I struggled this week to find something that I felt was worth saying in this space. If you were to ask me, I would honestly tell you that this moment works against many of the things that I feel are my strengths as a writer. As I said on a podcast recently, I always strive to be topical when I write. To ignore the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic would be a violation of my own principles. The subject cannot go unaddressed. It is the only subject worth talking about in this moment. However, the ways and modes that would come easiest to me as a writer do not seem to be well-suited for this case.
For example, I believe in the power of critical thinking and criticism as a way to make things better. We make the world better by examining the bad things that are happening (criticism) and marshalling the evidence we have at hand in creative ways to improve the situation (critical thinking). But as I thought about this space and this piece, those modes seemed small in this moment. I write at this moment having not gone to my work office for two weeks. With the exception of a wedding I attended two Saturdays ago (which I felt somewhat guilty about), I have not attended any social gatherings. Our lives are drastically changed by this virus and I believe that in all likelihood our worst days with respect to this pandemic are in front of us, not behind us. The place and time will come for criticism of our response as a nation to this health crisis. I am just not sure that the place and time is here and now, as people are dying all around us and we continue to make some of our metaphysical distances literal.
I also believe in the strength of logical argument as a way to help people see the flaws in our individual and collective thinking. I strive in my writing to fashion arguments that are not free from bias, but that evidence a logical train of thought that can be justified internally and understood externally, if not readily accepted. The place and time will come for a full weighing of how a movement that says it believes in the value of every life can now stomach so much death. I am just not sure that the place and time is here and now when the randomness of life and death makes the pride of an airtight argument seem so shallow.
So what am I left with in this moment? What are we left with in this moment? I am finding more and more that all I have are my hopes and my prayers. I hope that as you read these words you are well. I hope that you are reading these words in your well-stocked home that you are becoming bored of, and not out on the street, or in a hospital bed, or exhausted from being on the frontlines of what feels more and more like a war. I hope that if you are on those frontlines you find strength and rest, and that you can somehow feel the gratefulness so many of us have for your service and sacrifice.
But in a bigger sense, I am praying that this virus draws us closer together in ways that social distancing cannot sever. I am praying that this virus helps us see the humanity in each of us anew – an acknowledgment that does not go away when saying “COVID-19” feels like saying, “the flu.” I am praying that we find an equality amongst each other that has nothing to do with man or woman, Black or white or Asian, gay or straight, Christian or atheist or Muslim. I am praying that the equality we find spurs us to actions that seek to make that equality a reality in our world. I am praying that these things I want for the world outside exist in our churches too. I am praying that we finally see that our differences, doctrinal and otherwise, are less important than grace and mercy given, love and sacrifice extended and made real.
In other words, I pray that being this close to random life and death helps us to see each other the way God sees us.
Jason Hines is a former attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at AdventHealth University. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at www.TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.
Previous Spectrum columns by Jason Hines can be found at: https://spectrummagazine.org/author/jason-hines
Image Credit: Unsplash.com
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