Your prophets had for you visions of whitewashed illusion. They did not lay bare your guilt, to avert your fate; They beheld for you in vision false and misleading portents. (Lam 2:14)
With the coronavirus infection and mortality rates climbing ever higher, the pandemic seems to be far from over—and even though many are suffering from pandemic fatigue and others are simply being deliberately stupid and endangering themselves, their loved ones and the general public by refusing to follow the guidelines of the CDC, the question comes, what about the false prophets who claimed all this was a hoax and a conspiracy? Faith and common sense go together, hand in hand. We can’t tempt God by saying: “God will protect me,” and then act irresponsibly. God gave us a brain, hoping that just maybe we might use it. Unfortunately, too many have turned their brains off. Thinking is hard work afterall. Building a just society and world is what we’re called to do. I have a good pagan friend who was writing to her pagan community about the times we are in. She said:
"We wanted an apocalypse: Apocalypses are attractive because they’re clean. The world ends, we all die, and so we don’t have to deal with the challenges of life anymore. Or some divine agent descends, kills off all the bad people and makes everything OK, and so we don’t have to deal with the challenges of life anymore. Apocalyptic prophecies are attractive and addictive. They also have a 3,500 year track record of being WRONG EVERY SINGLE TIME. Covid-19 isn’t an apocalypse. There will be no apocalypse – we don’t get off that easily. The job of building the kind of world we want to see still falls to us."
Well, words of wisdom from a pagan . . . but she is absolutely correct. Avoiding the challenges of life, as she puts it, can lead us into all sorts of wacky behavior. Apocalyptic prophecies, of which the Bible has quite a few, have always been proven wrong. Even Saint Paul, who thought the Lord was coming any minute now, had to caution believers about false prophets. When I was a kid, I remember hearing a sermon in a Baptist church in which the preacher described the European Common Market (as it was called way back when) as the ten-headed beast of the Book of Revelation. Beast it may be but hardly apocalyptic. It’s perfectly fine to pray and to trust that the Lord will heal us . . . but to turn off our brains, and act irresponsibly by endangering the lives of others by not wearing a face mask or social distancing, has nothing to do with the faith that Jesus taught: Love God and love neighbor. In a society that has lost the meaning of the Common Good as well as the uniting concept of the human community, and any sense that we are all in this together, wearing a face mask in public and social distancing can appear to be threatening my basic constitutional rights. But there is a far greater threat that we must face, and we can’t avoid the challenges of life anymore: Where is our sense of community? Where is our sense of the human family? Where is the sense of the Common Good, that we’re all in this together? Because we are in serious danger of drowning in a sea of narcissism, thinking only of ourselves. In these times, loving God and loving neighbor as Jesus taught us just might mean wearing a face mask in public and practicing social distancing.