By: Jim Sanders March 9, 2020

I took my old manual typewriter to be repaired yesterday.  The diagnosis:  it has the “Smith-Corona” virus.

Too soon?  Maybe so.  But I thought a little levity might help.  Then again, if you’re under age 50, you may not even get the joke.  When it comes to all this pandemic talk, it seems like there should be some humor in the face of the end of the world.

News of COVID-19 is nearly as pervasive as the disease itself.  You can’t watch a newscast or listen to the radio or browse a website or scan a newspaper without the Coronavirus coughing in your face.

Dramatic steps continue to be taken.  SXSW (the hip technology and entertainment conference) in Austin is done.  Canceled.  Imagine the financial impact of 70,000+ attendees canceling hotels, restaurants, and travel.  Out of an abundance of caution, Stanford University and Seattle University are taking all classes off-campus and online through the end of the quarter.

The rapid spread of the disease has been amazing to track.  I’m fascinated by Coronavirus heat maps like this one which look like they’re right off the War Games screen or from the pages of Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Strain.  The graphics reinforce the sense that we’re just at the start of a pandemic which will eventually paint the entire world red: infection everywhere.

On the other hand, and at the same time, there seems to be a certain amount of irrational hysteria. (Is that redundant?)   It’s the only explanation for the rush on toilet paper like it was ammunition during the zombie apocalypse: there’s a finite supply, so grab as much as you can before you’re attacked.  A very otherwise rational friend of mine bought three giant Costco packages just in case!  (I’m embarrassed to buy one, much less three.)  They now have enough TP to supply the US army for six months.

The TP hysteria reminds me of the time when Johnny Carson triggered a similar run on toilet tissue.  It was the early ‘70’s.  We faced lots of shortages during that time, none the least of which was gasoline.  In his monolog, Johnny casually joked about the latest shortage being TP.  The result?  Almost instantaneously, there really was a shorted which lasted several weeks.

Of course, there are certain practices to minimize the spread of this pandemic.  And procedures are a good idea whether or not we face COVID-19.  The flu has a pervasive and deadly way about it which can be mitigated with a few healthy practices.  Most websites list the same basic recommendations but don’t include the real way to think about it:

  • Wash your hands frequently in hot water for at least 20 seconds. As you heard on Haven Today, you can estimate 20 seconds by singing the “Doxology”.  And by the way, this frequent handwashing is great news for our Obsessive-Compulsive friends who are now not alone.  The rest of us now know what it’s like to live with the need for frequent hand-washing.
  • Cover your mouth when you cough and when you cough do so into the bend of your elbow. Some of us have a bit of trouble doing that.  The CDC says you may use the bend of your friend’s elbow if you can’t reach yours.
  • Stay at least three feet away from other people. My question is why three feet?  How about 50 feet?  Actually, I have a list of people I’d like to keep at a distance of a quarter of a mile.  And don’t forget the most important benefit of this instruction:  It’s a gift to those of us who dread the Sunday morning “greet everyone” part of the service. Handshakes and hugs have been replaced by fist bumps and waves.
  • The latest CDC recommendation: Stay at home as much as possible.  For a homebody like me, that’s music to my ears. BTW – Could you give my boss a call?  And did I understand the WHO also recommended playing golf to stay away from people?  I thought I read that somewhere.

Then don’t forget what might be the best benefit to this latest round of hysteria:  You’ll never find a better deal from a cruise line.  You pay for one week, but get two extra weeks on the ship for free.  The fact that you’re isolated to a 10’ x 12’ room and sitting in the middle of the ocean is inconsequential.

Let me be quick to say, I realize this subject can be deadly serious.  In fact, for too many, it already has been.  And I do pray for those infected and their families.  But as believers, we should be the first to push fear aside to pray.  Hysteria shouldn’t be on our radar.  But prayer should.  You know it will be Christians leading the charge to help.  NYFD Firemen on 911, they’ll rush in to help those suffering when everyone else is rushing out.

In AD 251, Rome was ravaged by a mysterious disease which many believed was a curse from the gods.  It’s been called the Plague of Cyprian.  At one point, 5,000 people per day were dying.  The fog of near-certain death caused a great deal of panic.  Most were running from anyone stricken with what historians believe was measles.  Many died alone since no one was willing to take the risk of infection.

However, there were the Christians . . . the one people group who did better than others.  Larry Hackman observed:  “Christians responded differently. Trusting in God’s promises of eternal life, they turned to care for the sickest. The ironic result is that the mortality rate of Christians was significantly lower because their care for one another gave a chance for the measles sufferer to recuperate, whereas those who isolated would inevitably perish from neglect even if they survived the ravages of the disease. Because they did not fear death, the Christians lived.

As Charles Morris has recently said on Haven Today, our response to the Coronavirus should be “No to fear. Yes to faith.”

I agree.  And I’m willing to bet those early Christians would too.

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