Lots of Time at Home for Writing Letters
What is missing is proportion. The all-or-nothing approach to this problem only creates more problems and worse problems. I work in a hotbed of the Corona virus–Oakland County, Mich. As Senior Pastor, I have a church of 500 plus, a school of 260, a music academy, and we are the sole sponsor of Bethany Villa–a 240 bedroom community for Seniors. I understand the threat. My wife and I are both 63 and I have several health issues already. So I am a good candidate for death, should I get this virus. My mother is 83 with congestive heart failure, diabetes, chronic lung issues, and more. My wife’s parents are both 93. Again, I get the threat more than most. However, I also understand the threat of closing down an entire country and the tens of thousands of deaths nationwide and hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide that economic collapse and ensuing poverty will cause. What effect will that have on my four married children and soon-to-be 13 grandchildren? Already I have had two people directly and indirectly die this week, not because of the Corona virus, but because of the reaction to the virus. One man had his “elective” surgery put off, and as a result he died yesterday. Another man in my church lost is livelihood on account of the virus and unexpectedly died of a heart attack last Sunday. He was 59 and in good health, but broken over the loss of his job. Many leaders have lost all sense of proportion. There is no risk-free utopia. We need measured responses, not hysterical responses, some of which have a godless political agenda. Dr. Bill Bennett says the missing element is proportion. Pandemics have happened before and they will happen again. Some people will die no matter what we do. We must do all we can to reduce death from the virus and simultaneously do all we can to reduce death from economic collapse, depression, and impoverishment. Any approach that ignores this dual responsibility is off-balance. Some hot-spots must be shut down, but not the whole country. In my state the Governor (Dem) has shut down just about everything. Amazingly, liquor stores, pot stores, Planned Parenthood, and Abortion Clinics are fully functioning and open for business. They are “life-sustaining” businesses. By the way, 800,000 babies will be murdered this year in America. Where’s the outrage and panic over that?
Michael, thanks for your work, and God bless.
Regarding your post on the panic: Amen and Amen!!
David, thanks very much. And from the initial returns, it looks like there will be a lot more to write about before this is all said and done.
So it looks like after voluntarily shutting the economy down, we are going to make 2 trillion dollars appear out of nowhere and pass it out to quite a few folks whether they need it or not. So far it looks like I will be in the category of not needing it but receiving a bundle anyway.
Do we cash the check or not? If the money is out of the government coffers either way, I guess we cash it but I am not sure if that is the case.
If we cash it, what do we do with it?
I did burn through some savings gathering food and other supplies. I could replenish those savings which were previously allocated for other “needs” e.g. replacing our one and only vehicle which is in advanced old age. I would also like to make even better preparations of supplies and cash savings should anything like this ever happen again.
Or we could identify people that really were hurt badly by this and give to them.
Or we could invest so we have something to pass to our children and grandchildren who will be living in a nation that we bankrupted.
Or we could give all or some to the church and trust that it will be wisely distributed.
William, yes. Similar questions below, and I will try to answer it after the third one.
RE: In Which I Consider the Propriety of Tying a Bandanna Around My Head and Coming Off the Top Ropes Fantastic title, btw. :)
Thanks for your thoughts. I’m wondering what your thoughts/advice would be on what to do with the stacks of cash the government will be sending out shortly. I know the CrossPolitic guys have talked about your admonition to not take money from the gubment, and I’d be interested to hear more of your thoughts on that in general.
In this case, I don’t think it’s our federal government’s place to throw money they don’t have at everybody. BUT – can I just think of it as a reduction to my onerous tax bill? This “credit” would reduce my total 2019 tax bill to a slightly more reasonable level. Of course, the way my tax bill should be decreased is by a thoroughly debated and considered bill passed in broad daylight in Congress, but we all know that’s not going to happen.
The other difference I see in this instance is that dern near everyone will be getting a check this time around. I don’t want to just join the herd of lemmings, but I also feel less like I’m defrauding my neighbor if most Americans will also be benefiting.
Finally, if I don’t take it, what do I do with it? My thought so far was to just have my church launder it for me. Do you have any other suggestions?
As to my financial situation, we’re doing ok. We’re in the midst of “Dave Ramseying” the last of our student loans, which makes taking the money tempting. There’s also a non-zero chance I could get laid off due to this stock market freakout (I’m the sole provider for our family), but I think we could find a way to weather that storm.
Thanks again for all you do.
Karlin, thanks. See above and see below.
Sort of in regards to your recent post “Three Reasons Why the WH must Refuse to Panic” I’ve received money from family members in the mail before, usually for birthdays or Christmas’s, but never from Uncle Sam, and especially not in four figures.
As of this morning, March 25, this may become a reality.
Should a fellow like me cash this check or would I be doing more harm than good because of that sneaky invisible thing called “inflation”?
