The LORD Has a Day

There is every reason to be cautious about interpreting presently-unfolding history theologically. Christian end-times doomsayers have been doing it for 2,000 years in a steady series, and their hit rate for overall accuracy is 0%. We should all be warned if we presume to know what God is doing when the twin towers fall or a hurricane floods a city, or when a plague strikes.

But I feel as if I’m seeing one pattern. This is not about offering a unique interpretation of these events, but seeing a kind of spiritual principle expose itself through coronavirus. The principle is expressed in Isaiah 2:12:

The LORD Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled).

I’m reading from the 2011 NIV, whose non-gender neutral language a few verses later (2:17) might be strangely appropriate:

The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.

Because COVID-19 acts like a pride-seeking missile, and if I can dob in my own gender, it seems to sniff out a peculiarly masculine kind of pride. Check out this story found on the website of Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, this morning local time:

President declares ‘no-one will die of coronavirus’ in Belarus

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko says nobody will die from the coronavirus in his country and again rejected any need for the strict lockdown measures adopted by most countries to contain the spread of the pandemic.

It was the latest show of defiance by the strongman leader, who has dismissed worries about the disease as a “psychosis” and variously suggested drinking vodka, going to saunas and driving tractors to fight the virus.

In stark contrast to other European countries, Belarus has kept its borders open and even allowed football matches in the national league to be played in front of spectators.

“No-one will die of coronavirus in our country. I publicly declare this,” Mr Lukashenko said.

The health ministry has reported 2,919 confirmed coronavirus cases and 29 deaths in Belarus. But Mr Lukashenko said the fatalities were the result of underlying health conditions in the patients, such as heart disease and diabetes.

(https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-14/coronavirus-update-new-york-death-toll,-testing-shortage/12145550, accessed 14/4/20)

I don’t have to tell you what the consequences will be for Belarus. We will simply watch the figures explode, if we are permitted to know them. Coronavirus has called the bluff of every trumped-up macho leader, and yes, they all seem to be men, who thinks he can tell a virus what to do the same way he has been used to telling all of the humans around him what to do. Sure, weak foreigners might be wiped out by this, but we are too tough in this country to be hurt by a little sniffle, a bit of a cold. Man up and carry on. We forbid it to affect us. Any indication that it is, like those bodies stacked up in recent images out of Iran, must be fake news. We’ll be open by Easter. Yes, indeed. Just not this year.

I hope you see that this is not meant to be partisan. Masculine bluster has occupied skins of various colours in various parts of the globe for the purposes of this exercise. But how hollow pride is. The pride-seeking missile can smell it, and it’s coming. It has already come. It has found out the powerlessness of mighty men from Bolsonaro to Putin, who all said it could not hurt them.

“There is a day for all that is proud and exalted.” This is one of those days.

 

Note to the Reader: Latest Addition to my Blogroll

Check out Debtonation, the blog belonging to Ann Pettifor, whose simple book, The Coming First World Debt Crisis

(2006) grabbed my attention by predicting that the next debt crisis would take place in the ‘first world’ rather than some battling ‘third world’ country. How right she was. I guess I’m inspired to mention this by having seen The Big Short (about the GFC in the US) at the movies with my wife yesterday. So I’m still feeling a little apocalyptic after that, and Ann Pettifor, along with Satyajit Das (if I spelled that correctly) are my favourite apocalyptic economists.

Which reminds me of one of Das’ great quotes about the seemingly endless build-up of debt by governments like the US:

If something can’t go on forever, it’s going to stop.

Ahhh, impeccable and irresistible logic, and probably also true of our great economic structures.

Oh by the way, since this is an Old Testament blog, there’s plenty of wisdom there about money. What about,

I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner” (Eccl. 5:13), or

As goods increase, so do those who consume them (5:11a), and,

As a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain, since he toils for the wind? (5:16)

What I would advocate is a Christian theology of money, anchored in a parent theological category, the theology of human nature, with a keen eye on the theology of human corruptibility. We desperately need a theology of human corruptibility (check out Eccl. 5:8-9), which could save our society by warning us to retain checks and balances on greed in both our economic and our political structures. If the system is not already too sick to save.

Anyway, I could always be missing something. Feedback is welcome. But on to my real work for the evening…