Will this Crisis Change Us?

April 23, 2020 by

colorful painting
Artwork: Marcella Clement

“The plague today is an invisible monster, but it gives birth to a better world.” So writes David Brooks in a recent NYT article.

I’m not so sure. Granted, at a time like this we need solidarity, not stridency. All of us need to hang on to hope, to every bit of positive news we can. But the Covid-19 crisis is not, as Brooks suggests, a sure recipe for change.

Brooks opines that we are living in a “meaningful moment.” This is true. Such a moment helps us address problems we’ve ignored for far too long. It can also inspire us to reprioritize our values and forge closer bonds with one another. And, as Brooks notes, and I can personally testify from the conversations I have been having, friends and neighbors are thinking more deeply about life. They are asking hard questions.

But I’m not satisfied with just living in a meaningful moment. In the Bible, when crises come, when plagues and pestilence wreak havoc, God is not just trying to get our attention. He’s not just trying to get us to reflect more about life, or get us to simply become better people. No, he wants us to start over, to move into a dramatically different kind of existence, one where we set our sights on a world that is entirely different. He wants us to repent, turn around, and start down a different path.

Crises do bring about change, but typically the kind of change that only perpetuates, albeit more efficiently, what already exists. WWI, the war to end all wars, not only gave birth to “total war,” but to the Great Depression and another world war. WWII gave birth not just to the cold war, but to reckless and conspicuous consumption, ecological desecration, and a military industrial complex that has flourished for seventy-five years through engaging in one never-ending war after another.

In other words, crises themselves don’t really drive the change we truly need. After 9/11, we were bequeathed ever new, sophisticated surveillance systems. Anti-bullying and improved first-responder protocols came hard on the heels of the Columbine massacres. From these two examples alone, has anything really changed? Are we more secure? Are we any less fearful? Have the wars and shootings stopped?

A crisis of great proportion, like the one we are currently living through, is unnerving. The future is uncertain. Nevertheless, it can be different. For real change to happen, we will have to get back to basics, like honestly addressing the fundamental question of why we exist in the first place and what our purpose here on earth is. We must ask ourselves: Are we actually living as God intended us to live? If not, why not?

intermission sign

My own reading of history tells me that real change is possible. But something other than a crisis has to occur before this happens. Something beyond ourselves must catalyze the equation.

That “something more” is a conversion. Conversion involves a transformation, the altering of the physical or chemical nature of something: starch into dextrose, food into body tissue. When a gravel path for walking becomes a paved road for vehicles, it has been truly changed. It is radically transfigured. That is what we need.

For those of us who profess faith, we must pursue transformation, not just change. When a crisis comes, God wants us to re-envision what it would be like for him to freely rule and reign in our midst. For that to happen, we must look beyond the crisis to the One who can insert something brand new into our situation.

Instead of seeing our current situation as a crisis, perhaps we should view it in terms of testing and discipline, which, oddly enough, can be a sign of God’s love and hope for us, his children. At least this is what the writer of Hebrews tells us (Heb. 12:7-13). Hardship is God’s discipline, which is always for our good. It is an opportunity for us to participate and grow in his holiness – a chance where everything can be set apart for his glory. Though painful, such hardship can produce a harvest of righteousness and peace, if we submit ourselves and our pride to God. This is a wonderful promise, but only for those who let themselves be trained by it. Imagine: when we submit ourselves anew to God, the uneven paths of life can be so transformed that, as the writer of Hebrews continues on, “the lame need no longer be disabled, but healed.”

Whatever changes result from Covid-19, and there will be many, we must be determined to go beyond the “new normal,” the kind of life which keeps the status quo intact. Whatever changes result from Covid-19, and there will be many, we must be determined to go beyond the “new normal,” the kind of life which keeps the status quo intact. Instead, we must dig beneath the surface alterations that will arise to keep the idols of prosperity and materialism erect. We must say no to business as usual, to living self-sufficiently from paycheck to paycheck and from one fleeting pleasure to another, and allow ourselves instead to be transformed from the inside out, from the top down, from within and without. For this is why Jesus came. He proclaimed, in Nietzsche’s words, a trans-valuation of all values: “Turn around, the time has come! The rule and reign of God’s justice is near!” (Mk. 1:15) Or, as the Apostle Paul wrote, in Christ, “there is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17).

The question is this: Do we want to take part in and help realize this new creation? Will we allow ourselves to undergo the inner and outer revolution to enable the things that matter most, the things that make our existence truly human, to become a reality? If so, we will have to do a lot more soul searching and repenting. Surely, the hallmarks of our postmodern culture – individualism, consumerism, hedonism, systems of disparity and oppression – will have to be rejected. Just as surely, if we have the courage to give ourselves anew to God and live on his terms, the change we need and long for can be birthed. Let us fix our eyes on this!


About the author

Charles E. Moore

Charles E. Moore

Charles E. Moore and his wife Leslie live in Denver, CO, where they form a small house community with friends and visitors...

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