We humans have been facing epidemics since time immemorial. As these global blights go, the present case – COVID-19 – isn’t close to the worst. The Black Death in the 14th century killed roughly a fourth of the humans on earth – today that would be about 2 billion people! In 1918, the year my father was born, the Spanish flu infected 500 million people – a third of the world’s population at that time, and killed about 50 million.
Just in my lifetime, we’ve had numerous ‘pandemics.’ In 1957-58 the Asian flu killed a million people. In 1968-69 the Hong Kong flu killed between 1 and 4 million. The 2009 swine flu infected hundreds of millions, and killed 284,000. To date, the Wuhan flu has infected about 5.8 million, and killed 360,000 worldwide.
What is interesting is that I – along with most who lived through these epidemics in recent decades – hardly remember them. Schools didn’t shut. Businesses didn’t close. Churches didn’t cancel services. I’m not suggesting the mitigation measures we’ve taken with this epidemic are wrong – I’m sure they have saved lives. But something else is happening here. Fear.
We are now living in an information overload age – every situation is magnified. People who might otherwise react with caution and reason are driven to mortal fear and irrational anxiety. They cower in their homes, where – sadly – their one source of information is the same media which first terrorized them, and continues to. I know, because it happens to me.
Like a moth drawn to a flame, when they start talking about COVID-19, I listen. The news is all over the place. How many have been killed? No one knows. How can you mitigate danger of catching it? Experts’ advice changes daily. As I write, the World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC disagree on who should wear masks. The U.S. has withdrawn from the WHO for its mismanagement of this crisis. Recriminations and conspiracy theories are more rampant than the virus! Political correctness and politics are driving the narrative, not common sense. This is a pandemic, to be sure, but more importantly, this is a media pandemic.
Lost in all this is what should matter most for Christians: Faith. There’s an old saying: There are no atheists in foxholes. In times of stress or fear, such as during war (“in foxholes”), people look to God. They trust in Him. They hope in Him. They reach out to Him as one who loves them and cares for them. Knowing God is there, and even if Satan does His worst, nothing can separate us from Him, changes our perspective.
I’ve made a commitment. When cable news starts sensationally pontificating about new statistics on the number who have died (just guesses) or what might happen if we don’t do this or that (just guesses), I’m turning it off, and reading some Scripture. Join me, and let’s mitigate the pandemic of fear, and strengthen the ‘vaccine’ of faith. God is not surprised by COVID-19. Turn to Him!