COVID-19 has brought great panic across the globe due to the rapidity of its transmission and the danger it poses to seniors and those with compromised immune systems. However, COVID-19 has done more than just bring panic. It has also catalyzed several truths about American people, revealing a more troubling underbelly of the American way of life. COVID-19 may prove to be a sociologist’s dream as it has shown what we as American people are like, what we are truly like, when a crisis transpires. Because of the virus, comments on social media reveal four types of responses to the COVID-19 crisis. The comments begin to repeat over time. From the overlapping discussions, we can discover four categories of people. As a caveat, this information merely comes from this writer’s observations and is by no means intended to be a scientific study.
1. The Political Propagandist. For this person, everything becomes political. If the government says anything, the political propagandist will look for some twist and automatically assume that the authorities in question are only trying to pander for votes. Oddly, some of my Republican friends have taken this perspective even when a Republican President has issued some of the guidelines against which they are contending. Thus, every decision is thereby for or against the person’s party. I mentioned a Republican friend earlier. Ironically, I have some Democratic friends who have used the same logic with what a Democratic governor has issued. Some in this category deny that there is a real problem. They hold that the virus is nothing more than a political stunt. But who's to blame? That depends on which political affiliation to which the political propagandist belongs.
2. The Paranoid Peddler. This person is one who is mostly given over to hysteria if left unchecked. For the paranoid peddler, everything is a conspiracy. Even if the government were to say that creamed cheese is good for your health, the paranoid panderer would attempt to find some agenda behind the government’s endorsement. He or she might say, “Maybe the government is trying to get rid of those of us who are lactose intolerant? What if that’s all the food they offer?” This is especially true when governing authorities have advised that people abstain from gatherings of over 100 people, including religious services. Katie, bar the door! From that point onward, the paranoid peddlers prognosticate that the government’s war against religion is well underway, all within the guise of protective parameters. Paranoid peddlers hold to the adage, “I don’t care what the government says, I’ll do it my way!”
My friend, Thomas McCuddy pointed out that this logic is faulty on several fronts. The paranoid panderer commits the categorical mistake, mistaking the categories between shutting down something temporarily and permanently; the false dilemma, thinking that one has given up their faith by listening to the governing authority’s advice; and a non-sequitur, thinking that God will promise that if one goes to church that he or she will not contract the virus.
3. The Hysterical Hoarder. Perhaps the third person is linked with the second? Nonetheless, some have made a point to hoard as many items as they can. It is one thing to be prepared. It is another thing to buy as much as you can so that others cannot get what you have. COVID-19 will be known as the toilet paper disease even though it is a respiratory virus. Why? People have selfishly purchased and stored enough toilet paper to last an entire year out of fear of running out. My parents grew up in a time where indoor bathrooms did not exist. Ask them. There are other sanitary ways to live even if toilet paper is not around. Just make sure you don’t use poison oak to take care of your sanitary needs. My mother who is five-feet-tall was reaching up to grab a couple of rolls of toilet paper when this tall young guy ran up and stole them from her before she could reach them. Such examples exemplify the level of selfishness that has captured our society. Should such a real crisis exist, we would not come together as a nation. Rather, we would selfishly tear one another apart over something so trivial as toilet paper. The apologist in me thinks that this is one such consequence of living in a nation that is turning from its Judeo-Christian roots.
4. The Rational Responder. Lastly, while the first three responses have been mostly negative, there is hope with the rational responder. I have noticed that many of my Christian friends have responded to this crisis responsibly and with great compassion. By using reason instead of hysteria, many believers have seen the inherent risks associated with the virus and have chosen to respond accordingly. Many of the rational responders are even looking for ways in which they can minister to people during the chaos. I find it fascinating that most of these individuals also have a healthy ecclesiology (theology of the Church) by realizing that the Church is not an organization that requires walls and a structure, but rather one that is an organism, consisting of the people of God.
This article is not intended to poke fun at anyone. Furthermore, it also is not to say that some of what the first three responders have claimed doesn’t have some truth in it. Rather, the article comes as an observation of the reactions arising from COVID-19. By no means am I saying that I trust every governmental action. Nor am I saying that anyone should. However, when hysteria and emotionalism replace logic and reason, bad things soon follow. I am reminded of the words of the late Dr. Norman Geisler who said, “A clear mind and a pure heart are dangerous to the devil.” No matter what may come, let us always seek to think clearly while having faith that Christ can and will deliver us through any storm encountered. For our Great Shepherd will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23:4) so that he may bring us to even greater pastures.
By the grace of God, we shall persevere!
Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University. Brian has been in the ministry for over 15 years and serves as a pastor in northwestern North Carolina.