Panic and Perspective
I really appreciate your post – Three Reasons Why the White House Must Not Panic. My husband and I own a small business in Pennsylvania. As news of the coronavirus began appearing we were not apt to panic about it; however, as the news of mandatory closures of businesses (before our state had more than a hundred cases) began pouring in we very quickly began to panic about our ability to survive. News stories declaring this could last for 18 months and friends already essentially declaring bankruptcy before our quarantine was 48 hours old just increased our panic. Recognizing that things were quickly getting out of control, we turned to the Bible, repentance, and prayer. God’s peace just as quickly took over our hearts and our family motto became, “We will not panic.”
However, as I visited the grocery store for our weekly essentials, it was clear that our society is currently dealing in panic. We all know about no toilet paper, but no pasta, pasta sauce, canned goods, eggs, butter, yogurt, cheese, etc. From the look of our country grocery store you would think that a bomb had just dropped nearby and a war was on. The reason people are panicking is because nearby counties have shut-down completely and people are concerned that soon they won’t be able to go to the grocery store. I bought what I could, smiled to everyone I could, and thanked the workers. As I left I reminded myself — “We will not panic!” And sang some hymns on the way home.
I completely agree with you that the White House must not panic! It has also struck me that we as Christians must not either. As my husband and I asked ourselves, what is the role of the church in this, it is becoming ever more clear — show them His peace. We are struggling to know how to do that when the society seems to want to burn down around us. Our household is one thing; however, Christian family and friends are just as panicked as everyone else and our churches are currently closed.
How do we share the good news of Christ and His peace with others when we are relegated to our proverbial four walls. Do we defy orders, open our churches, post the good news of Jesus Christ on our Facebook account, or just sit back and watch things unfold? I know what our society needs but do not exactly know how to do it in a way that influences the culture. Knowing that the Lord is good, always, and that He has an uncanny ability of giving ideas to many of His followers at the same time, I was very pleased to see your post; but would love to hear some suggestions about how “no panic” looks outside of the White House.
K, thanks. I hope there will be more practical teaching coming.
RE: Three Reasons Why the White House Must Refuse to Panic
Gotta love the Internet Archive for your missing article…
Mike, thanks. And everyone else, remember, the issue is not whether this article was great or terrible, but rather whether an orthodoxy of publicly-allowed responses is being developed.
The White House should be as panicked as they have the wits to be. The entire country is in the process of finding out that when we’re in the middle of an actual crisis, maybe electing an incompetent, self-absorbed narcissist who refuses to listen to advice wasn’t such a great idea after all. Even if the alternative was that poor children have health care.
Mike, you need to amend that to some poor children have health care. Because other poor children are chopped up into constitutional pieces and sold for parts.
Re. Three Reasons Why the White House Must Refuse to Panic
“Computer Modeling is Not Science.” Amen and amen. I do that sort of thing for a living and here’s the nut of it: It’s easy to predict the future, it’s just hard to be right. Shakespeare said something similar.
I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?
Rob, thanks very much.
This article was very similar to some of my recent thoughts. I am much more concerned about what the governments are doing to us than what the virus might do. The DoJ was recently asking for authority to suspend constitutional liberties. And I am concerned at how quickly we have ceded our constitutional right to freedom of assembly. We have allowed the government to control the conversation on this. They have said that gatherings of more than 10 people are “banned.” But it seems to me that this is unconstitutional (correct me if I am wrong). And we should not be OK with the language of gatherings being “banned.” In this coronavirus situation it may be the right thing to do not to gather out of love for our neighbor and concern for our communities. But we should not say that we are obeying the government mandate not to gather. We should say that we are choosing to comply with the government’s recommendation. We should be clear that we make the choice to voluntarily abridge our rights for the good of others not because the government is ordering us to. It seems to me that by allowing the conversation to go the way it has we have implicitly handed over our right to assemble. And that is not a happy trajectory.
Craig, I would differ with one thing. If this were the Black Death, I think the government would have the legitimate authority to shut down public gatherings for the time being. Quarantining is a biblical concept. But it is not appropriate to do this on the basis of what somebody thinks might happen.
