I heard it again this week.
And not from a toothy televangelist or a wacky mega-church flag-hugging anti-vax preacher.
It was a mainline pastor who posited that, “perhaps, just perhaps this pandemic is God’s divine wake-up call for the church.”
Now, I don’t personally know this pastor, so I don’t know if this is a theory they’ve been running with for a while, or one that just popped into their head as they extemporaneously preached, but regardless, I gotta say that I basically shut down at that moment…and I’m betting I wasn’t the only one.
We have to, HAVE TO, get out of the trauma-causing business, folx. We just have to.
And look, I get his statement had some qualification. “Perhaps” is a qualifier that has a ton of wiggle-room. The problem, though, is that in a world of “with God all things are possible,” a lot of people lump terrible events into the “all things” portion of that commonly repeated refrain, and we’re worse off for it.
God did not cause this pandemic. And God is not using it to chasten humanity or have them “wake up.”
Now, if people do a bit of soul searching during it and have some clarifying moments, good for them. Humans are meaning-making machines. We make meaning out of good and bad situations, often with little evidence backing up our claims, because it helps us wake up the next morning.
We do this. It’s in our DNA.
But, I’ve had friends both further embrace and fully leave the faith in the past twenty two months…so if God is using this, it’s not working in many corners, which seems like a less than positive success rate for a Divine plan.
How about this: instead of positing that God is using this pandemic as a wake up call for people, why don’t we instead posit that people use this pandemic as a wake up call? Why don’t we instead state that the Divine’s promises are not negated by nature’s machinations or human stubbornness (and truly, the pandemic is in year two because a good portion of humanity, many of who claim to follow God, are choosing to be gods as they refuse to do what is best for everyone else).
Let’s encourage humanity to do the soul searching and take God out of the business of chastisement.
In this way, we take the church out of the trauma and encourage a kind of soul-searching that helps instead of harms.
The pandemic plot line cannot lead back to God, and if it does, we have to admit that God is no more than a vindictive parent or an ineffective manager who uses negative reinforcement to get attention.
And that’s not a God worth serving, Beloved.
If we believe God to be benevolent and self-sacrificing, then there are some things that aren’t possible, by God.
And one of those things is the idea that God would use death and trauma to correct humanity.
Instead, in the face of death and trauma, humanity has the opportunity to do a bit of soul searching.
That is, I trust, the truth.