Politics, Pandemics, and Tears

There are two sides to every story. Even when there’s only one story that everyone is talking about.

Like Covid-19.

It is dominating the news as I write this. And, as a surprise to no one, there is a lot of disagreement about who is to blame, how to fix it, and how to prevent it from happening again.

We argue about masks. We argue about Trump and Obama. We argue about conspiracies and expertise. We argue about responsibility and rights. We are arguing about everything.

We are even arguing about how many people have died and whether that actually matters.

And there is a place for all of those conversations.

We do need to understand why this happened and how to prevent it again. We should try to understand the shortcomings of our healthcare system so we can improve it. We should work to apply the lessons we learned from this pandemic to future government policies that will mitigate the risks of a reoccurrence.

But before we do any of that, we need to mourn and lament the immense loss our country has faced. There will soon be 100,000 Americans that have died from Covid-19. More than 20 million of us have lost our jobs. Our kids haven’t seen their friends for months.

We haven’t worshipped together in what feels like years.

So. Much. Loss.

There have been 91,606 deaths from Covid-19 in the US as I write this. That’s more than all the Americans that died on 9/11. More than the number of soldiers that have died in Operation Enduring Freedom.

More Americans have died from Covid-19 in 2 months than have died in all of our wars since and including Vietnam.

That is a huge number of people, but there are two sides to every story.

91,000 Americans is less than 5 out of every 10,000 Americans. It is unlikely that you know someone who has died from the Coronavirus. It’s unlikely many

of us even know someone that was seriously affected by it.

And that makes it easy to ignore. It makes it easy to get distracted by arguments on Facebook. It makes it easy to share the newest meme that cuts through all the noise and really puts those Libs or Right-Wing-Nuts in their place.

It’s easy to forget that there are tens of thousands of people that will never get to hug their grandma again. It’s easy to forget that tens of thousands of people will never get to see their child get married. It’s easy to forget that tens of thousands of people never got to say goodbye, or even have a funeral.

There’s a story about Jesus in the Gospel of John about his friend dying. Most of us know the famous verse, “Jesus wept.” But I think we often forget how amazing that is.

Jesus understood what was going on and what was going to happen when Lazarus died. He knew Lazarus was going to come back to life. I mean, that’s literally why Jesus was there.

But even so, he wept because his friend died. He wept because his friends were broken-hearted. He wept because he is the God that comforts and weeps with those who are weeping.

And he wept because of the tragedy of death. As N.T. Wright put it:

The horror of death – the fact that it sneers in the face of all that is lovely and beautiful – is overwhelming, even for the Lord of life.

Jesus’s reaction in the face of death should remind us that death, even though we all pass through it, is a tragedy. It was not part of the original plan. The tragedy is personal and intimate, but it’s also cosmic and universal.

Mourning and weeping is the place to start when confronted with the horror of pandemics and death and the withering of life.`

Even after being accused of failure by his friends, Jesus still responded with mourning and lament. When Mary asked him separate times, “Why didn’t you save him? Why weren’t you here?” Jesus did not respond with defenses.

He didn’t point fingers. He didn’t speak about the theological concepts he was going to prove. He didn’t even respond.

Jesus wept.

There are two sides to every story.

Jesus could have stopped Lazarus from dying. He could have healed him from a distance, yet he didn’t. That was offensive and scandalous and mysterious to his followers.

But Jesus was fulfilling the Father’s purposes in the Father’s ways.

And when Jesus knew he was right and that things would be good because of God’s faithfulness. Even when he was being accused of failure.

Jesus wept before he did anything else.

This is not a post about politicizing something too soon. I’m not suggesting it’s too soon to talk about virus control.

I am suggesting that in the midst of all of our arguments, we’ve forgotten the tragedy that we’ve experienced as a nation. As a world.

There is a time and place for our conversations about policies and strategies, but the next time I want to make an argument for or against some behavior, I need to remember that there are real people going through real suffering right now.

I need to remember that Jesus calls me to be someone that weeps with the broken-hearted. He calls me to be someone that laments the sorry state of our world. He calls me to remember that our battle is not against Democrats or Republicans, mask-wearing or not, distancing or gathering.

Our battle is against evil and death itself.

In order to defeat them, we must first remember that their presence in God’s good world is scandalous.

Jesus wept while he was fighting for Truth and Justice and Love. It’s important we do, too.


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