Sunday, March 22, 2020

Theology and COVID-19

I have read several thoughts recently on God and viruses. And thought several things I haven't read or written down.

I am a fan of the book of Job and of the Psalms. These with the Song are keys to Torah and a stand against particularly clear statements of consequences in Deuteronomy 28, the chapter that the story of Job specifically addresses.

I see no possibility but to see God's Word as holding in tension incompatible statements as we read them. We walk between these tracks, parallel in a non-Euclidean sense - for we do not live with straight lines. This will perhaps be clarified in what follows.

Here is a response to a post from Ken Schenck who is one who writes carefully and consistently in his work on the Bible. He is Wesleyan, I am not. I have seen many theories about the God of the Bible and I subscribe to none of the shortcuts. I have followed his blog since 2006, but not with much detailed interaction, sometimes just marveling at his order and discipline.

Hi Ken, thanks for the review of the many theological parts of this crisis. I like the image of some things being above my pay grade. Having done my translation into English of the Hebrew Scriptures, I found myself muted in my ability to say anything about God. Your paragraphs have been some help today. Your discipline in blogging has always impressed me ever since we met in 2006 at St Andrews.

What impresses me in this exercise of responding to COVID-19, the disease that is the result of being infected with this novel corona virus, is the need to face up to our past lack of preparation, not only to lay blame, but more to insist that we change. (I would use repent, but that is loaded and fails to identify the real problem - our stubbornness in fear of facing what we really do.)

Without change, we will fail to solve the climate crisis for which this pandemic is merely a shot over the bow.

I think it is true that we must use the word consequences as you have. If we call this judgment or condemnation, that's fine too. The real question is whether we will change. Will we allow the earth its Sabbath? Will we allow ourselves a Sabbath? Will we develop our character to be as the character of Yahweh? Psalm 146 is the best summary of the character of God that I can think of.

If I try to think theologically, I must first note that the novel corona virus is a random walk and that the impact has been different in this first wave, from a 2% to 8% death rate and so on. All this is understandable through science. We are in a world, walking through God's other book, where science, and randomness are real and we need to do all we have done and more. (Mostly now, we need to shelter in place.)

Praise and blame are due: Bravo to the Chinese for decoding the DNA and publishing it early (when they got over the initial impulse to lie and save face). Shame on the US leadership for continuing to lie to save political face about being prepared in the presence of so many facts to the contrary.

The impulse to lie to save face and avoid shame are human responses to error. (aka original sin).

In the world we are totally responsible for our actions and our failure to act. We are totally free also, no holds barred. God is not manipulating us or viruses and supply chains. Any of us may die as a result. All of us are wearing out at different rates but with full equality of time allowed.

Secondly, I will note from God's readable books called the Bible, for me, and in other forms available through other religions, that God is not subject to my theology. But I read that God is light, that God is love, and that God is holy. These are our calling, our vocation to enter into within that independent world that we occupy in our temporal life.

God bless us, every one, says Tiny Tim. (Whether we live or whether we die.)

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