In some ways, the kind of isolation and restrictions we’ve been living with during the virus outbreak has done something incredibly useful. It’s renovated our collective religion by separating us geographically, taking away many of the decorative elements of our communal spiritual existence: the superficial trappings and superfluous elements attached to the buildings we make weekly Sunday pilgrimages to. With those ultimately non-structural parts of our belief systems stripped away, what’s left are the foundation and the “bones” of what we really trust is holding this all together – which may or may not be very much. Fear is helpful. It’s clarifying. It’s illuminating. Whether or not we claim a religious worldview at all – fear burns up what we say we believe and reveals what we actually believe about protection, sustenance, security, generosity, abundance, and community. Fear shouts our convictions with bullhorn force: all the pretense falls away and the veneers crumble and the costumes dissolve and people see us as we really are. Fear – the unprecedented, scalding, paralyzing kind we’ve all be immersed in during the pandemic – is also a beautiful invitation to step into the swirling chaos and be the best kind of humans we’re capable of being, the people of light we aspire to be, the redemptive community the songs declare we are, the Church we imagine in our heads, a loving emulation of the God we claim faith in. When scarcity makes selfishness rise up, we can eclipse it with generosity. When separation feels safer, we can lean harder into community. When conspiracy and untruth come to stoke the fires of panic, we can bring the cool water of fact and truth. When our knee-jerk response is to hoard for our own, we can remember that we are in this together, that we are our brother’s keeper, that we all belong to one another. When people around us are battered by the turbulence of uncertainty, we can steady them with our quiet, sober presence. If we pay attention, terrifying crises can remind us of our commonalities, of the fears and worries that assail all of us, regardless of the buffers we have or try to put in place: fears of not having enough or losing everything or dying alone. Days like these can remind us of our oneness – that we are a single, interdependent community that transcends national borders, political affiliation, religious tradition, sexual orientation, nation of origin, or any delineation we see or create between people. That’s what love demands of us.
From “If God Is Love, Don’t Be A Jerk: Finding a Faith That Makes Us Better Humans” by John Pavlovitz – Westminster John Knox Press