Is the Virus Winning?
In a disturbing column in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof declared, “The Virus Is Winning.” He concluded,
“There’s huge uncertainty, so we need great humility in looking ahead, but most epidemiologists anticipate a long, wrenching struggle against the virus.”
In the “long, wrenching struggle” with the corona virus, I’ll trust the scientists, doctors and nurses who are face to face with its demonic power rather than the incoherent ramblings of a pathetically narcissistic and consistency dishonest President who demonstrates a tragic lack of human compassion. But…
The Most Dangerous Virus
What if COVID-19 isn’t the most virulent virus we face?
- What if there is a more deadly virus that to one degree or another infects every one of us the way Paul described it in Romans 5:12-14?
- What if our long, wrenching struggle “is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against…the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil”? (Ephesians 6:12)
- What if there is a demonic infection that lingers in the dark corners of our American soul and slithers through our history from one generation to the next?
- What if the most destructive virus we face is not COVID-19, but old-fashioned sin?
I mean sin as the persistent power that relentlessly attempts to defeat the loving, healing, life-giving purpose of God. It’s the insidious power of evil that becomes flesh in bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, homophbia, economic injustice, violence, and political corruption. Today, I’m thinking specifically of the sin of “white privilege” or “supremacy” which Jim Wallis named as America’s Original Sin.
The virus migrated to our shores 400 years ago when 20 enslaved Africans were brought to Point Comfort in Virginia. The “long, wrenching struggle against the virus” divided the founders who wrote the Constitution, ripped apart the nation (and the Church) in the Civil War, and metastasized during Reconstruction as lynching.
The new Legacy Museum and Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, bears powerful witness to the names of 4,400 African American men, women, and children who were hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned, and beaten to death by white mobs between 1877 and 1950, often with either the direct support or intentional blindness of officials who were charged with the protection of “liberty and justice for all.”
We made significant progress against the virus in the later half of the 20th Century, but it never went away. And now, it has reemerged most virulently under Nazi and Confederate flags.
The Virus Strikes Again
Ahmaud Arbery is the latest name to add to the long history of racial violence in our nation. And once again, authorities in Brunswick, Georgia, closed their eyes to a modern lynching until reaction to a video forced them to respond.
As a former runner (now a walker), I’ve been frightened by barking dogs, but I’ve never been afraid of being shot because I’m white. My “privilege” is not only the opportunities I’ve been given as a white male, but about the obstacles I have not had to overcome and the fears I have not been forced to face.
I’ve also been wondering how Gregory and Travis McMichael were infected with the virus that made them assume that a young back man was a criminal and that they were justified in chasing and shooting him. I wonder how, living in what Georgia novelist Flannery O’Connor called “the Christ-haunted South,” they missed out on the gift of God’s grace that could have saved them and thereby saved Ahmaud Arbery.
The Virus Will Not Win!
Ultimately, the sin of racism is not only a legal matter but a theological one. African American theologian, James H. Cone, eloquently described “the long, wrenching struggle” in The Cross and the Lynching Tree.
“Christ was lynched by a legalized mob, and coming out of that stupendous event was a divine force and truth which will cure the lynching evil and settle all problems of evil in the world. ” (P. 63)
Here’s the way Paul declared the gospel antidote to the virus.
Just as through one human being sin came into the world, and death came through sin, so death has come to everyone..But the free gift of Christ isn’t like Adam’s failure. If many people died through what one person did wrong, God’s grace is multiplied even more for many people with the gift—of the one person Jesus Christ—that comes through grace. (Romans 5:12-17)
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but…present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:12-13)
Because of the resurrection, we know that Kristof got it wrong. Ultimately, the virus will not win. There is no “huge uncertainty” that in the end, Christ will reconcile all things. One day, as Dr. King promised, “the moral arc in the universe” will “bend toward justice.” But in the meantime, the question is whether we will participate in the bending.
Grace and peace,