Tuesday, 12 May 2020
Written by Karl Merritt
Column Gist: In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, many people are asking if it was caused by God. This column addresses that question.
As people ponder how God might be involved with the COVID-19 pandemic, the normal response is, “I don’t see how a loving God would cause an event such as this.” The implication is that God’s love does not allow him to, for any reason, bring hardship upon people of Earth … to punish. Even though I do not claim that COVID-19 is God’s punishment on America, my question would be: How can a loving God not punish America?
I think Rev. Billy Graham went to the heart of the matter in a statement where he referred to an assessment made by his wife, Ruth. This from an article in 2012 by Rev. Graham titled, “Billy Graham: ‘My Heart Aches for America.’”
“Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, ‘If God doesn’t punish America, he’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.’”
The 19th chapter of Genesis records God’s punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah. Scholars differ on the nature of the sin that caused God’s destruction of these cities. Some say it was because of rampant homosexual activity. Others point to a lack of hospitality. Discussion of these differing schools of thought may be reviewed at www.britannica.com. No matter what the causal sin was, these people were horrendously sinful. That is the level of sinfulness that has taken up residence in America. Consequently, Ruth Graham has my full agreement — America is due for God’s overwhelming punishment.
Whether COVID-19 is our punishment, I do not know. However, every American should seriously consider that possibility and respond accordingly. What follows offers some thoughts on how we might go about assessing the plausibility of this plague being God’s punishment of America. Granted, the whole world is adversely impacted by this frightful pandemic. However, this did not mandate that it come to America, especially with the tremendous devastation that we are experiencing.
By way of assessing, start with a definition of love and how true love looks in action. This definition of love from “36 Definitions of Love, According to Urban Dictionary” by Marisa Donnelly.
“The act of caring and giving to someone else … having someone’s best interest and well-being as a priority in your life.” This definition “hits the mark” because it requires taking actions that sometimes are necessary for the correction of those who are loved. In the “I can’t believe a loving God would do this” assessment of our difficult experiences, love is viewed as void of punishment or correction.
The following segments, from an article by Monsignor Charles Pope titled, “Pondering Punishment in the Light of God’s Love,” makes crystal clear the great fallacy in how God’s love is generally viewed:
“We have become rather ‘soft’ in modern times (at least in the Western World). We have been taught in the ‘God is Love’ school, which is not wrong but has often understood that love in sentimental and simplistic ways. Modern notions of love are usually soft, permissive and nondirective. Love is often thought to be exclusively ‘supportive’ and ‘affirming.’ The understanding that love could or should include setting limits, correction, admonishments or
punishments is usually downplayed if not explicitly rejected as pertaining to love.
“God too has largely been relegated to being essentially an affirmer. He is the one who
Beyond recognizing the correction, the punishment, component of God’s love, our assessment of God’s possible role in COVID-19, as it relates to America, requires understanding that God deals heavily in quid pro quos. A Google search yields this definition: “Quid pro quo refers to the giving of one valuable thing for another.” The examples from scripture are almost limitless. For instance, there is this often quoted verse from 2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV): “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” God does not say that he will, without any action on the part of the people, heal their land. He lays out what they must do.
God goes even further and details for Solomon, the king, what he will do if Solomon does not live by God’s statutes. This from the Life Application Bible note on 2 Chronicles 7:17-22:
“God plainly set forth certain conditions for Solomon to meet if he wanted the kingdom to continue. If Solomon followed God, he and his descendants would prosper. If Solomon did not, he and the nation would be destroyed. In Deuteronomy 27 and 28, these conditions were outlined before all the people.”
Over time, Solomon turned from God, and God did what he promised. Solomon’s descendants, and all of Israel, suffered tremendously.
God’s use of quid pro quos even shows up in the loving and, very likely, most quoted verse in scripture, John 3:16 (NIV): “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God offers eternal life, but receiving it requires that a person believes
The experience of Solomon not only illustrates God’s use of the quid pro quo; it also makes clear that God punishes disobedience. An even more telling instance of God’s love resulting in punishment shows through in his sending of Israel into the wilderness for 40 years. The following, from an article by David Treybig titled, “Why Did God Choose Israel?” sets important context for them being sent into the wilderness:
“God wanted Israel to be a model nation, a group of people through whom other peoples could learn vitally important lessons. God wanted Israel to be ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Exodus 19:6). Other nations would see that when the Israelites obeyed God, they were blessed (verse 5), and when they disobeyed God, they would be punished (Deuteronomy 28).”
God loved Israel and had a high calling for the nation; however, when the people rebelled and chose not to follow God’s direction and enter the land he had promised, God sent them into the wilderness for 40 years. God punished people he loved dearly.
In deciding what role, if any, God might be playing in COVID-19’s invasion of America, we must recognize that God must sometimes punish us because he loves us and must substantially employ the quid pro quo and treat us in the same way that he has treated individuals and nations across the ages.
When we examine the behavior of American society, the picture is clear. As a nation, in the overall, we blatantly reject the statutes, the way, of God. We have declared abortion a woman’s right. We decided the homosexual lifestyle acceptable and protected by law — no matter what scripture says, a person gets to choose their gender regardless of gender at birth. Sex before marriage is routinely accepted. Christians are under attack because of our faith.
