to thrive on social distancing, many of us extroverts can struggle. With rare exceptions, most people, even introverts want some human contact in some form. We are also reliant, perhaps more so than ever, on the creatives of the world – artist, writers, musicians, actors, et al who are helping us to cope with the isolation. In short, we need each other to survive and thrive. I hope we remember this and start, if we haven’t already, to truly appreciate all of those people who make our lives materially better, from the farmers who grow our food, to the factory workers who make products, to service industry employees, and social workers, creatives, and those who do the so-called menial jobs. All of those who Jesus might refer to as “the least of these.”
The pandemic has caused a lifting of the veil. As systems theorist Donella Meadows showed, (4) a system will continue to do the same thing until a big enough change in the inputs has occurred. Only then will the system change. It is up to us now to redesign the systems that have failed so many now that COVID-19 has shocked the global economic system, transportation, medicine, politics, supply chains, and the myriad quotidian things we take for granted. After we process our grief and loss, let us proceed with wisdom, grace, and a heart for those whom society has marginalized as we hold leaders accountable for making a more equitable, sustainable, and happier world.
Writing is my vocational calling. If you enjoyed this blog post please consider supporting my work with a small donation. Thank you, Dillon Naber Cruz