Shelter in Place or Open the Economy?
Wear a Mask or Not?
Over-Reaction or Appropriate Caution?
Count our Losses or Count our Blessings?
Get Married or Postpone the Wedding?
We are living with a lot of tension.
This week I have been interested in asking a few more theological questions about how I am responding to Covid-19 with my particular Christian faith. I have a Ph.D. in Theology with an emphasis in Christian Ethics. From the moment my faith became real to me, I have had questions. Ironically, I didn’t read much as a kid…I was too interested in basketball and television (“The Last Dance” is the perfect storm of both during quarantine). I started as a math major in college so that I would not have to read. Anybody who knew me then would have never predicted what I do today.
But my faith opened a whole new world to me in college—who knew about books? So, I have an interest in the big and small questions about life and where they intersect with faith. Originally, it was questions about faith and science…then how to understand the Scriptures in relation to other literature…then how to think about what God might be like…then could we know anything about God with our limited understanding?
“Limited understanding” and “Tension,” these two things are embedded in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures from the beginning. The first three chapters of Genesis set the stage for this tension. Genesis 1 & 2: God creates a good world filled with beauty, wonder, and relationship; Chapter 3, that good world gets corrupted by sin—and the beauty, wonder, and relationship go sideways. Chapters 4-11 tell the story of this tension in full view: Cain & Abel (a brother kills a brother), Noah and the flood (humanity has devolved far enough to take drastic measures for a reset); the tower of Babel (both the ingenuity and hubris of humanity in one place). I have come to think of these stories as poetic reality that ring true to my experience. Innocence and evil side by side; incredible beauty and the possibility of destruction in nature; the mystery of the world and the harsh realities of living in it; the love and pain we can experience in relationships.
There is a genre change in Genesis chapter 12. The Scriptures move from poetry to history: the poetry describes the world in tension, the history begins to describe what God might do about it. Is there a way that God might do something redemptive or restorative to set things right? The amazing thing is that God starts small, with a group of people (the Hebrews) as a way to demonstrate God’s wisdom and kindness (Deuteronomy 4.5-8). That story is filled with tension: sometimes great success in that project; other times dismal failure…but the common thread through the success and failure is God’s faithfulness to be there through the tension and his desire to make things right.
In my questions about Covid-19, whether they are the practical ones or the more theological ones, I keep coming back to this thought: My knowledge is limited–there are just things that I do not know; and this is the tension of being human. We are not omniscient and there are things that are out of our control. But there are things that I do know: We live in a good world that has been corrupted by sin at all levels and that God is described in the scriptures as faithfully working to set the world right again; not necessarily right in my personal circumstances, but right in his ultimate redemptive work that recaptures the full beauty, wonder, and relationship that the world was intended to be.
BTW—Just my opinion but, we should be cautious, wear a mask in public (to protect others; you might be a carrier), we should count both our losses and our blessings, get married and then have a giant celebration/reception when we don’t have to be 6 ft. apart and can dance.
Photography by Bonnie Sanders