By Timothy O’Tool
A couple nights ago, we had our first virtual youth group meeting over Zoom. Since it was a new concept to me and my students, I opened the floor to any questions. Now, I really meant for them to ask some Bible or theology questions since that is where my education and studies reside. Instead, I got the question, “Why don’t we open the economy?”
Well, that seems to be the question on everyone’s mind, right? Now, I try to educate myself, to a certain degree, in a wide array of topics, but how was I qualified to answer this question? I imagine many people reading this have strong opinions one way or another, but I would like to discuss this for a little bit . . .
Since I am certainly no public health or economy expert, I will not be able to resolve this issue fully, nor would anyone listen even if I could. But let me reframe this issue and give you some thoughts. In reframing the issue, let’s ask, “What should we be considering, as Christians, when we ponder and discuss the idea of reopening the country?”
Let us first consider why the economy was closed in the first place. We were told by the politicians, health experts, and media that we needed to “flatten the curve.” Basically, the idea is that if too many people get COVID-19 at one time, then the health care system would be overwhelmed and many people would die. Staying home was thought to help slow the spread of the disease to allow our hospitals to keep up. A secondary benefit is that health researchers could have more time to develop treatments and vaccines to help the infected, and allow hospitals time to ramp up supplies of life-saving equipment. The cost of all these stay-at-home orders is that the economy has taken an unprecedented hit and tens of millions of people have lost their jobs.
So, that’s where we are now. We have two problems: One, a global pandemic that threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. And two, an economic catastrophe that could leave many jobless, homeless, and hopeless. To top it all off, there seems to be an extreme divide in how to proceed. Should we send everyone back to work and risk the rapid spread of the virus, or keep people home and risk the loss of human flourishing that will come from a sunk economy? This dilemma has led to some very uncivil discourse on the topic, as I’m sure you have all seen to one degree or another. So, I ask again, how can we, as Christians, approach this discussion?
To put it simply, just like anything else we do, we need to react in love. So, what does that look like in this context? It looks like us demonstrating to people that we value both life and human flourishing. More than that though, we value the souls of people. Let me ask you this: those of you who are pushing for the economy to be immediately reopened, is it obvious in your discourse that you recognize the consequences of the actions you are advocating? Is it obvious that you do want to protect human life? Or how about those of you who would say we need to keep everyone quarantined and who say to someone, “You are selfish and don’t care about others” if that person thinks it’s OK to open the economy and go back to work: do you make it clear that you understand the consequences of the people trapped at home and without work?
So, what am I calling for right now? Just this: educate yourself to the best of your ability. That is your responsibility as a citizen of this great country. Then, have a civil discussion and count the cost of your actions or the collective action, because, to be sure, there will be a cost. And lastly, value people’s eternal destiny more than anything else. As Christians, we are called to nothing less than to show the love of Christ in anything we do or say. So, have your educated opinion. Speak respectfully. And most of all, show the love of Christ in anything you do or say.
Timothy O’Tool is associate pastor of Prairie Flower Baptist Church, Washington, Iowa. This article was originally posted to the church’s blog and is reposted here by permission.