On the other hand I could pay off my car loan or put it towards my student loans. I could even tithe the sucker.
My conscience feels this is just slothful surrender to my Uncle Sam instead of thankfulness for a gift from my Aunt Vera.
Thank you for your insight. Blessings to you,
-an optimistic pan-millennial baptist
Matt, thanks. This is a murky area. As a general principle I have taught for years that Christians should resist statism by refusing the benefits first. An ideal situation would be a benefits revolt instead of a tax revolt. That said, this is a unique one. I would encourage Christians who have been directly harmed by the government’s actions, and who are in real need of the money, to cash the check and not worry about it. But if at all possible, I would encourage believers to cash the check and then give the money to people whose lives have been devastated.
Thank you for using a neutral term to describe the COVID-19 situation and describe what might constitute “panic.” My question–one which is rarely addressed among optimists–is, what is a fair price to pay for preserving life? Granted all models are fallible, but what if we can say with x percent certainty that all Americans staying at home for three weeks will stem the mortality rate by y percent? Regardless of what x and y are, what is the moral argument for refusing? It seems the only valid argument is that the cost of doing so would exceed the benefit. But how can we put a price on life? We don’t abide economic arguments for abortion. If we, the top economy in the world, can’t sacrifice three weeks of productivity to mitigate the mortality rate, what does that say about how we value life? And I know three weeks is a best-case scenario which is already unlikely, but I’m speaking hypothetically.
Reed, thanks. This is a complex question. We reject setting a value on human life as a price offered beforehand, as with chattel slavery or abortion. But we don’t reject in “after the fact” situations, as with a wrongful death suit. And Scripture does the same, allowing a man whose animal gored someone to redeem his life. It is when we get into statistical analysis that we get into trouble. If we reduced the speed limit to 10 mph, we would save lives that way, but what would we lose? And in the case of this pandemic, we are not paying for lives by sitting at home for three weeks. We are paying for lives with lives.
Re “Three Reasons . . .”: Head wound denier: One who suggests that perhaps we might want to consider whether applying a tourniquet around the patient’s neck is really the best possible option for stopping the bleeding.
Kyriosity, an insightful point. One that ought to be considered more.
I think you’ve provided some helpful thoughts over the course of this crisis. Though I think I have to provide some defense for the “panic,” hopefully I can avoid jumping into the “bonkers” category. What I think is missing from the “the panic is more dangerous than the virus” side is consideration of the systemic risk in addition to the personal risk. I’m a healthy 27 year old, so the virus poses little personal danger to me. That naturally leads to me being much more concerned about the “panic” which is affecting me personally. However, what concerns the epidemiologists is the systemic risk. I think this explains a lot of the disconnect between the two sides of the crisis. One side is thinking primarily about their personal risk, and the other is thinking primarily about systemic risk.
In a previous article, you’ve acknowledged the wisdom in listening experts when they are speaking in their domain, so I think that would lead us to agree with the epidemiologists in their assessment of the systemic risk. We should all be able to agree that COVID-19 is a serious danger, and without proper countermeasures will overwhelm our healthcare capacity (as we have seen in Italy, and are starting to see in New York) leading to many deaths not just from the virus but also from other ailments that weren’t able to be treated because the hospital beds were all full because of the virus.
Now when it comes to discussing what countermeasures we should enact, I think your reference to Sowell is spot on. There isn’t a perfect “solution”, but rather a trade-off space that we have to optimize. There is a thoughtful article floating around titled “The Hammer and the Dance” that argues just this. What we need to do is understand the medical benefits of an action along with its economic cost and do the cost/benefit analysis to reduce the infection rate as much as we can while minimizing economic cost. However, I think we should discuss the trade-off space without also downplaying the danger of the virus.
The other factor that needs to be considered is that economies can be rebuilt after the crisis is over, but we can’t undue the deaths that will happen if our healthcare capacity is overwhelmed. I think that should also lead us to tilt towards the medical side of the issue.
There’s certainly many more points that could be brought in, but hopefully I can at least show that not everyone on “the other side” is bonkers.
Mason, I agree that not everyone on the other side is bonkers. But there is systemic risk in both directions, and lives are at stake in both directions.
