When Coronavirus Gets Really Personal

A number of people, quite understandably, have not taken fondly to my vocal fortress-of-fear / fortress-of-faith position. We shall now see whether that position is summarily disproven should I test positive. Of course, testing negative does not affirm my position, but a positive result would presumptively invalidate it. But when it is all said and done, I elected to self-isolate because, should I test positive, others should not suffer the consequences of my inadequate faith. To be absolutely clear, though, nothing I have stated, past or present, should be construed to suggest that those who contract corona are somehow lacking in faith. In this life, misfortunes do strike undeserving people. This does not mean that God intends for anyone to suffer or that God wishes to instruct us by way of suffering. While commendable for a suffering soul to be able to glean something positive from tragedy, God must be viewed as benevolent. God no more causes one to die of corona than God would cause one to die from an earthquake. There simply are natural forces at work that were long ago set in motion and which play themselves out. Earthquakes happen, hurricanes happen, mental illness happens, All of these can result in considerable tragedy and losses of life. Pure evil also happens (Pearl Harbor, 9/11, JFK).

I believe that faith must prevail over fear. What life is it to never fly for fear of crashing? What life is it to never travel for fear of kidnap-for-ransom? What life is it to never play sports for fear of injury? What life is it to never strive for fear of failure? What life is it to never love for fear of heartbreak? I am not suggesting that everyone attempt skydiving nor that everyone swim with sharks. If that be your bag, more power to you! What empowers one soul is not necessarily what empowers another. As irrational as faith might seem, faith remains rational. Some have suggested that my faith position is akin to playing in traffic and expecting God to save one from harm. That is not faith. In this scenario, faith is strolling along the sidewalk with a companion and trusting God that the reckless driver does not come your way or believing that God will intervene when the garbage truck’s airbrakes fail. That warning could be an odd sound down the road that triggers one’s attentive ears. The wise person harkens and does not dismiss such signs. Perhaps that sounds like personal agency and the line between faith and agency is seldom clearly defined. But just as it is a poor and unfulfilled life to never travel or to fly or to compete or to strive, so too it is an unfulfilled life to conform one’s life to fear. I would rather have ten months of confident life than ten years of apprehension.

At its core faith is not blind ignorance. Faith is a surrender of the human impulse to control the uncontrollable. War is an attempt to force an opponent to submit to the aggressor’s will. The 9/11 attack was the attempt of 19 deranged men to force America to receive a punishment that they believed appropriate. Perhaps they also believed their sacrifice would compel others to act similarly. The unprecedented and draconian edicts of government are an attempt to control the conduct of the populace. Morality legislation are attempts to control the conduct of others. Even republicans and democrats seek to control society by imposing their beliefs. Yet faith says that, come what may, I live or die, thrive or languish, prosper or fail. Faith does not assert life is predestined for good or for bad. Faith stands for the proposition that renouncing our inborn need to control our environment leads to a more fulfilled life. Faith is very much (though imperfectly) captured in the prayer of serenity: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can[not accept], and wisdom to know the difference.

Many will say it is unwise to dismiss corona but I say that it is unfulfilling to rearrange life in a futile effort to control the uncontrollable. Worse still, when the next pandemic strikes—and there will be one and it will be worse—the belief that today’s fearfulness avoided greater tragedy (post hoc ergo propter hoc) will only further diminish life.

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