Strange Days, Indeed
We are living in very strange times. Now that I am older, when I say, 'These are the strangest times I have ever seen' it means something. I've seen a lot of times.
I was around in the '60s when within 5 years, four iconic leaders were assassinated. As a small boy, I thought assassinations were normal.
I vaguely remember the JFK assassination (I was almost 3) because it so affected my parents and coming at that bleak late Autumn time of year.
I didn't know anything about Malcolm X nor, apparently, did my parents. I have no recall of this.
Martin Luther King was someone else I had not heard of, but I remember when it was announced on TV on what I believe was a Friday night, my mother gasped in horror. I didn't know why, but I paid attention the next few days and learned a little. I remember seeing footage of Robert Kennedy announcing King's death to a crowd of his supporters who reacted similarly to my mother. Kennedy was running for President.
Shortly after that, he too was killed.
When I was 12, the City of Boston schools, which were as racially segregated as the city was, were ordered to be desegregated.
To do this, a federal judge named W. Arthur Garrity ordered that students from some neighborhoods would be bussed to other neighborhoods to diversify the racial makeup of all schools. White kids were shipped out of Southie and Charlestown while black kids were sent from Roxbury and Mattapan, essentially trading places.
Nobody liked the plan and I remember on the news seeing people in South Boston
and Charlestown throwing rocks and yelling at busses full of black children, some very young and going to elementary school. Police in riot gear accompanied the busses and escorted the students past the furious protesters into the schools.
The high schools had fights, stabbings, attacks, and more vile insults passed than anything else. Some community leaders tried to calm things. Others fanned the flames. Racism, tribalism, victim mentality, ignorance, fear, and poverty all conspired to make the mid-70's a complete waste of time in Boston schools.
In the following years, our suburban school received a lot of new students who had been in Boston schools. The 'White Flight' to the suburbs was a real thing. I always viewed those kids with caution, as though they brought the mayhem and confusion I saw on TV with them.
In the '80s, while I was in college, there were two high-profile gun incidents. An assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan by a deranged Jody Foster fan and the murder of former Beatle John Lennon by a deranged John Lennon fan. Both incidents generated huge TV ratings, in those pre-cable, pre-internet days.
In the late '90s, we had the runup to 'Y2K' an event hyped because of the possibility of all kinds of problems usually related to the insufficient design of the date fields in computer systems to handle the new Millennium.
I remember letting my kids, aged 10 and 6 stay up to see the ball drop at midnight, as they were excited to see what would happen. My son (10) was furious and disappointed when nothing at all happened.
On 9/11/2001, the most painful strange time we had experienced to that point began with the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.
Hijacked airplanes were used as weapons to crash buildings and kill as many Americans as possible. The following months and years of investigations, arrests, and revenge attacks sometimes helped us feel like the power we were, but our confidence was shaken.
In 2008, we had the financial crisis, and then we had the Ebola and the Bird Flu outbreaks, which shook various parts of our country. The economic break generated a recession, but it was followed by the longest economic expansion in America's history.
With the Soviet Union 'gone' and China not yet the power they would later become, the United States was the only superpower in the world.
The economic expansion came to an end abruptly, this month. The novel Coronavirus is here. The stock market is down 27% this month (I'm typing this on 3/18/20)
And so now comes the strangest of strange times:
A global epidemic
A new virus whose behavior and tendencies are unknown
A new virus for which human beings possess no natural immunity
A virus that seems to kill more infected people than almost any other virus.
A crisis that has included a wide range of national approaches, some successful, some not
Travel and meeting in groups are either strongly discouraged or outlawed altogether.
Governmental leadership and competence are being tested as never before
And the strangest thing of all, we're urged to stay home, stay away from other people, and stay tuned and we'll find out later when we can resume 'normal' life.
In real life, 'strange' is sometimes a euphemism for frightening. It is surreal to have such extreme action required with no known end to the crisis.
People can put up with a lot as long as they know it's going to end 'by x date.' When 'x' remains unknown, the psychology splinters into lots of different reactions. We can't make plans. Without plans, our fragile grasp on what we naively call 'control' disappears. Without the illusion of control, fear, anxiety, confusion, and defensiveness fill the void.
So, what should we do?
How can we, as mere humans, surrounded by the enormity of universal events, protect ourselves?
First, I believe that salvation is found at the individual level. Membership or citizenship or belonging to any group of people united by the same thinking or heritage is not a substitute for, or an excuse to avoid, truly accounting for your own actions as they relate to the Lord. And to the how well we use the blessings He has lavished upon each of us.
We cannot enter the kingdom of God saying, ‘You have to let me in, I am American or Russian or Japanese.’ Or Democrat or Republican or Socialist or Fascist or Anarchist. Or Baptist or Catholic or Jew or Wiccan. Or Christian.
Because even among Christians, there are true believers, who have truly accepted the Lord, and those who go through the motions but do not have Him at the heart of their faith. We talk about accepting Him into our lives. We say we have, but for some of us, our door remains locked, with Him on the other side. Others let Him into some parts of their lives while keeping other doors locked to Him.
Second, we must pray. Too often we don't pray because of the illusion that we are in some sort of control. This crisis reminds us, harshly, that we are not. So we must turn to Him, who really is in control and can help us through these difficult times. We must trust Him.
And third, we have to love one another. Paradoxically, in this case, it means staying away from one another. It means staying home and keeping your potentially lethal microbes to yourself. It means realizing that we must worry about our own health as well as the health of other people. Because we might be fine, but be contagious and fatal to others.
But as we have seen, there are many ways to show love for your fellow human beings. Praying for them is one great way.
The Lord loves every single one of us. He created us all and, to Him, we are all unique, priceless works of art. 'Created by God' is the most perfect thing any of us can say about ourselves. We may try to improve on it, but we cannot.
It seems as though our current troubles are similar to the first few light flurries of what will become a blizzard. It seems like the end times are coming.
Our leaders have no answers.
Our people, rudderless in some cases, ride off on tangents or stick their heads in the sand.
Some even seek to profit off and exploit the confusion in ways You would never bless.
As I am responsible for accepting my salvation through you, I intend to continually seek you, understand you, follow you, obey you.
As a saved soul, I am responsible for sharing the Gospel, the reality of our salvation, with others, that they might be saved too.
You have told us that if we seek you with our whole heart, that we will find you. I have found you even in the tiniest details of my life.
I am not perfect, nor will I be in this lifetime, but I know you are working on me. And if you are working on me, I trust I will be perfect someday.
You, alone, are faithful.
You never break your promises.
You never fail to finish what you start.
Your timing is perfect.
Your ways are perfect.
And in the end, your results are perfect.
In the conquering name of Jesus, we pray, AMEN!
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I hope you stay healthy and safe during the Coronavirus crisis, no matter how long it lasts.
God Bless You!