RE: “Like taking a header into the river to get out of some drizzle”
I’m happy to see you linked Ioannidis, as he is one of the few people brave enough to swim against the panicky current here. Others include William Briggs (wmbriggs.com) and the psuedonymous “Z Man,” who has an excellent post outlining the moral hazards attending to elected office in time of crisis: “The Garden Gnome Gambit.” I think he hits on the incentive structure that caused so many politicians to pick up and run with this thing, including President Trump himself. It’s hard to see where the unwinding might start, though this bit about chloroquinine smells a lot like your third “tada!” option.
For myself I find the panic, and the mockery and unpersoning (by people who jolly well should know better) of those questioning the severity of the pandemic and the warrant for the response, far more frightening than the virus itself. As of today there have yet to be 300 persons sent off to this judgement with this virus as God’s instrument, if the official stats are correct. This is “extremely rare form of cancer” or “slipped in the tub and broke your neck” territory.
In your post titled “Like Taking a Header Into the River to Get Out of Some Drizzle,” you linked an article written by a Stanford professor titled “A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data,” which, ironically, used some of the most unreliable data to date to draw completely erroneous conclusions about the COVID-19 pandemic! Please listen to the interview with Harvard epidemiologist Dr. Eric Ding, rated in 2018 among the top 1% of scientists in the world, who provides a much more informed approach:
I do appreciate your encouragement to “Remember that God is always good, all the time” for those who look in “genuine faith to Jesus Christ.” That truly is the late breaking, bombshell, eternally good news! All other news will always be subordinate to that.
Michelle, thanks very much.
Thank you for the intellectual rigor behind the current events in Contagion, Cooties, and ‘Rona. Trying to comb the expanse of journalism that seems to continually fan the fear surrounding this pandemic is hard but is refreshing to see Christians trying to make sense of it all with sober-mindedness. The pandemic is making me muse the eschatological implications in our response to it. So, how do you as a postmillennialist make sense of CoVID-19 in the grand scheme of time and history? How would this perspective change our evangelism and service to our neighbors with a positive eschatology?
Global pandemic! Earthquake in Salt Lake City! Tom Brady leaves the Patriots! How is it that we are not all dispensationalists now?
Seriously, God has frequently used methods of creative destruction to advance His purposes and kingdom. This is no exception.
Thanks for the wisdom that you shared in “Contagion, Cooties, and COVID-19”. Your warnings against panic are especially needed. On the question of jurisdiction, I want to point out that the restrictions you cited from Leviticus concerning lepers were reactionary. A person is exiled after an infection has been confirmed. Quarantining a person who has leprosy seems different than isolating everyone who might get leprosy.
Josh, this is exactly right.
Read your essay about the COVID19 thing. Wonder if you’ve done the math. Have you considered the economic impact of leaving this thing unchecked? What about the economic impact of those who almost die and no longer can work because they are now medically disabled. Having the nation pausing and reflecting for two weeks could actually be a good thing. Spending billions of dollars of paper money that has no true value is just more of the same thing politicians do every day although a bit, admittedly, heavy on the turbo charge. Being cavalier about 1 to 2 million people dying that could be altered by a two week pause seems callous. I imagine we could actually love our neighbor by not getting sick and not being a vector of disease. That means stay home for awhile and pause and reflect on how kind He is and perhaps have time to share the good news with our neighbor while we chat over the fence because we have nothing else to do rather than frenziedly scattering off to work as seems to happen pretty much every other day that’s not infected with this quite unique COVID19. Cheers!
Karl, our responsibility to love our neighbor works in two directions. At some point, the cure can get worse than the disease. California is losing billions of dollars a week in lost revenue — that is money that is not going to people in marginal situations. How many businesses are going to close? How many foreclosures? How many bankruptcies? How many suicides?
When we are deciding on whether to go this direction or that, we need to take responsibility for our actions for either direction.
I recently learned that you also were once a steely-eyed killer of the deep (submarine sailor). I was pleased but not surprised; courage, logic, and panache (once hallmarks of the US Submariner) permeate your work.
In a recent blog post or Plodcast, you exhorted us to ensure that those to whom we give are not “wobbly.” I’m confident I know what you mean. However, do you have recommendations of groups that qualify (at least for the moment) as non-wobbly?
Thanks for all you do.
Scott, apart from the stalwart ministries out here, of course, I have in mind organizations like American Vision.
