At the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote a post pondering what the meaning of it might be, suggesting we “pay attention.” There were well-intentioned attempts by many to diminish significance by pointing to epidemics, plagues, and natural disasters of the past, but we have never had a pandemic in human history, a deadly disease of the entire world’s human population. Animals, plants, and other species are immune; only humans are susceptible. The only thing that can be compared to this pandemic is sin, the ancient affliction of all humanity but not of animals, who are innocent of sin.
But the American political upheaval, the most violent and contentious in modern memory, became the object of our attention, more than the historic phenomenon of COVID-19, incredible as that sounds. We watched the news to see (and for many, to vicariously participate in) the latest political violence, legislative, verbal, or physical. What we paid attention to is revealing. Even in the face of contagious death, what interested us, engaged us, was the lying, cheating, defaming, stealing, coveting, and even killing, in the apparently indestructible human lust for power, which now drives American politics, American media, and American attention; and saddest of all, perhaps American allegiance as well. It is power lust, the ubiquitous, pervasive, and deadliest of all human addictions. It is sin.
There has never been a cure for it, not since Eve succumbed to the temptation to become “like God.” It’s the real virus that’s killing us. Despite the lies that the advocate for this power lust whispers in our ears, there is nothing patriotic, noble, or heroic about defaming anyone, about burning shops, toppling statues, pushing and shoving, shouting obscenities, silencing dissent.
There is no cure, but we can ask for the grace to quit, day by day, even hour by hour if necessary, and then have faith. Not faith in ourselves. We’ve proven unworthy of our own faith. Not faith in our strength. Our weakness has prevailed over us. But faith in his grace. Let that be what we pay attention to.