Summer is nearly past and winter fast approaches, with its long, dark nights and frigid temperatures. I hear people talking with dread about the months to come, facing who-knows-what new crisis. All around us the world seems to be coming apart at the seams, fraying like an old, abused garment. Each day seems to bring a foul word of disease, famine, natural disasters, oppression, and lawlessness. Displaced people desperate to seek refuge wherever they can strain the abilities of charities, government agencies, and social services to provide needed help. We need each other more than ever before.
The past two years have been especially hard, perhaps more so than any years in recent memory. A spirit of fear pervades almost every society on earth, unlike any other time in our lives. Since the start of this worldwide pandemic, we all have been severely tested. Sadly, rather than drawing together in adversity, it seems we have been torn asunder by it. Despite our growing need for one another, we are more divided now into various camps and tribes than ever before. In that respect, we have failed the test.
Our governments have not been helpful in drawing us together. In many cases, they have done the opposite. Faced with pandemic, they mistakenly persuaded, even required those who were well to isolate and distance ourselves from one another. At first, it was for a brief period to allow health care systems to prepare for a terrible catastrophe. Well and good. Two weeks has now turned into two years.
Now, it is no longer just about physical divisions. Over time, our disparate opinions have hardened into walls without openings to the extent that we can no longer talk to each other. In many cases, disagreements and disputes over the poorly understood and constantly changing facts of the pandemic have fractured long-standing friendships, communities, even families. It has become easier for us to avoid “some people” altogether than try to reason with them.
Oddly, and unforgivably, our leaders seem intent on driving wedges between us. As time goes by, it appears more likely that urging us to keep our distance has less to do with our health and more to do with making us more fearful, helpless, and demoralized. In other words, more dependent on them as the “experts” to solve all our problems. Mind you, it is all for our own good, of course. After all, they’ve proven to be so adept at it, haven’t they?
Looking back on the past two years, it is hard to believe, despite what our elected officials have constantly insisted, that restaurants, small businesses, libraries, places of worship, and other venues where people meet and talk were ever a threat to public health. Especially since, throughout the shutdowns, large box stores, liquor stores, supermarkets, and other “essential” businesses continued to operate. Essentially, we were stopped from gathering. Why is that? Perhaps because people who can congregate tend to bond. People who can’t, don’t. By itself, a twig is easily bent and broken. A bundle of twigs is not.
When we gather, we communicate in ways that are impossible through a computer screen. Churches and pastors, before they were deemed “nonessential” by our government leaders, used to know that. Communion is the glue that holds communities together. When we can’t meet, the glue dries up and flakes away, which is the reason that the Apostle Paul exhorts Christians “not to forsake the gathering of yourselves together” in his letter to the Hebrews, written during a time of intense danger of persecution by the government.
Our public leaders and expert advisors, seemingly heartless and devoid of empathy while claiming to have our best interests in mind, have determined for us that hiding our faces and ourselves from each other is in our best interest. We obediently complied and dozed off. Consequently, many of us, though not enough, lately have awakened from a Van Winkle-like stupor two years later, as though from a bad dream, to find ourselves as strangers hardly recognizable to each other, even sometimes as enemies, on opposite sides of the issues that divide us.
Most people today are in a worse condition than they were two years ago, whether in terms of physical health, mental health, financial well-being, relationships with family and friends, or a combination of all of these. The fear of being together with fellow human beings, especially loved ones, has done far more harm than good. Isolation, in short, is killing us and our way of life.
Our faith leaders haven’t been much help, either. It is way past the hour for faith leaders (more of them), many of whom have been inexplicably silent until now, to speak up for us, to stand on our behalf. Places of worship have a sacred obligation to open their arms without fear, especially to those who are disassociated, detached, and despairing. The prospect of pandemic used to be a reason for places of worship to open their doors to the sick, often operating in the midst of plagues as make-shift hospitals, rather than hiding fearfully behind Zoom calls and Youtube eucharists, as many still do today. A scarce few have acted faithfully throughout the pandemic, and happily so. They have even flourished, despite repeated attempts in some cases by government officials shamefully to shut them down.
It is also now up to all of us to come together, in person, by any means possible, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, without abject fear. (Take prudent precautions, of course. Stay home if you don’t feel well. Always a good idea.) There is little need for us to feel powerless and helpless any longer. The fact is, less than 1.5 percent of COVID-19 known cases in the U.S. have resulted in death. The current per capita death rate from this present threat in most of the (once) United States is less than 1 in 100,000 (.001 percent) over a seven-day moving average.
Though COVID-19 is indeed a serious threat to our health, the doom and gloom have been overhyped by a sensationalized media and those in leadership who want us to stay fearful. They have made political hay from the pandemic, sometimes using it as an excuse to increase our dependency on government handouts with borrowed money, no less, adding to an already nearly insurmountable debt. (What did you do with your “stimulus” checks?)
In any case, the threat is not nearly high enough to counter the increase in deaths from other diseases that meanwhile have gone untreated—especially diseases of the mind, resulting in a huge spike in incidences of drug abuse, alcoholism, suicides, and other unnecessary, unattended deaths over the past two years, largely because we have closed ourselves down. As our Maker has wisely said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
It’s hard to imagine that anyone with any degree of sensibility could look at our present situation and think that what we have allowed to be done to ourselves over the past two years is for the best. If you agree, reach out. Find at least one other person of like mind. Meet in person. Commune with one another. Share your travails, your burdens, your sorrows, and your joys and hopes. If another surge of cases should occur this winter, resist attempts to isolate and separate yourself from others, whether the impulse comes from government leaders, the so-called experts, or you, yourself.
In that vein, and by the way, the notion of vaccine mandates and passports is an abomination. The idea that we should further isolate and stigmatize those among us who choose not to get a shot whose factual efficacy and safety is still open to question is truly something to fear. When it comes to vaccine passports, I for one will be obliged to shun anyplace that demands to see my papers. Those who require them will not exclude me from anywhere I truly want to be.
If it comes to that, you will find me at home, with family and friends of like mind. My door will be open. If you choose to come join us, we will enjoy your company by the warm fire of fellowship, no matter how dark and cold it gets outside this winter. Leave your papers at the door.