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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Father James Comments On Current Pandemic Virus

In the past, whenever people experienced crises on a global scale, whether they were world-wide natural disasters, or even pandemics of biblical proportions such as the novel coronavirus, there were inevitably questions and discussions about divine wrath, just punishment, the apocalypse and judgment. We are no different in our time. Such discussions can be useful and of great benefit if they lead people to step back from who they are, where they are, and what they are doing and re-evaluate or take another look at who they are, where they are, and what they are doing. Such reflection is important because the way we see the world affects how we live our lives. Human beings by nature are finite not infinite. Humans have limits and capacities and as a result we hardly ever see the world as it truly is. For this reason a mother encourages her child to socialize, businesses are constantly urging employees to think outside the box, astronomers direct our attention to the stars, and microbiologists open our eyes to microscopic realities that lie hidden all around us.

As a student of theology I appreciate any and all attempts to direct the mind’s eye to God, to the divine, to the supernatural, and to the eternal. Some say that such reflection is grossly lacking in today’s world and point to empty churches and declining church membership as evidence of this reality. Others suggest that the opposite is true and would point to religious book sales and a resurgence of faith-based movies as evidence to support their claim. Regardless of the current milieu, theological and prayerful reflection is important, and changes the way we see and perhaps even how we live, as St. Paul wonderfully points out in his first letter to the Corinthians: “The message of the Cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction, but for those who are being saved it is the very power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)

I was recently at the bedside of a parishioner who was lying ill and during my visit the discussion turned to the current pandemic. The question was posed to me, “People are saying that this virus is a punishment from God; his wrath and vengeance upon a sinful world. What do you think?” Personally, I think that’s a very complex question and one that needs to be approached more like a surgeon attending to delicate and complex matters rather than a politician rattling off talking points to reporters at a news conference.

First it should be acknowledged that God does have something to do with the current pandemic otherwise he has nothing to do with it. This latter assumption portrays God not as a personal God, Emmanuel (God with us), but rather as a distant God, who is indifferent, uninvolved, and powerless in the face of this world’s suffering. In this case he is not the God written of in scripture, revealed in Jesus Christ, and proclaimed by the Apostles and the Church, but rather a deist imposter and therefore not God at all. On the other hand, if God is who he reveals himself to be through scripture, in Jesus Christ His Son, and is subsequently proclaimed to be such by his Church, then it is left to us to meditate, reflect, and strive to understand what God has to do with this current pandemic.

Scripture reveals that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him might not die but might have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16) Think about that for a moment. If someone wants to have a discussion about the wrath of God, or divine punishment and judgment, that discussion must be infused with this knowledge. As a result one would have to acknowledge that love is the underlying motivation behind any punishment or admonition attributed to God. Given the gravity or severity of the current pandemic and the tremendous suffering inflicted upon the world some may struggle to come to grips with such an idea and argue that love cannot manifest itself in the form of punishment. However, they need only to look to the love that a parent has for their child to see a magnificent contradiction to their presupposition. Parents regularly punish and correct their children, but the vast majority of them would never be accused of doing so for any other reason other than love, genuine care and concern for their child, their growth, maturity, and their child’s proper development. In fact if parents do not punish or correct their child from time to time one might accuse such a parent of negligence, indifference, and not having a genuine love for their child. Scripture says: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (Prov 13:24) The same book offers the following instruction; “Withhold not correction from the child” for correction and punishment saves and delivers one from death and hell. (Prov 23:13-14) Lastly, it is written, “The rod of reproof gives wisdom.” (Prov 29:15)

In addition to parents, a just society also imposes punishment on those who offend against its laws. In some cases they even deem it necessary to impose the death penalty. It is not out of hatred, anger, vengeance, or wrath that the government inflicts punishment upon those who commit infractions of the law, but rather out of genuine care and concern for the common good, including the good of the individual who broke the law. In theory a well-ordered government inflicts punishment in the name of justice, to restore, repair, and to pay debts owed to society. That well-ordered government also upholds law and order to ensure good, right, moral, and harmonious living among its citizens. In yet another realm, namely the realm of medicine, surgeons often saw through bones and cut through flesh and inflict terrible amounts of trauma to the body in order to fix, repair, and bring healing and wholeness to a person. In some cases there is high risk or a high morbidity rate and yet seldom would a patient question their doctor’s genuine care and concern for them. If they do they may need to find another physician that they can trust.

