This morning, I was reading reports about the impact of the Coronavirus and struggling to find a ray of hope to share with you. Then, I saw a Facebook post by our friend Jim Mayfield in Henderson, Nevada. It provides a window through which that ray has begun to shine. Here is his post in its entirety.
The world is in the midst of a sea change. Sea changes cannot be controlled nor can reliable predictions be made of resulting outcomes. However, historical lessons can guide the development of policy and strategies to effectively react to unpredictable conditions.
The Black Death of the mid-1600’s and worldwide plagues of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th Centuries triggered massive destruction to existing social, economic, and political strictures. For example, the Black Plague ended the Medieval period by unleashing forces that brought about the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and the redistribution of wealth and political power. Therefore, the study of plagues is relevant today because of insights they reveal about how to cope with resulting disruptive breakdowns attributable to them.
Plagues consistently cause
- massive loss of labor
- breakdown of government functionality
- inadequacy of the tax base
- disruption to the production and distribution of food,
- shortages of essential goods and services.
Attempts by wealthy interests that control governments to manage the crisis and return to the pre-plague status quo fail and delay implementing essential changes. The reason their efforts fail is that a plague-driven crisis reveals already existing inadequacies in social, economic, and political structures to equitably distribute wealth to working persons, middle class persons, and persons who are structurally disadvantaged.
The bad news, which we are finally having to acknowledge, is that this is going to get worse before it gets better. Reality is staring us in the face: COVID-19 is not just like the flu, the virus is not just going to miraculously go away, and that reopening is not making everything normal again. We can no longer pretend that racism is a thing of the past, that wealth inequality can be corrected by giving more to those who are already wealthy, that affordable healthcare is a privilege and not a right, and that our government isn't dysfunctional.
The good news is that we can seize this opportunity to devote the best that is in us to turning our breakdowns into breakthroughs. That’s what those who came before us did, resulting in major cultural, scientific, social, and technological advances. We were designed to be agents of creative and purposeful change in the ongoing process of creation. We are called to overcome evil with good.
As I said a few weeks ago, I doubt that things will return to “normal” and I’m not sure even a “new normal” will be all that great. This sea change must result in a new creation; one that is better, more just, inclusive, and loving than ever before. I admit that I have more questions than answers. But I have confidence that people of good will, working together, looking for answers, reaching in hope for what lies ahead, can accomplish great things, especially if they ask for God's help.
People don’t like change. I get that. I’ve actually studied resistance to change most of my life. That's why my ministry for the past ten years has been helping churches through transitions. However, in times like these, change is trust upon us and the God who made us also has equipped us with the will and the capacity to bend change toward our benefit and the benefit of those who come after us.
Can you see the ray of hope that is breaking through? It is breaking in to us and through us so that we can bring hope to others; hope for a better tomorrow, a new creation. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
The Very Rev'd Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church