Saturday, April 04, 2020

Bring out your idols

The last month of progressive restrictions on life due to COVID-19 has produced an anguish that can  succinctly be described as mourning. Every day our expectations in every sphere of life are dashed upon the rocks of difficult new circumstances. The most frustrated among us feel like we are behind a slow-moving vehicle at a yellow light -- impatient and ready to lash out. We feel righteous if we are able to keep up a facade of calm in public, but inwardly we seethe and seek to lay blame at the feet of some enemy. That enemy often takes a predictable face, depending on our ideological predisposition: a political party, the CDC, a president, a congress, a governor, the media, the Chinese, the bureaucracy, the deep state, big pharma -- it's an endless list of convenient enemies from which to choose!

Our enemies list will affect how we mourn. It will also reveal our hearts and the things for which we mourn -- our idols. Many on the political left are appalled that concern for the economy might overshadow the concern for lives lost. Many on the political right paint a picture of concern for the economy, acknowledging the broad truth that economic fragility leaves the most people vulnerable to suffer their worst fates. Of course, no one gives anyone the benefit of this honest framework. Instead, each position is painted in its worst light. Every conservative is just trying to protect a presidential fool in an election year because "its the economy, stupid!" Every progressive is just seeking an opportunity to tear down our economy in an election year lest a crisis go to waste.

Real estate entrepreneur Grant Cardone recently asked a question publicly that boiled the exchange down to a fine point:

"Is this a health crisis or a jobs crisis?" There are layers of implications packed within this. The answer to the question won't just reveal some political or or social dogma you harbor. It will also reveal "where your treasure is."

For decades the church has preached that Christ promises health and prosperity. Barring adjustments for style and tradition, that's the normative gospel in North America. Right now it is being ground to powder. Mind you, it is surprisingly easy for all of us to draw conclusions about what to expect from providence based on the temporal blessings God is gracious enough to bestow in a given time.

Those outside of the church's witness either share space with the church at the alter of health and wealth or they expect their salvation from the state -- the inadequacy of which is being revealed in stark terms in this current crisis.

We don't know how long this crisis will continue or what the end of it looks like. That is the question for which idol worshipers like us crave an answer.

The more important question is this: Will the space on our alters be rededicated to our idols as soon as it is "safe" to do so again?

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