Suppose for a moment that this pandemic is a chastisement, then it needs to be clearly and unambiguously communicated, directly stated, and carefully articulated and understood that it is by God’s “permissive” will that he allows such things to happen and that God is not the cause of the evil in this world but rather sin is the cause of evil, both original sin and our actual sins or put another way, the evils we endure are the result of being rebellious toward God. Just as a child’s poor behavior has negative consequences that necessitate correction, so too sin has its negative effects that call for reparation. Additionally, just as no one could rightly blame a jury or a judge for the sentence handed down to a person for criminal behavior, neither should one blame God for the effects or consequences of sin. Now, this doesn’t mean that the victims of this pandemic are guilty, targeted, and taken out of a line-up and that those who don’t suffer are righteous and vindicated. On the contrary, many of the people who have died have been exemplary, like healthcare workers who contract the virus while they heroically minister to the sick and dying. Furthermore, there may even be children and pure and innocent infants who have fallen victim to this virus.

There is an episode in scripture that may help to highlight the message I’m trying to convey: “When told by some people about a group of Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus says, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them, do you think they were guiltier than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” (Lk 13:1-5)

To understand sin and God’s role in regards to the current pandemic is to recognize his power and authority and to return to Him; the remedy to rebellion is a return to order, a return to God, the remedy to godlessness is godliness, the remedy to evil is good, the remedy to wrongdoing is right-living, the remedy to disharmony is unity, and the remedy to sin is love. You don’t have to take my word for it. Look around. It is not only medicine and science that is combating this virus. It is also a unified and collective effort by ordinary Americans to stop its spread by social distancing, which is itself a kind of active expression of love, care, and concern for all affected. This is exemplified beautifully, inspiringly, and compellingly by countless individuals in hospitals, grocery stores, factories, and in our government. This should give us great hope.

Rev. James C. Campbell


Anonymous said...

Thank you Father James !

Anonymous said...

Great word Rev, pray that everyone will take heed to the word of God which is Truth & Jesus is the Way, the truth &!life !

Unknown said...

Outstanding vision!

Unknown said...

Outstanding vision!

Louise said...

Well thought out. Good explanation.

Lucy said...

Thank You for this explanation. God truley loves us all.We are his children..Thank You God !!!

Phil Vaughn said...

I am a Protestant Minister of the Gospel but find this to be an excellent explanation. I see God reaching out to turn our attention to the eternal when we are so rapped up in the things of this world, 2 Cor 4:18. He has more of my attention!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Words of wisdom inspired by the Holy Spirit.

cab said...

Oh my - I wish you could be on TV and let this be known. An absolutely genius article. You have covered so many things that are very prevalent in this day and age. I truly believe this is like it says in the Bible - reverting back to the days of Sodom and Gomorrah. This is prophesied will happen just before the Lord returns for all of us Christians. PLEASE LORD JESUS COME!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a wonderful message. For me, your message is like a gift from God letting me know I am on the right path and doing what He wants. I realize that may sound strange but I can explain. I have always been quiet, shy and I rarely speak without being spoken too but lately I find I can not keep my mouth shut.....

Since this pandemic started, I have been telling everyone (especially those in panic) God did not create this virus but He has allowed it for a reason. God does not want us to live in fear, the devil does.... fear is the devil's playground for fear is the absence of faith. If we all strengthen our faith the devil doesn't stand a chance. Together we can bring God back into our homes, family life and community.....

Lately I have been sharing my personal feelings with everyone...

I feel this pandemic is a test like in the bible (Job) a test of faith, hope and love or even obedience if you will. A clear message to slow down, simplify and return to God.

A sign to focus on faith and family, reprioritize our lives and make it a personal mission to make the world around us a better place. In a sense, it's like a calling to get back to basics, we need to depend on our God not our money. We need to relearn how to be self sufficient again....

What would our world be like if we could go back to working 5 days a week? Keeping Saturday for fun, relaxing family life and Sunday to honor God?

Health - what would happen if families were growing/raising their own food even cooking meals together?

Have you ever wondered if this virus would have spread so rampant in a world full of happy, healthy people?

What would our life be like if we felt less stressed, more relaxed, ate healthy, enjoyed weekends off, surrounded by loved ones while enjoying the fruits of our labor???

Thank you for your message it helped me more than you know.

God is Amazing!! I used to be a worrier but I learned to give everything to God-- God's got me! God's got this! has been my mantra for a while now and God is so great, I still feel an inner peace even during this difficult time. Don't worry give it to God for He has us in the palm of His hands.

May we all turn to God and follow the dreams He has placed in our hearts. God grant us the courage to do your will during this difficult time.
God Bless,

Anonymous said...

Wow, 9:54 a.m.! You rocked it!

Anonymous said...

This last comment has brought me peace. I am always scared and yes have a deep faith that God is with me but still get so scared. This was a big health and everytime I wash my hands may I remember your words and share this with my family who are scared and question also. I was raised as a little girl that Jesus loves me and he has my hand. Now I am old and I still get scared. I pray I can trust that the Lord has me and all of us and won't forsake us. He loves us all. Thank you i hope everyone takes time to read this. God bless us and keep us safe during this difficult time.

Unknown said...

Thanks father, you put a lot of thought and heart into your comments. Stay safe and God Bless.