We could have done better. COVID-19 might have been a uniter, bringing Americans together to deal with a common threat and to preserve a shared interest. We could have done what America has done before in the face of such threats: put aside what divides us and work together for the common good.
But COVID-19 has not be a uniter. Or rather, we have not been uniters. We have retreated from each other into our political, racial, and religious corners, like prize fighters, impatient for the next round so that we can deliver our jabs or maybe even a knockout punch.
Writers and social commentators are calling 2020 “The Year of COVID” and “The Year of the Coronavirus,” but this is a misnomer. 2020 was “The Year of Division.” The coronavirus merely alerted us to how deep our divisions are.
Before the coronavirus, the division between the races, always painfully present, was front and center. The division between the sexes was also highlighted by the Me-Too movement and the trial of Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men. The division between the wealthy and the poor became glaring in the light of growing income inequality.
The divisions have further divided us. Somehow Black Lives Matter turned into an argument about the value of Blue Lives. The pain and humiliation suffered by the sexually harassed led to the defamation of victims. Instead of raising concern, the income inequality numbers became a sword in the hands of political swashbucklers. COVID didn’t divide us. We were already divided.
We can blame COVID-19 for the current state of affairs, but the real blame falls back on us. We have not been people of peace but people of strife. We have not tried to see the good in others but have looked for the bad. We have not mended divisions; we have intentionally deepened them.
These divisions did not happen because of COVID. They happened because of us. COVID, like a societal microscope, merely magnified it. A coronavirus cannot kill the American way of life, but these other diseases, which are diseases of the soul, can.
These diseases of the soul go by long-established names and the wise have always been aware of them. They are known as greed, lust, anger, sloth, envy, gluttony, and pride, the so-called seven deadly sins. Division is one of their chief symptoms.
COVID-19 will eventually go away but what about these diseases of the soul? Is there any cure for them? For this disease has not only infected individuals; it has spread through human society all across the globe.
There is an island in the South Pacific where everyone is profoundly colorblind. Natives to the island all see in grayscale. They neither see nor understand color. How could this colorblindness ever be undone? By introducing a color-sighted person into the genetic line.
Christians believe that God has followed a similar route in curing the diseases of the soul. He introduced a human who was free of sin into soul-ravaged humanity, the one person who had not been infected. Someone “like us in every way, yet without sin.” But if every human had been infected, as the Bible teaches and Christians believe, where on earth would this person be found?
Not on earth. In heaven. This person was, as St. Paul put it, “the man from heaven.” Christians know him as Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Ironically, it took God to be truly and healthily human. Jesus did not merely bring the cure; he is the cure.
That cure is already available. Unlike the COVID vaccine, no one must wait in line. This cure, however, must continue to be taken over a lifetime, which is another way of saying one must persevere in faith.
This cure relieves the painful side effects like division, fear, violence, and hatred that are associated with the soul-diseases of greed, pride, anger, and lust. However, symptom relief generally takes time and requires the continuing application of the cure, as directed. While immediate benefits are frequently experienced, the eradication of soul diseases is progressive and occurs over a lifetime (and even beyond).
So it would be wise to start now.
(First published by Gannet.)