A family member forwarded me a link to your recent blog entry in which you essentially say that the cost to the economy of slowing the coronavirus virus outweighs the value of the lives that action would save. I am extraordinarily disappointed that a Christian leader would advise his readers in this way. We, and by we I mean middle age and younger, are sacrificing work, profits, the presence of friends, and familiar forms of community— and not for ourselves. We know we will be just fine. It’s our parents, our elders, our disabled friends, our weak that we are striving to protect. We are trying to save the older generation in this country. My parents are both over 70 and my mother is in remission from cancer. If they got this virus, it would very likely kill them. Perhaps you’re in this demographic as well. But every single person who has this virus will spread it to several more before they even have symptoms. And each of them will infect many more, with a literal exponential effect, until the sick overwhelm hospitals and suffer and suffocate to death. When you ask “What will this cost me?” you are doing precisely what Jesus instructed the rich young ruler not to do. Maybe you should ask “What about the least of these?” Nobody is asking us to fear the virus. We are being asked to understand it and fight it. Unfortunately the way we “fight” a pandemic looks lazy and cowardly to you, and that is insulting to me. I assure you that no one is being lazy in my home. We work remotely during the day. We read and listen to music and pray at night. Those of us with children are home schooling. Those of us with plenty of groceries are sharing. We connect with our small group via video chat to check in. We check in with our parents often to make sure their needs are met during this strange time. So, while you boast of body slamming or jumping off the top ropes, “we” (the collective we – not just those uppity liberals or those stingy conservatives) we are trying to protect you. I respectfully ask that you reconsider whether your words might lead your readers toward an attitude of disregard, political contempt, and condescension.
Shawn, the problem I have with your analysis is that you are setting lives v. minor inconveniences. But the situation is actually lives v. lives. Go back to the top and read the first letter, the life lost there was not an inconvenience.
Re the Bandana article and the Wuhan virus writings: Three things. 1) You quote 1 Sam 14:20 which mentions “confusion.” I was surprised while studying Judges a few years ago at how often “confusion” is a tool used by the Lord as an instrument of judgement. Its present in Ex 14:24, Judges 7:21 as well. This is certainly a time of great confusion and I daresay judgement. Let us, at the very least, consider our Lord’s admonitions in Luke 12 & 13 to repent or perish likewise, and to fear not a body-destroying-virus but the Lord who can destroy body and soul.
2) Have you seen Hans Fiene’s exclusive interview with the Corona virus? Excellent read.
3) These government officials seem to be overreacting, but I think its also a political play. They will have less “trouble” for over-reacting and causing long term damage that isn’t obviously attributable to them than they would have for under-reacting and being blamed for corona deaths. It is a matter of imagination, as Henry Hazlitt describes in Economics in One Lesson. Most people have little imagination and will not blame politicians for the economic downturn, much less the fall-out from a recession. The politically savvy move is to avoid direct blame, and shift indirect blame onto the virus itself. Not good leadership, to be sure.
Doug I’ve really appreciated your wisdom and insight during this bizarre time in all of our lives. Your take on the whole “models” issue in all this is what too many people are completely unaware of. Those experts like to get all jacked up over those “models”. But the truth is that they really amount to jack squat when it comes to what actually happens in reality. They cling to their wisdom and not true Wisdom.
Hating knowledge, counsel, and not fearing the LORD, which will destroy them. (Prov 1:20-33) And these are the guys who we are to trust. Right.
And the Socialist, third crisis you mentioned, is right around the corner. So when we all come out of our homes, after we are told we are aloud to, we will find that there was more than a virus that was attacking our country and our freedom. Oh how THEY CARE.
Yet we have One who does care. And we will “dwell safely, And will be secure without the fear of evil”
Thank you again for sane words in an insane world.
I have really appreciated your comments and approaches to the Covid events. I wonder if you might say even more in regards to discerning what God is doing in times like this. I would love to see you respond to N.T. Wright’s article in Time: “Christianity has no answers About the Corona Virus. It’s Not Supposed To.”
I would tend to agree with some of what he says about the thread of lament in the Scriptures, but he seems to be missing out on the thread of God’s judgment running throughout Scripture. Two quotes from his article that really troubled me:
“Rationalists (including Christian rationalists) want explanations; Romantics (including Christian romantics) want to be given a sigh of relief. But perhaps what we need more than either is to recover the biblical tradition of lament.”
“It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead.”
Wright’s argument leaves out something vital. Without being able to discern “why things are happening,” we miss out on knowing that we need to repent. I don’t think it makes us rationalists to try to find out what sort of providence we are being given. Is the Church is simply supposed to lament in times like these (though that is certainly one required response)? Surely we are called to more in addition?
I would love to hear your thoughts on his article and these issues.
Randall, I haven’t had time to read Wright’s piece. But here is a response from a friend.
Re. We Have Revised Our Estimates Somewhat Downwards Here’s a forecaster who really knows his business:
He links to a fun model where you can play with the assumptions:
Rob, thank you.
Can you please help me understand what this comment means: “Yesterday I heard the very insightful comment that the coronavirus is the flu with a brilliant marketing team. “
March 27, 2020 “In Which I Consider…”
Alisha, it means that with regard to medical effect the coronavirus is simply a bad strain of the flu. But because of “marketing efforts” from the officials determined to stomp it out, it has been made into something much bigger than that.
