Bob Schwartz

The faithless fool directs the faithful to virus hotspots

Today Trump directed all states to open houses of worship as essential.

Religion is important to a number of Americans, and for a number of those, attending services together is a primary practice.

Religion is unimportant to Trump, except as a political tool. He knows nothing and cares less about faith in general, or about the particular faith he cynically claims as his own.

We know from just a few weeks of churches opening in states such as Georgia and Florida that it is a dangerous situation. Churches have had to close after congregants were infected with COVID-19, and in Florida, a Catholic church not only closed, but the priest has died.

There are few regular gatherings riskier than houses of worship, particularly large congregations. Like concerts and movie theaters—and like political rallies—dozens or hundreds of people together for an hour or more, sometimes vocally (loud voices equaling breathing hard), is an ideal environment for transmission.

Reopening of churches is questionable at best right now, though it hurts to see the genuinely faithful denied their usual style of community. But to see someone so faith-free promote the practice is profane.

Humility in the face of the virus is not a strategy. But it is a necessity.

We are seeing all sorts of people and initiatives at the forefront of the response to the virus. Some are brilliant, some stupid. Some knowledgeable, some ignorant. Some arrogant, some humble.

Humility in the face of a towering task is not acceptance or surrender. As in all aspects of our lives, it is recognition of our limitations while we work tirelessly to transcend those limits.

Among the many examples of this, I am thinking of all the work and talk about a vaccine. There is over optimistic talk about the practical possibility of a safe and effective vaccine being widely distributed by end of year or shortly after, an unlikely long shot. Then there are those experts who want to maintain hopeful realism based on past experience with developing vaccines and on how relatively little we know about a virus that first appeared only months ago. That realism isn’t just less than optimistic; it is added weight to already crushing circumstances.

Humility is always needed and always in short supply. Which is why every one of our religious traditions incessantly promotes it. It is not a paradox that we are at our greatest when we are at our least. It is the character of living, as best we can, the complex and elusive reality of paradise here and now.