By Rhett Burns
Well, by my calculations today is March 375th. Are you enjoying your “15 days to flatten the curve” yet? Personally, I would like to cancel my free trial of communism, reinstall the Christian republic operating system, and return to the land of liberty.
In the meantime, let’s evaluate the overarching response to the Covid pandemic over the last year.
Refusing to Read the Times
Part of growing in wisdom and knowledge is the ability to learn patterns from God’s Word and recognize them in God’s world.
What does it mean in the Bible when you read about pestilence and plague, confusion and delusion, wicked rulers and petty tyrants? What does it mean when God silences a city, collapses an economy, and shuts down the houses of worship? What do we make of a once-great nation marked by division, debauchery, and dispossession?
Is it not the judgment of God? Is it not the hand of the Lord?
Yet, we refuse to read the times. We do not recognize the patterns, and we shield our eyes from unpleasant realities.
We prefer to see the pandemic as just something bad happening to us, and hope to God that he’ll come to our aid and make it all stop already.
Managing the Whirlwind
Therefore, the overwhelming response to the pandemic has been to try to manage it. To set up rules and protocols. To engineer public health via mandates, models, and marketing. To treat human culture like a game of Bop It—Pull it! Twist it!”—until we no longer recognize hospitality, neighborliness, and other uniquely human endeavors.
Worse, the rules are incessant, the protocols shifting, the logic inconsistent:
Shut down this business, but not that one. Ban this gathering, but not that riot. No hugs or handshakes, but go ahead and hook up with that Tinder match. Stay six feet apart. Wash your hands. Quarantine. Isolate. Keep curfew. We’re counting guests in your home. Don’t wear a mask. You must wear a mask. Wear a second mask. Take the shot or you’re a conspiracy theorist!
Chesterton once described our current situation:
When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.
We are a nation of small laws that are getting smaller by the case count.
This managerial response has revealed that we believe we are in control. More so, that we believe the state is in control. We believe we can sow the wind, reap the whirlwind, and then have the governor tell it which way to blow.
Not How Judgments Work
But this is not how judgments work. You cannot mask, vaccinate, or vote your way out of God’s discipline.
You don’t manage God.
You submit to him. You repent, believe, and obey.
The coronavirus is not our only problem. Overreaching governments and frail-hearted citizens are their own pandemics.
And if we want all of this to stop, then, as a people, we must stop celebrating sodomy, stirring up ethnic strife, killing babies, debasing the currency, watching pornography, institutionalizing envy, enslaving our grandchildren to our debt, chemically castrating children, and generally finding innovative ways to break God’s law.
Not only must we put off such ungodliness, but we must put on godliness. We must worship God rightly, which, oddly enough, means actually gathering for worship in the first place. We must get the first government right, which is self-government, the foundation of all other governments, abstaining from the passions of the flesh which wage war against our souls (1 Pet 2:11). We must conform our lives to God’s Word in every domain of human existence and activity.
And we really must look at this close to home, too. It’s easy to point out the rank rebellion in the culture at large, and see how it invites the judgment of God. The mid-level managerial-ness of the administrative state is the big E on the eye chart.
But what of our own lives, households, and churches? How are we attempting to just manage the times, or let the experts manage them for us? What sins must we put off; what virtues must we put on?
For Fear and a Covering
When you break the big laws, you get the small ones. Not only so, but when you abandon the true faith and religion, you don’t get no religion. You get a thousand small ones. You get false religion.
You get a return to the fear religions, that ancient animism all dressed up in modern science, complete with chemical potions, talismans, and regulated and ritualized human interaction. Whatever it takes to please the gods and make us safe.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that various precautions—masks, vaccines, and the like—are wrong in and of themselves. People weigh evidence, consider their own situations, evaluate risks to themselves and those round them, and then make the best calculations they can. I am all for it, throw no shade, and give a hearty cheer for wisdom and liberty.
But I am suggesting that a great fear has washed over our land. I am suggesting that for some among us, no amount of evidence about anything matters. They will wear one mask or eight if the right people from the right agency assure them their safety. They will surrender the aforementioned liberty, and demand you forfeit freedom as well, to keep them safe—or at least to keep up the appearances of safety. They will withdraw from worship, commerce, hospitality, celebrations, and their own grandparents because they are afraid.
They will abstain from life in the name of life.
We are held captive to all the petty fears if we do not have a proper first fear: the fear of God. We feel exposed to all the dangers we can imagine if we are uncovered. Therefore, people try to cover themselves. Anything to make them feel safe.
But Christians are covered. We are secure. Of course, that does not mean we throw every caution to the wind. A prudent Christian wears a seatbelt, and he ought to apply the same prudence to our current Covid situation.
But he ought not be given over to fear. He is covered by Christ, and he should live like it.
Rhett Burns (@rhett_burns) is an associate pastor and small business entrepreneur living in Greenville, SC with his wife and four kids. He publishes Get Your House In Order, a newsletter about building a household that lasts.
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