America is currently in the grip of a fever, and fevers break.
The task of conservative believers is not to have a good testimony during this time of feverish panic. Our necessary task is to still have a good testimony after the fever breaks.
A narrative of panic that makes the panic seem reasonable can only be sustained while the panic is on, but not afterwards.
During a season of madness, sanity will stand out, and will be remembered.
It will be remembered with resentment by those who behaved poorly, and do not wish to acknowledge it. It will be remembered with admiration by those who wished they had responded better.
Panics are sustained, while they are sustained, by means of their own built-in plausibility structure. But that plausibility structure is as evanescent as the panic is, and disappears when the panic does.
The panic only seems reasonable from inside.
This narrative of panic will therefore necessarily fade. After it fades, it will not be a good testimony to have participated in the panic without protest.
Evangelicals who, for the sake of a good testimony, went along with the delusion, embracing it, will find that their testimony has been compromised and discredited.
You don’t witness to someone when they are in a delirium. But you can behave in such a way as to have their ear after the delirium passes.
It is not showing the love of Christ to lie to someone in a delirium, reinforcing their delusions. Calling it “love for neighbor” is a sop to the conscience.
Disasters come in two kinds. There are objective disasters, such as tsunamis, earthquakes, and hurricanes, and there are subjective disasters, such as the global panic we are experiencing now.
It is necessary to keep your head in both kinds of disasters, but keeping your head will necessarily look different as the two situations are radically different.
When the disaster is objective and external to us, it is necessary to respond to it with a calm head, but the disaster remains what it is. But when the disaster is subjective, a calm head mitigates the disaster directly because the disaster itself largely consists of people losing their heads.
When the disaster is objective, a calm head needs to engage in vigorous mitigation efforts. When the disaster is subjective, those clamoring for ever-increasing mitigation efforts are often a central part of the problem.
The negative effects of objective disasters can be compounded with a response of panic. There is a military defeat, for example, and the routed army responds with panic. These are two disasters, one on top of the others.
But in other situations, the panic seemingly comes from nowhere.
“And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.”
Leviticus 26:36 (KJV)
They shall fall when none pursues. The whole disaster seems to come from nowhere, but it actually comes from the Lord. “I will send . . .”
That means this deluding fever will break when God wants it to.
“Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumour shall be upon rumour; then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients.”
Ezekiel 7:26 (KJV)
Mischief upon mischief. Fake news upon fake news. Layer after layer.
God sends such chastisements in His mercy so that we might repent. This is a golden opportunity for repentance. Behold the kindness and severity of God. Those who are not talking about repentance are not talking about the root issue.
In case anyone is wondering what we as a nation have to repent of, we may begin with abortion, with same sex mirages, with mammon-worship, with Darwinism, and with secular education. That will prime the pump, and the rest will follow.
It is not enough to repent of our sins. It is also necessary for Americans to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to confess Him by name.
During a panic, people believe what they are hearing, and so they also believe what they are saying. After the panic, they will be ashamed, and will know it to have been a lie all along. But many will keep repeating it in an attempt to cover their shame.
When the fit is past, evangelicals who were caught up in the panic must respond in repentance. They must not seek out theological justifications for their behavior. There is no theological justification for fear.
Fear of death is one of the devil’s instruments, and he uses it to keep people in bondage throughout the course of their lives (Heb. 2:15). It ought not to work on believers.
Pastors who knew that the global reaction to the virus was overdone, but who had their congregations mask up anyway due to their misunderstanding of Rom. 13, albeit conscientiously held, need to understand that there has been a massive infusion of fear into their congregations regardless. The weekly wearing of masks will have had a far greater impact on the congregation’s theology than the reasoning of the session’s position paper that less than half of the people read. And it will have been a destructive impact.
Lex orandi lex credendi. The law of prayer is the law of faith. Masks are a confession, and saying that they are not part of the liturgy doesn’t make it so.
Pastors who gave way to the panic entirely may well see their churches close, and good riddance.
The coronavirus is certainly a thing. But mass panics are also a thing. Pandemics in the past have certainly done enormous amounts of damage. But so have mass panics. Our situation is the latter.
In a mass panic, there can be distinct and very different symptoms. In previous mass panics these symptoms have included fits of uncontrollable laughter spreading from person to person, or tremors in the leg, or even dancing, Suppose there were a panic that combined all the symptoms at once?
Suppose, in other words, that the masking and hiding and the rioting and looting were not distinct events that happened in the same year, but were simply different sorts of convulsions afflicting the same body in the course of the same seizure?
To say that such things are subjective in origin is not to say that real damage isn’t done. It is simply a question of cause and effect, as we seek to ascertain which is which.
One man’s house catches fire, and he responds with panic. But another man has a fit take him, for no particular reason, and he then behaves in such a way as to burn down his house. In either case the house is gone.
We serve and worship the living God. He touches mountains and they smoke.
He shakes nations, and kingdoms, and cultures, and when He does so it is in order that what cannot be shaken may remain.
We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. And when the quaking stops, it is time for us all to visit downtown Jericho.
Don’t be like Achan.