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God and the Pandemic

George Payne

Op-ed by George Cassidy Payne

Something which always gets on my nerves is when religious people turn natural events such as earthquakes, floods, and infectious diseases into divine acts of mercy and judgement. The arrogance! Who among us knows the will of God? If they did, would that not make them God? Is God not free to change or act in unpredictable ways? 

Besides, many people who claim to know that a pandemic is the will of God, follow public health guidelines, adhere to basic, precautionary measures substantiated by science, and do there utmost not to become a victim themselves. Is the pandemic a holy judgement or not? Why take any precautions whatsoever if there is nothing humankind can do to avert it. Of course what this really amounts to is a declaration that God is judging others. No one wants to put themselves in the category of judged, so the virus is a way that God has chosen to punish others for acts they find distasteful. In my mind, this belief possesses way too much self satisfaction in human suffering. (Lest we forget that babies are suffering and dying as well.)

Where is the personal and social responsibility? Set aside that there can only be pandemics when there are highly dense, over burdened, often disorderly, quasi connected communities spanning the globe, and just focus on what America could have done to stop the spread of COVID-19 months ago.

When our government was warned by medical and military experts-and given the data required to justify urgent action, Trump opted to disregard the dire predictions, callously wave off the scientific researchers, continue the cessation of the nation’s only pandemic response unit, declare in public that it was a media generated hoax, delay securing medical technology for hospitals, encourage the American public to ignore social distancing, pit state against state for federal assistance, and generally sew confusion and anxiety with every press conference.

Back when the Trump administration had a chance to intervene by cooperating with the Chinese, or at least spearheading an international response effort, our nation under his grotesque mismanagement opted to treat it like a foreign problem that could not harm Americans.

What does God have to do with such egotism and inefficacy? It is not only lazy to blame God for what has happened, it is a cheap attempt to escape the consequences of our failure to take action when we all had ample time and warning. We are all responsible. Our own selfishness, narrow mindedness, obsession with national interests such as politics and economics, poor health and ignorance, created a perfect recipe for this virus to spread like wildfire.

Lastly, viruses have always existed. Without some viruses, life as we know it would not exist. As this virus spreads and attacks the human cell, other lifeforms and ecosystems are thriving as a result. Just look at the levels of air pollution in China during the lock down. I read that dolphins are returning to the shores of Italy. Life is finding a way to balance itself, it always will. That may sound inhumane and radical by some people’s conception of our place in the universe, but that needn’t be so. I care profoundly for every lost human being who has died from this disease. I mourn for the families, and I wish that this never happened. 

But the fact remains that our nation is still woefully unprepared to fight a disease that thrives on the very social problems that we created over the past 200 years. Because of massive industrialization, cities with millions of inhabitants, jet travel, Big Agriculture, the collapse of civil engagement and neighborhoods, and a broken political system that produced a Trump presidency, this is now an unmanageable crisis. 

Yet imagine what the Coronovirus situation would look like if there was more international unity and collaboration, respect of personal space, enhanced social connections with more trust and intimacy, plant based diets, sparse travel over long distance using carbon emitting machines, and vastly better immune systems in general. We would not be facing a pandemic, I can tell you that much. 

So let’s leave God alone. There is no time for the blame game now. This situation is one that we made ourselves and it is one that we are going to solve or be solved by. There is no sense in pointing the finger at God or waving her finger at our perceived enemies on earth. Both actions are as illogical as they are cowardly. As the Bible says, “Every person shall bear his or her own burden.”

George Cassidy Payne is an adjunct professor of humanities, freelance writer, and domestic violence counselor. He lives and works in Rochester, NY. Payne holds degrees from St. John Fisher College, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and Emory University in Atlanta, GA. 

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( The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of the Minority Reporter.)