Monday, July 27, 2020

Small Sips Hopes You're Learning Something

This is definitely a thing.
Karen Johnson at Scary Mommy points out that the new pandemic phase that we've entered the past month or more is even more stressful than those before it:

I’m realizing that the emergence of people from their homes, into society, has brought back that old tired feeling I battled at the onset of this pandemic. Again, I’m wandering around in a zombie-like trance, trying to adapt to the new way of things — similar to how I did in March. I’m finding myself barely able to make it through dinner, skipping my daily workouts, and handing bedtime over to my husband while I pass out in a drooling heap on the couch.

Tired isn’t even the right word. Exhaustion doesn’t seem to do it justice. What, then, do I call this? And why has it returned?

Honestly, I think it’s a new type of fatigue brought on by the world seeming to be “all done” with COVID-19, when COVID-19 is nowhere near being “all done” with us.

Johnson doesn't present any solutions. This is more of a chance for people to commiserate with her in her lament.

I certainly know the fatigue she's talking about. My family has been agonizing how many activities to return to now that studios and gyms and the like are opening back up. We agonize over social invitations and whether to join back in to familiar things that we haven't done since March.

This isn't over. That should be clear from the continually-rising case and death counts. Just because you may be allowed to go get a steak at your favorite restaurant, it doesn't mean you're out of danger. But it's the choice, the opportunity, that is adding more stress.

A concerning question. Martha Tatamic asks what happens if COVID-19 changes nothing:

Horrifying and beautiful truths are being revealed to us in these apocalyptic days of COVID-19. We are seeing the gross injustices of our social systems brought to the forefront—and whereas we might normally fail to see or act on these injustices, this time we finally realize that the well-being of all of us depends on the well-being of each of us. We can’t pretend that the way we treat the vulnerable among us doesn’t affect the rest of us too.

We are seeing, all across our world, that humankind does have the capacity to act collaboratively and to change radically in response to an emergency situation. While some political leaders have paralyzed much-needed response efforts, there are also shining examples of whole countries working together swiftly and responsibly to save lives. Wealth can be distributed more justly, our carbon footprint can be reduced, a living wage can be guaranteed, housing can be found for the homeless, value can be affirmed in labor that we have too often overlooked, and the seemingly entrenched routines and systems of our collective life can be upended in a moment when it becomes clear that we have an emergency on our hands.

One of my biggest concerns the past few months is that there seems to be a whole lot of people determined not to learn anything from this moment. When the time comes, many will return to everything they did before with the hope that they'll never have to think about this time of shutdown again. 

I agree with Tatamic that not learning a lesson--or a few, really--will be the wrong lesson. There are so many veils being pulled back right now on things like economic inequality, systemic racism, environmental justice, and the importance of community care that can't be ignored, and yet many are going to try anyway.

We are in need of this unveiling, and to sit with what's behind the curtain.

Time to be honest. Similar to Tatamic's article, Jan Edmiston talks frankly with churches, pointing out that ignoring what's going on in the world will kill your ministry:

Friendly reminder: Jesus was crucified for trying to overthrow the Roman government. Jesus turned over the tables in the temple after seeing the heresies and injustices to the poor. Jesus called the Righteous Leaders “broods of vipers.” And he didn’t do these things because he was cranky.
Jesus models that when we see injustice, we act to make it right.
Hanging BLM banners on church property will not make it right. Prayerful marching in the streets will not make it right. Book groups will not make it right. But the hope is that someone will be moved, someone will wake up, someone will realize that it’s our responsibility as followers to Jesus to do more than wish the ugliness will go away.

A lot of churches who have preferred to ignore the ugliness of the world in favor of niceness have a unique opportunity right now to finally move beyond that and be honest about the pain around them. We've shed so much else the past several months, and now can finally be the time to shed our non-political bubbles, too.

Related. Andre Henry calls protest a form of church

I was told by former classmates, mentors and friends in the evangelical world — most of them white — that my advocacy for black lives was hateful, heretical and a distraction for Christians. One former classmate, now a senior pastor, looked me in the face and told me, straight up, “racism is not a priority to God.” He was one of many telling me that God would not come to the aid of black people in our fight against racism.

For a moment, God died for me. I considered that perhaps all of these white evangelicals were telling the truth. Perhaps their God didn’t care about saving black people from the routine violence of an anti-black society.


But as I read through the likes of Gandhi, Tolstoy, Martin Luther King and more recent experts in social movements like Erica Chenoweth, Jonathan Smucker and Micah White, I kept bumping into God. Whether I believed or not, God was present in the work of people who’d done far more freedom fighting than I. This fact challenged my assumption that spirituality had no place in changing the material conditions of the oppressed. It was my studies in nonviolent struggle that dragged me kicking and screaming back out of atheism. 

One of the costs of churches pretending that the gospel has no relevance to real world issues is that a lot of justice-minded people are going to go look for God elsewhere. Henry's experience is a case in point: his church refused to see that God might have something to say about racism, and so he followed God's voice to the streets where people were actually listening and responding.

Again, churches have an opportunity here. 

Summer reading. This is a book for our time:

Misc. You need to stop doomscrolling. Jackson Wu on a missed opportunity to confront racism. Peter Wehner points out that evangelicals who voted for our current president have little to show for it. You should listen to this Robcast episode.