The proclamation by our governor has lead to some heated discussion in our house: about, just what our household is.
To be precise, do we include our adult children living in the area for worship. Putting my personal feelings aside about the certain over kill of this proclamation, I still want to honor the spirit and the letter of of it. At the same time I don’t want to be pole vaulting piss ants or gnat strangling. I know there is a time to side step because the letter of the law simply doesn’t work.
My experience in side stepping is rather limited and I know when to do it in those limited situations.
So I was wondering how you were addressing this situation.
Frank, currently we are worshiping at home, and not together with extended family. But, depending on the circumstance, there is an argument for worshiping together with the clan. I hope to get to that fairly soon.
Computer Modeling is Not Science Noted statistician and economist E.F. Schumacher (1911-1977) once opined (in 1964),
It is fashionable today to assume that any figures about the future are better than none. To produce figures about the unknown, the current method is to make a guess about something or other – called an ‘assumption’ – and to derive an estimate from it by subtle calculation. The estimate is then presented as the result of scientific reasoning, something far superior to mere guesswork. This is a pernicious practice that can only lead to the most colossal planning errors…”
If that was true and applicable in 1964 (and I think it was) it is even more relevant now. I’ve taught computer modeling at the university level for the past 30 years and always start with the above quote.
Cliff, thanks for sharing that.
You are really knocking it out of the park with your coronavirus articles, Pastor Doug! I appreciate you hitting the sweet spot between pretending that nothing at all of concern is happening and pretending that we are experiencing an extinction-level event that means every usual rule and restraint is suspended. The thing I find most profoundly sad about this is the way people are dying. It is tragic that beloved fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers (and women, too, but 70% of those dying from COVID-19 are men) are dying alone in isolation rooms. It’s tragic that their widows are learning of their deaths via Facetime calls from family who cannot hold them while they mourn. This, too, is a trade-off, and one almost nobody is discussing. We know that COVID-19, even if everybody did the absolute right thing at the absolute right moment, would take many lives, because that is what novel viruses do when they enter a population. It seems like little thought was given or is being given to what kind of deaths those would be, and what kind of mourning their families would experience. That is what happens when “preventing infection” trumps all things, even the ability to die with your loved ones at your side and to not mourn alone.
I think it will be years before all of this gets sorted out and we figure out the actual case fatality rate, whether there was actually a significant overall increase in the death rate, and what the consequences of things like long-term forced shut downs and the limiting of health care to only services deemed “essential” (which, bizarrely, in many places includes abortion but excludes chemotherapy and pacemakers) are. And by that time, few people will care, and fewer will admit they had been wrong.
Lori, thank you.
Re: COVIDIOCY-19, Posted on Monday, March 30, 2020 – Whew! And to think, it isn’t even close to being November!
Mr. Wilson, sir, I agree with you in almost all respects, the main difference being I’m not nearly as charitable as you concerning these people’s intent. I think most know what they are about because it’s obvious; one has to work at it to not see what is happening.
This leads to my final point, one you touched on in an earlier rant – er… I mean – post: God is in charge and He knew what would happen, including and probably most importantly, the lunatic response so cleverly engineered and planned by our ruling elite. I take comfort in that, and the knowledge He takes care of His own.
Keep up the good fight, I do appreciate your work.
David, thanks. Just so you know, I have room in my thoughts that budgets for ill-intent.
Hi Doug, Just a few comments about your “Trampling the Courts of God” article.
If you feel that the Corovid-19 crisis is being exaggerated by your government then I can only hope that you are right. Here in the UK the government has warned the nation that in the next two to three weeks there might be up to 20,000 deaths in the UK–and this is an optimistic figure they stress–it might be considerably worse. So far over the past month or more 1,000 have died in the UK. So even the lower estimation of projected deaths in the next few weeks is staggering.
I wonder, reading your piece, whether there is a bit of contradiction between your emphasis on this virus being a “God Quake” and your playing down its seriousness, or at least your being inclined to think the threat to the US is hyped-up?
A final thought. I wonder (however well intended it may have been) whether your analogy between God’s judgement on sinful mankind and America’s nuclear attacks on Japan in WWII is appropriate?
God bless & look after yourself
Brendan, the virus and the panic taken together should be considered as a very severe judgment. The fact that I think the reaction to the virus is doing 90% of the damage doesn’t alter the fact that all of it is a judgment from the hand of God. You mention the estimate of 20K deaths in the UK, but the initial estimate, the one that set off the panic, was 500K deaths in the UK — and 2.2M in the US. That panic and the draconian efforts to save us from that barely existent threat has done enormous damage, and that is what I call the “Godquake.” The analogy to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was simply illustrative, as I emphasized. But the point of comparison was not God’s righteousness and America’s righteousness, but rather Japanese stubbornness and American stubbornness.