Default Lies in the Stars
Honest question here: do you think the American government could ever truly default on its loans? Most people I’ve talked to don’t seem to think it’s a genuine possibility due to the dire consequences it would entail. What circumstances do you think could lead to this? Thanks!
Justin, the circumstance that would lead to it is that of not having any more money. And the consequences would be dire. But if you have spent yourself into the corner, then you are in the corner.
You Are Most Welcome
This is just a thank you note to you, Mr. Doug Wilson.
My name is Samuel and I am a Christian from Chandigarh, India. Being raised in a semi-lukewarm theologically-starved Christian family in North India, I came to faith in Jesus in College (St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi) when wrestling with intellectual questions of apologetics and existential questions of meaning. Around the time of my conversion God used the people who were discipling me to bring me to the teaching ministry of people like Tim Keller, John Piper and the Gospel Coalition. And by God’s sovereign grace I was justified when I put faith in Jesus’ atoning work. It took me a while to figure out what really was happening to me and Scripture began to teach me to think in its terms as to describe the new desires I had found in myself. I had been introduced to the Reformed faith by the man who was disciplining me (his name is Robin) and the resources from Desiring God and the like were a great blessing. Yet, it was only when I joined the University for a Masters programme that I became aware of the distinctive glories of the Doctrines of Grace and the Reformation Solas passed down to us by the Reformers. It was 2018, one year after the 500 years and various online ministries were pumping out content surrounding the Reformation. Also, I had just broken up with my first ever girlfriend who had been Roman Catholic. Coming from an Episcopalian background, I didn’t know there were distinct differences, yet after I had been converted I soon realized that our relationship couldn’t continue. After the break up, God united my heart to fear his name! He consolidated the five solas and the TULIP in my heart so that I believed it with all my heart and mind. I got a copy of the Westminster Confession (by G I Williamson). Dr. R C Sproul and Dr. John MacArthur among others have been a great help in clarifying many of these important doctrines. Yet, there was something missing.
Soon, I found myself reading and listening to pastor Paul Washer and Dr. Voddie Baucham on Biblical Manhood. This was something no one ever told me! I knew I was a man but no one ever taught me to apply the Bible, unashamedly with regards to these issues. The problem passages in Titus and 1, 2 Timothy were shoved in my mind’s basement until now. I knew this was an area to grow in.
Then I met Canon Press on Youtube. I’ve grown so much since I discovered your Youtube channel, blog since December and resources of others like pastor Tom Ascol, Jeff Durbin, James White.
Now, I have a vision for my family. I know I’m made to work and protect. And this is good. And God’s will for me. I’m 22. Want to be married by 24. Thankfully, our Indian Culture is way more conservative than what I hear you addressing in your talks, yet it lacks a Biblical Foundation. We must preach the Gospel.
One more thing I want to thank you for is awakening my eyes to political realities. My college environment is highly leftist and I used to lap it up without question before but through your ministry and some other thoughtful Christians, I’m beginning to see how much cultural Marxism and promiscuity and feminism is infected even the conservative (Hindu) Indian Culture. I’m called to live in this tension and proclaim the Good News of Jesus.
Right now, I’m a student of Mathematics. I’m working hard to prepare to apply for a PhD. Right now, I’m discipling younger men at my college and teaching them the same things that I’ve learnt and teaching them to teach it to others. I’m also helping some of the sisters on my campus to disciple other women. I don’t know if God has called me to be a pastor yet, but I love to teach the Bible and aspire to all the things in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. Nonetheless, the goal is to become a professor of Mathematics and to disciple young men in the church in India where there is so much theological illteracy (but tech is changing that). The goal also is to raise a family of faithful Christians who will carry on this legacy in the generations to come. Also, I’ve been deliberating the idea of a Christian University here in India where all of the academic subjects are taught from a Christian Worldview, taking inspiration from New Saint Andrews College and The Masters University.
I want to thank you for your Chestertonian Calvinism. Thank for the whole ministry of Christ Church. Thank you to pastor Toby, pastor Ben and pastor Aaron and Ben Zornes and all the others. Thanks to sister Rachel and sister Rebekah and ma’am Nancy. Thanks for Ploductivity. Thanks for everything.
Samuel, you are most welcome, and may God richly bless your endeavors and your life.