Reflections on a Pandemic
It has been more than six months since the pandemic started – we last held our last in-person worship on March 15 – and since then, we have been living in a world that we had never known before. Yes, we have had flu seasons before, and we even had scares with West Nile and Swine Flu viruses, but "shelter safe at home" is new. The virtual platform is a new way of life, including schools, shopping, and even businesses, and as a church, we went through Easter on Zoom, and the reality is that Christmas will be on Zoom. It is a new world. The question for us is, "What have we learned through this experience?" and "How will we be different because of the pandemic?" Allow me to share some observations.
Truth Matters. It has been documented that the current president has lied more than 20,000 in public since taking office. However, he does not seem to care that people believe he is a pathological liar, and he does not have the capacity to tell the truth. Even though the country needs to be engaged in an honest conversation about how to address the greatest threat on U.S soil we had known since Civil War, the current administrations lie about the virus that has taken more than 216,000 lives already with hundreds of thousands of more to come. Creating conspiracy theories and false rumors or blaming others for his failures does not negate the truth that as the leader of our country, he has to accept the blame for the death and suffering the virus has caused in the U.S. and around the world.
Ethics Matter. We are seeing the U.S. Senate play partisan politics with Supreme Court appointments weakening the check and balance system, the cornerstone of our democracy. While the law states that any time a seat is open on the Supreme Court, the sitting president has the authority to nominate a candidate, and the Senate has the responsibility of examining the candidate in a timely manner. Four years ago, the Senate adopted an ad hoc policy of not examining a Supreme Court nominee during the last year of a presidential term. We all know that the real reason was to prevent a black president from appointing a jurist to the highest court of the land. However, now that a white person is a president, the same senators are in a hurry to examine and appoint a white person to the court. Shame.
Humility Matters. The current resident of the White House for the entire time of the pandemic has downplayed the coronavirus's danger and refused to follow the medical community's recommendations of wearing a mask and social distancing claiming his superpowers to be able to ward off the virus. This past week, even after showing symptoms of Covid-19 and being infectious, he held super spreader events where he infected countless people and endangering hundreds of lives. Even after he had to be hospitalized, put on a ventilator which breathed for him, received at least two experimental drugs that are not yet available to the general public, and was cared for by a dedicated top-notch medical team at one of the best hospitals in the world, he remains arrogant and refuses to quarantine himself and is infecting his aides and others who came to serve the country.
Compassion Matters. Since the pandemic began, our food pantry ministry has seen an explosion of people who are experiencing food insecurity. We are now serving around 6,000 to 7,000 persons each month. This is a staggering number. The gratitude community expresses cannot be captured with written words, but you must look deep into their eyes to see the difference we are making. We have been able to grasp better what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our world and what James meant by "the true religion that God is pleased with is the one that takes care of widows and orphans."
Kindness matters. At our food pantry ministry, many line-up as early as 2 am. People wait out on the sidewalk for 4 to 6 hours for food, and when we ask "why?" they tell us that they only come to our site because they are treated with kindness. A small thing such as thanking them for coming, offering them a bottle of water, giving cookies to children, serving the disabled without them waiting in line, allowing mothers with infants to go first, or simply apologizing that they have to wait in line goes a long way to help them keep their dignity.
Competence Matters. My objections to the current administration have been that it is absolutely incompetent. We somehow have developed this idea that anything from career politicians is bad, and any non-Washington candidate is good. We have tried incompetent newcomers to politics; we had various entertainers: actors, wrestlers, TV personalities, and comedians become governors, senators, and presidents. The citizens of the nation are paying the price. The highest price we pay as a society is the loss of trust in leadership due to the bad governance by the incompetent. Incompetence has put our economy in ruin, killed over 200,000 lives, and foreign policy is non-existent. International cooperation is a thing of the past, decimated global trade, racism is rampant and social systems are at their wit's end. We need capable leaders with coherent policies and not arrogant buffoons posting bombastic tirades on Twitter.
Black Lives Matter. Since the killing of Mr. George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, we have been engaged in race discussions that have given us hope for a systemic change. We also have seen the white fragility and frigidity show its ugly head as the white supremacy organizations have orchestrated riots and looting to create fear amid change. Their attempt to cast any constructive conversations about being an anti-racist
society as the end of the U.S. reveals the true nature of the problem. They falsely believe the U.S. was created by whites for whites. We have to be clear that the meaning of Black Lives Matter is that all people's lives are valuable and when we take care of the least of the society, and we know that African American lives have been valued the least in the U.S., then we care for all peoples.
Much has happened in our world since the pandemic began more than six months ago, and we will not recognize the new world when the pandemic is over. We must be involved in careful conversations now preparing for our future, so when a vaccine is discovered, and we are able to gather in groups, we will have an opportunity to recreate the world that will reflect God's values of grace, mercy, and love.