It’s tempting to get ahead of ourselves when adversity visits. If we’re being honest, on our very best days a terrifying sense of scarcity is always hovering in the periphery of our minds, and we’re always struggling to keep it at bay, continually trying to discard the weights of the whatifs. We’re worried we won’t have enough in the cupboards, that the money will run out, that we will lose ground, that we will be left without – even if privilege and prosperity shield many of us from all but a remote possibility of many of these things actually coming to pass. Yes, we want to boldly declare that God provides, but we also want to hoard enough stuff to hold us for a few months just in case God doesn’t – even if we have to build bigger barns or rent storage spaces or throw perfectly good stuff away to accommodate it all. In the tenth chapter of Matthew’s biography of Jesus, the writer records his teacher reminding those listening who are prone to worry that if God attends to the sparrows (who are worth half a penny on the open market), we can be sure that we too are in great care, given our special resemblance to Divinity. This declaration isn’t easily adopted when panic has seized us, and the waters of anxiety rise swiftly around us. In those moments (like the ones the world is waking to on most days lately), it’s telling where we’ll look for security: a toilet paper surplus, a stockpile of bread, a bottled water cache – and maybe a well-stocked arsenal to guard it all.
Paradoxically, many of those rushing to panic-buy toiletries and fill a second freezer are the same people simultaneously making a public stand of showy religion and loudly claiming to trust God to keep them safe from this virus and refusing to wear a mask. They have a selective sustenance that leans on faith or claims compassion, until those things bring discomfort or involve too much sacrifice. While some professed believers abandon safeguards in the name of faith, others see wearing a mask and social distancing in a pandemic as a profoundly spiritual act; one that respects the gift of the knowledge of how viruses travel, and embodies loving their neighbor as themselves because they believe the God who made everything also resides in them. Theology is unmasked in crisis.
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