This week I would like to talk a little more directly about COVID-19 particularly as it relates to God, and to our faith as Christians. There have been a lot of articles, videos, and various media going around that call COVID-19 a “plague”, “God’s wrath” or more sneakily “a way for God to get God’s Church to pray again.” While I wish to respect what anyone in our congregation chooses to believe, to make a statement that God is directly causing this pandemic to sweep across the earth, killing many innocent people is problematic and is not a good representation of the God of redemption and mercy we worship. So before dive further into the reasons why I think the connection between God’s direct action and COVID-19 is an affront to what I believe about God; I want to take a little time to examine what some of the loudest voices in this camp have been saying.
One popular Evangelical leader in America, and the leader of the weekly US Presidential Cabinet Bible study, Ralph Drollinger, said, “Relative to the coronavirus pandemic crisis, this is not God’s abandonment wrath nor His cataclysmic wrath (ways the Drollinger categorizes God’s wrath), rather it is sowing and reaping wrath: A biblically astute evaluation of the situation strongly suggests that America and other countries of the world are reaping what China has sown due to their leaders’ recklessness and lack of candor and transparency.” Another prominent American Christian leader, Rick Wiles said, “God is dealing with people who oppose his son, Jesus Christ. He's dealing with the forces of Antichrist. And there's a plague moving upon the earth right now, and the people that are going into the synagogues are coming out of the synagogues with the virus."
Both of these “ministers” have said many other ridiculous things about the reasons that God is “pouring out wrath” on the world right now, but there is one thing I want to pay special attention to here, and that is the “dog-whistle” of racism and anti-Semitism present in these claims. Though these hateful sentiments don’t need to be present in the idea that COVID-19 is somehow God’s wrath on the world, it is important to note that they are because it is out of these types of theological narratives that racism, sexism, homophobia, and all sorts of bigotry flourish.
Why is that? I don’t think I can fit the totality of the problematic sociological, theological, and biblical errors into this short blog, but I will say in an overarching manner it is not surprising to me that a God who would punish the world with COVID-19, which indiscriminately takes lives, would also oppose women, spew racist lies, etc. That is not the kind of all-loving God I believe is on display at the crucifixion or in the resurrection. The God of Easter hope is all about redemption, sacrificial love, and hope, not punishment, wrath, and destruction. Jesus came into the world not to condemn but to being humanity into loving relationship with the God of all.
This, of course, then begs the question, if God did not send COVID-19 as a punishment or as wrath, what is God’s role in it? If God is not causing the pandemic, can we still believe that God is in control? And to this question, which can be subsumed by the question of Theodicy (which is if God is all good and all powerful, why does evil exist?) has been a topic of conversation for the greatest Christian theologians for centuries. And thus, I will not be able to give a perfectly satisfactory answer here. However, even though we can’t know why bad things happen to us, to our friends, and to the broader world, we can know that Jesus conquered death and has given us reason for hope. God loves all of us without our having to earn it. God does not desire that we live in fear of sickness. And while I don’t think we can say with confidence there is any greater purpose or meaning to this pandemic, if one exists, I believe it is that we act as God’s hands and feet on the earth. That we as the people of God come together to make sure that no one, especially those on the margins, falls through the cracks.
So what does it look like to be the people of God during a pandemic? You tell me. Tell me through how you treat yourself and those around you. Tell me by the ways you give yourself grace for doubt or fear. Tell me by the ways you care for those living on the streets. But no matter what, know that God did NOT send this pandemic as a “punishment” or “wrath” because God’s love is all about total restoration, free grace, and undeserving forgiveness to ALL humankind.
You may be wondering, why would Grant write about this in a wellness blog? It’s because I think it’s really important as people of faith to have good theology around who our God is and is not. If we believe that God caused/desired this pandemic to happen, then we will be much more likely to believe that God wants us to live in fear. We will be less likely to give ourselves grace around the ways we feel and act as a result of uncertainty. We will be more likely to deal harshly with others who really just need to be loved in this time. It’s not always super obvious how our views of God affect our day-to-day lives, but in this circumstance it’s important to know that God loves us, wants the best for us, and gives us hope, not fear.
This week for our bodily wellness I recommend you consider heeding the advice of the Centers for Disease Control who this week officially recommended that every time we go outside, we wear a facemask or some type of face covering to protect ourselves and others. (Their recommendation was specifically for Americans, but is also good advice in general.) Obviously, there is still a shortage of medical masks for healthcare workers, so I don’t necessarily recommend using those (unless you or a housemate has any symptoms). But here a few simple ways to make our own masks from a bandana, tee-shirt, or piece of fabric (no sewing required).
Below is an interesting article about the value of talking about your emotions. (As it talks about in the article) some people, especially men, have a hard time giving voice to their emotions, but even just learning how to be honest with yourself and venting to a friend can have a big effect on your overall wellbeing. I know that for me having one or two friends and a counselor who I can be totally honest with without fear of judgment has been one of the biggest things for my growth as a person and how I can deal with adversity. I know this isn’t exactly what I have offered in the “mind” section in the past, but this article contains a lot of helpful information from studies as well as general advice for how to start talking about our emotions.
Give it a read! https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/03/smarter-living/talking-out-problems.html?algo=identity&fellback=false&imp_id=234095799&imp_id=218698385&action=click&module=Smarter%20Living&pgtype=Homepage
Today I would like to highlight the 14-day meditation/Lectio Divina series recently produced by Marta Hobbs. If you have been following this blog closely, you will remember that I highlighted two individual videos of hers two weeks ago. If those were helpful to you (and I hope they were) please check out this whole series!
Have a blessed week, and remember, God always loves you.
 Dollinger, Ralph. “The Coronavirus Pandemic: Is the World Suffering God's Wrath?” Capitol Ministries. Capitol Ministries, March 21, 2020. https://capmin.org/the-coronavirus-pandemic-is-the-world-suffering-gods-wrath/?fbclid=IwAR2ecjSdmYKhrEu0MjRmkChvGJLlSYfqmyXpq4QnUzPM0WcsGe1X5EcqKsA.  Slisco, Aila. “Conservative Pastor Says Coronavirus Spreading in Synagogues Is God's Punishment to Jews for ‘Opposing’ Jesus Christ.” Newsweek. Newsweek, March 27, 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/conservative-pastor-says-coronavirus-spreading-synagogues-gods-punishment-jews-opposing-1494578.  A “dog whistle” is a common American expression to talk about someone who will say something that is not explicitly racist or bigoted, but listeners can infer their true meaning.