Even further, government policies and programs support or encourage ungodly conduct. For instance, instead of taking actions that would discourage premarital sex, American governments provide free condoms to citizens. When that action fails and children result whose parent(s) cannot afford to financially support them, governments provide financial support, health care and other benefits. Then there is the push for expansion of public funding of abortions. All this at the expense of taxpayers, many of whom oppose these actions that advance
I do not claim that COVID-19 is God’s punishment on America, but when the likelihood is examined as is done here, there is more than ample reason to seriously consider the possibility. If this is not God’s punishment on us, we would do well to treat it as a warning and change our ways. Ruth Graham spoke absolute truth.
Tuesday, 12 May 2020
Written by Bill Bowman
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it is distressing to learn that members of the U.S. Congress and our Justice Department would lie, cheat and conspire against innocent Americans to discredit and try to unseat a duly elected president. Partisan greed, power and unbridled animosity have become way too common in America’s political scene, and those factors are undermining American rights and freedoms, not to mention wasting time and energy while distracting Congress from doing the people’s business.
Regardless of whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent, we are all human beings and should not turn a blind eye to political injustice or conspiracies that ignore the rule of law. What is taking place politically in America today should scare the hell out of any decent, God-fearing human being. And, if it doesn’t, your principles and values may have already been compromised, and your levels of sensitivity and compassion toward humanity calloused. Again, it makes no difference what political affiliation you are. Human decency defines the boundaries of “right and wrong.” We live in a country where citizens are (or should be) equally entitled to freedom, fairness and justice. We do not live in a socialistic or communistic state where authoritarianism* dictates “what’s good for me, is not
This unsavory situation exists today and has escalated ever since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a public health emergency in January. Since then, based on faulty information, the world panicked, exposing the true talents, abilities and leadership skills of government officials worldwide. Here in the United States, under these dire circumstances, it is difficult for our national and local leaders to hide traits like political gamesmanship, greed, gross incompetence and the blatant abuse of power and authority for personal gain.
No doubt, we have many capable leaders whose intelligence and level-headed strategies and management style aided their constituents during this crisis. But as the pandemic expanded through March and April, it became more and more evident that power-drunk government officials were slowly, conveniently and methodically eradicating our liberty and personal freedoms. Freedoms guaranteed to us by the Bill of Rights are being methodically replaced by Soviet-like directives from authoritarian state governors’ offices or from local city halls. Making this situation even more frustrating is the fact that these directives are often baseless, senseless, contradictory and, in some cases, deadly. It’s bad enough for the government to decide which businesses are essential and which are not, but deciding who lives and who dies?
New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo could be the poster child for being the very best of the worst. His state has the highest rate of coronavirus cases anywhere on the planet with nearly 350,000 cases and over 27,000 deaths. With two-thirds of the cases and over 70% of the deaths in New York City, this governor sends 1,700 aging citizens to their deaths after mandating that nursing homes and senior care centers accept their residencies knowing full well that seniors and aging populations are the highest risk group most vulnerable to the disease. Instead of protecting them, this governor was digging mass graves to bury the victims by the hundreds.
Where is the logic? The leadership? The compassion? The humanity? Hell, where is the outrage?
And, just when you think it couldn’t get much worse, Cuomo’s leadership team releases 1,000 hardened criminals, rapists, murderers, dope pushers and child molesters from the Rikers Island jail. Not only did they unleash mayhem and an eventual crime wave upon innocent citizens of New York City, but over 1/3 of the criminals released were infected with the coronavirus. Cuomo’s logic? To protect the criminals and prevent the spread of the virus. No wonder they lead the world in COVID-19 infections.
While this craziness is going on in New York, a judge in Dallas is sentencing Shelly Luther, a single mother and beauty salon owner, to jail for seven days for opening up her small business so she can feed her children. Unbelievable. In California, you can be arrested if you go to beach, but you can be paid if you snitch on your neighbor. In Michigan, residents are storming the statehouse in protest because they can buy liquor and go to Home Depot, but they cannot worship in their churches. In North Carolina, under Gov. Roy Cooper’s reign, protesting has been deemed an “illegal activity.” You can be arrested for stepping on a sidewalk. In North Carolina, residents are told that exercising their First Amendment rights to peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress, was among the activities Gov. Cooper deemed “nonessential.” The arrogance. He actually took it upon himself to nullify the Constitution. But, Cooper’s not the only person drunk on power. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy had 15 members of a Jewish congregation arrested for assembling at a funeral service. When he was questioned as to whether he was concerned about violating their Bill of Rights, he responded, “That’s above my pay grade … I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when I did this.” Really? The governor of New Jersey wasn’t thinking that freedom of worship and the right to peaceably assemble are both protected in the Bill of Rights? In Fayetteville, the mayor curbed the COVID-19 virus and protected citizens by enacting a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Are you beginning to see the pattern?
Like I said in the beginning, it doesn’t matter what political affiliation you are, what color you are or what religion you practice, the COVID-19 pandemic is serious; however, it doesn't just threaten your health. It threatens your livelihood. We must be mindful and protective of our civil liberties, or we run the risk of some serious “unintended consequences.”
In the case of some of these crazy and contradictory statewide restrictions, the cure could end up being worse than the disease. People want to be free. Democracy is in our DNA, and it is on the decline. We cannot allow this COVID-19 pandemic to be used as a vehicle to strip us of our rights or freedoms. We need leadership that respects our Constitutional Rights. We don’t need surveillance of any type, and we have to make sure we maintain honest and well-managed elections. Where is the outrage?
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.
* According to Lexico, the definition of “authoritarianism” is, “the enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom.”