Who’s to Blame? : Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
As you range across social media, it seems that everyone is looking for someone to blame. The targets of blame range from the rational to the conspiratorial. This seems to be especially true among people of faith. This, of course, is nothing new. For those familiar with Barbara Tuchman’s book, ‘A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century’, you will recognize similarities between the medieval reaction to the plague and modern social media reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic. We have not yet encountered processions of penitential Flagellants, but judging by the extreme reactions of some religious people to the current crisis, I would not be surprised.
What we are actually witnessing is a tragedy on a massive scale. Yes, it has been exacerbated by flawed decision making by leaders both here and in Europe and Asia. At its root, however, it is the result of living in a fallen creation, one in which the “rain falls on the just and the unjust alike”. Like Frodo Baggins, we all would say, “I wish none of this had happened” to which Gandalf gave the wise reply, “So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”
The apportioning of blame can wait until this tragedy has passed. Committees can form and ascertain “who knew what when”. Elections can be held. For now, however, we as Christians need to decide what we are going to do with the time that has been given to us as this pandemic spreads. For myself, I hope our reaction will not consist in spending our waking hours apportioning blame, but instead, that it will be grounded in loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Most of us are currently isolated in some sense. For better or worse, we find ourselves in the semi-monastic world of The Benedict Option. We could do worse than to punctuate our time of isolation with regular times of prayer. Perhaps it will be the venerable tradition of Morning and Evening Prayer, or perhaps it will be the evening lamp lighting prayers of the Orthodox tradition. Whatever form it takes, during this time, let regular prayer shape the rhythm of your day. Prepare lists of those you will pray for in this time of tragedy and, when opportunity allows, reach out to them. Now is also an ideal time to read and to study. It may be a favorite old book revisited or it may be something you had always intended to read. Take the opportunity of this time for learning and reflection.
As to love of neighbor, it may seem a contradiction in terms in a time of self-isolation. Yet even in these circumstances we can reach beyond ourselves. First, it is love of neighbor that informs our self-isolation. We do not want to be an unwitting carrier or spreader of the virus. This IS love of neighbor. Additionally we can take the time to contact those whom we know who might be alone or frightened. Maintaining physical distance, we can still assist with food deliveries or make masks (if we possess that talent) in our homes. Perhaps most importantly, we can mourn with those who mourn. Many will lose someone they love and we can share in that loss. We most likely cannot answer the age old question of “Why?”, apart from saying that is the same question Christ asked on the Cross. This time of tragedy offers us the time to consider our conduct as followers of Christ. It is a crisis… it is also an opportunity for love and service.
This crisis may not end quickly, but it will eventually run its course. It will be a time of loss, but it may also be a time of growth, of love and of caring.