As of 10:04a.m on the 20th of March Johns Hopkins is reporting 14,250 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 205 deaths. (Update: as of March 25th at 6:30p.m. Johns Hopkins is reporting 65,285 confirmed cases and 926 associated deaths). As we watch this number increase by thousands of cases per day the anxiety and uncertainty for many continues to grow. Please note that the increase in reported cases on a daily basis is simply the confirmation of infections that have already occured due to the 24-72 hour delay caused by testing. These numbers only reflect those who are tested, and are not inclusive of many who are asymptomatic or don’t meet requirements for testing based on severity of symptoms. So the question remains, do we respond with panic, or take precautions and make preparations for what’s likely to come next.
If it has not been made apparent these last four years, let me help: America suffers from a serious case of opinionated psychosis. Our responses to this latest crisis is proof. Even within small communities, we find a multitude of opinions that include—but are not limited to—social control, political plots, biological terrorism and the destruction of capitalism. The COVID-19 pandemic is illustrating at a granular level, discord in our communities that highlights American division. If a global health threat poses the greatest risk to the least of those amongst us, who are we as the Church if we can’t unify to protect them? If we can’t unify across political chasms, racial divides, and socio-economic statuses, then who are we as a nation?
As discussed in the last episode of The Savage Truth Podcast, a global pandemic offers us foresight by seeing the potential impact an infectious disease can have on cities, even before it hits our shores. We have witnessed exposure, spread, containment, and quarantine in developed countries across Asia and Europe that serve as lessons on how we can respond. We can take precautions, defined as a measure taken in advance to avert possible evil. We can make preparations, defined as the action or process of making ready. Or we can panic, which requires no definition because we have been observing that behavior at our local grocery stores and big-box retailers. But for the sake of consistency, panic is sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior—Exhibit A: Toilet paper forts.
Religious leaders across denominations are treating those who make preparations and take precautions as being abstinent of faith. While on the other extreme, people find a new opportunity to mock those who pray during crisis and question the intellect of those with spiritual beliefs. Wherever people find themselves on the scale, between apocalypse to atheist, there is going to be a lasting impact on communities, especially those already struggling to survive.
No one questions the faith of the driver wearing a seatbelt, the gun owner that keeps the safety on, the parent that uses a car seat, the construction worker that wears a safety hat, or those who wait for the proper light at a crosswalk. To ignore these precautions would be tantamount to negligence and lead to public scrutiny. Yet, here we are in 2020 and many reject precautions like basic hygiene, social distancing and avoiding large crowds because of this idea of personal liberty. This laxness contributed to the spread of an infectious disease across all 50 states in a matter of weeks.
If we step away from the headlines about events being canceled and celebrities contracting COVID-19, we will see a serious financial crisis just below the surface. Yes, the stock market experienced a historical reduction in value, but the average person in an urban/rural community is more concerned about today’s income than retirement funds. Research shows that nearly 80% of American workers are living paycheck to paycheck. While some are upset over not watching a tournament or viewing the latest movie, there are people losing jobs or working significantly reduced hours. In recent polls, the LA Times reported that 18% of workers have already lost jobs or had hours reduced, and that number was 25% for lower-income households. If we think of just the thousands of workers displaced in concessions from canceled events at coliseums and amusement parks, we can see one piece of a large and gloomy puzzle.
Do you panic, or take precautions and make preparations?
It’s not panic to look at what’s occurring across the country and know that despite stimulus packages, tax breaks, and well-meaning employers, people will have a loss of income or employment soon. Temporary closures, quarantine, sick time, reduced hours, travel restrictions, shelter in place orders, and child care needs due to school closures will leave people from every walk of life in a worse situation than today. In 2018, it was reported that almost 82 million workers over the age of 16 were paid by the hour, so a lot of people are at risk and don’t have any safety net to fall back on.
If you are a leader in a rural or urban community that is already economically suppressed, what do you do with this information? Do you panic, or take precautions and make preparations? Do you cancel large gatherings for precaution reasons, or in a panic after those affiliated with your church or organization test positive for COVID-19? Do you continue to centralize giving, or direct others to make preparations for their families and communities? Do we allow the gospel of Christ to be seen by how we love one another or quarantine the good news with political distancing?
My advice to leaders is that we meet panic with love and understanding, while encouraging our communities to make preparations and take precaution. Like the early church in the book of Acts chapter 4, we must come together so we can meet the needs of those that will physically and financially fall victim to this pandemic. As instructed in the book of Romans chapter 13, let us submit to governing authorities and not distract law enforcement from serving by violating restrictions. Adhering to policies, city ordinances, and recommendations is precaution not Christian persecution. Use this time to strengthen your homes, reconnect with extended family, spend time in God’s word, show love to your neighbors and pray.
Pray for renewed commitment to small groups, discipleship, and fellowship amongst believers. Pray for hearts that will be willing to sacrifice personal excess to meet the needs of others. Pray for business leaders to show compassion and put people above profitability. Pray for unity across political, racial, and economic divides. Pray for random acts of kindness and putting the needs of others above self. Pray for the financial stability of churches and nonprofits. Pray for wisdom for all leaders, and that God will grant us peace amidst this storm. Pray that our country and our world will rise from this crisis understanding the frailty of human life and the need for eternal security.
ABOUT FEATURED ARTIST: Director, Q Will and Pastor Roy Dockery
At On Faith Entertainment, Director, Q Will and Pastor Roy Dockery use videography and spoken word Poetry to deliver a message to a divided world. While we are separated by race, politics, economics, and faith On Faith Entertainment presents a unifying message of rooted in Jesus’ command, to Love Your Neighbor. #loveyourneighbor2020 signs available at roydockery.org. Make sure you follow them both on Instagram (@q.will_thedirector and @pastorroydockery)