Coronavirus does not discriminate, a reminder we’re all in this together, but faith can help
Dr. Marvin A. McMickle
April 3, 2020
When society faces challenges and dangers such as are posed by COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, it is useful for people of religious faith, or of no faith persuasion, to remember a few simple facts. First, none of us or our society is as powerful and secure as we might think. Second, unlike racial or gender bias which can be quite selective, COVID-19 is an equal-opportunity threat to all people everywhere. Third, whatever it is that we as humans might rely on in times of crisis that is greater than ourselves comes in handy right about now.
Roman emperors returning from their conquest of foreign territories had someone riding in their chariots as they entered Rome saying to them, “Remember that you are dust.”
COVID-19 is reminding all of us of that fact. Things we have built that seemed etched into our public psyche are being canceled one by one. Theater productions on Broadway in New York City are canceled. Sporting events ranging from the Boston Marathon to The Masters golf tournament to March Madness, college basketball’s signature event, have also been canceled or postponed. Also canceled are sporting events by the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, Major League Baseball, and NASCAR, and many other events have proven to be no match for the justifiable anxiety generated by this virus.
Great universities are closing their doors and sending their students home to study online. Restaurants, retail stores, cruise lines, domestic and international air travel have all been disrupted, and all we can do about it is wash our hands and practice social distancing until the crisis has passed. We can be concerned about our elderly neighbors and family members, but we cannot entirely safeguard them from this coronavirus.
Who could have imagined that great nations like Italy, and possibly France and Spain, as well, would be on nationwide lockdown? From China to the United States to Europe and everywhere else on Earth, we are being reminded that, while we have great wealth and great wisdom, there are some moments when we are at the mercy of Nature and must yield to its awesome and sometimes terrifying power.
When it was announced that Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, had both tested positive for this virus, along with the wife of the prime minister of Canada, it became clear that COVID-19 does not consider one’s economic status, one’s race or gender, the continent on which you live or the decency or deprivation of your character.
No one is exempt from the possibility of being infected. We can all take precautions to reduce the likelihood of exposure or infection, but no demographic of our global community is beyond the reach of the coronavirus.
I have had a wonderful life and a successful career as a pastor, a graduate school educator, the president of a divinity school, and the author of 18 books. However, I am 72 years old and I have a weakened immune system that makes me susceptible to anything that attacks the respiratory system. I have had regular bouts of pneumonia and bronchitis and plural effusions. I might as well have a bullseye on my chest so COVID-19 can find me.
No one is exempt. In a society that has spent so much time and money and effort promoting the superficial differences between people based upon race or ethnicity or skin color, every one of us is equally at risk, and for some of us, that risk is heightened.
However, that is where my faith comes in. I remember when our nation experienced Sept. 11, 2001. I turned to Psalm 91 that said, in reassuring terms, “You will not fear the terror of night nor the arrow that flies by day.” I trusted in God in the face of terrorism. The same verse 6 says, “Nor the plague that destroys at midday.” COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, is such a plague with the power to destroy. The daily death toll in Italy is proof of that.
My faith has only increased as this virus moves among us. I hope those who share that faith will find comfort and assurance in these words.
Dr. Marvin A. McMickle is professor of African American Religious Studies at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, N.Y., where he served as president from 2011-2019. Used by permission of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer.