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.
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.