October 29, 2020

A Lenten Brunch Response to Pharisaic Idiocy: March 28, 2020

Seattle Daily Times, 1918

Lenten Brunch Lite 5: March 28, 2020

This Lenten season has been somewhat overwhelmed by all the attention paid to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it has given us all an opportunity to ponder some fundamental aspects of what we believe and how we view the world (certainly consistent with Lent’s purpose).

This morning I want to respond with utmost disagreement to a purportedly Christian perspective on what’s happening, from an article by R.R. Reno at First Things. Here is a key passage from his article:

In our simple-minded picture of things, we imagine a powerful fear of death arises because of the brutal deeds of cruel dictators and bloodthirsty executioners. But in truth, Satan prefers sentimental humanists. We resent the hard boot of oppression on our necks, and given a chance, most will resist. How much better, therefore, to spread fear of death under moralistic pretexts.

This is what is happening in New York as I write. The media maintain a drumbeat of warnings. And the message is not just that you or I might end up in an overloaded emergency room gasping for air. We are more often reminded that we can communicate the virus to others and cause their deaths.

Just so, the mass shutdown of society to fight the spread of COVID-19 creates a perverse, even demonic atmosphere. Governor Cuomo and other officials insist that death’s power must rule our actions. Religious leaders have accepted this decree, suspending the proclamation of the gospel and the distribution of the Bread of Life. They signal by their actions that they, too, accept death’s dominion.

This is nonsense. A complete failure to discern pile of nonsense. Pharisaic nonsense.

Reno imagines that putting into practice what we have learned from science and public health studies, now being advocated in an effort to save lives and protect the vulnerable is a wholesale capitulation to a materialistic mindset that is captive to the fear of death.

To support his argument, Reno imagines a laughable interpretation of what happened during the 1918 influenza epidemic.

Kentucky Post and Kentucky Times-Star, 1918-19

That older generation that endured the Spanish flu, now long gone, was not ill-informed. People in that era were attended by medical professionals who fully understood the spread of disease and methods of quarantine. Unlike us, however, that generation did not want to live under Satan’s rule, not even for a season. They insisted that man was made for life, not death. They bowed their head before the storm of disease and endured its punishing blows, but they otherwise stood firm and continued to work, worship, and play, insisting that fear of death would not govern their societies or their lives.

This is so preposterous that I cannot believe a major Christian publication would even think of printing it. Look at the newspapers from those days! (see images) Furthermore, we learned from 1918. One thing we learned is that those cities (such as St. Louis) that practiced more severe forms of social distancing saved many more lives than those who didn’t (such as Philadelphia). This was about protecting people, not imprisoning them under death’s captivity.

In his response to Reno’s awful article,

The primary virtue of this world is autonomy: the sacred and inviolable right to self-rule. Individuals ought to do as they otherwise would despite the potential harm they would do to others or their community. Cities ought to return immediately to their daily rhythms regardless of what those rhythms might spread. Nations ought to pursue their economic prosperity without regard for how the very mechanisms that generate economic activity establish the conditions health experts warn us to avoid. Anyone who advocates for a break from life already in progress is under the sway of the power of death. The moral choice to act for the good of others, whether on the personal or social level, is thereby invalidated.

DeLorenzo is also on point when he says that the genuine Christian response to our current crisis is found, as always, in the cruciform way of Christ, who chose to sacrifice himself for the well being of others, especially the most vulnerable. Letting go of a bit of our autonomy for the good of our neighbors seems like a small sacrifice to me. And if we are asked to give more, then may God continue to guide us in a Jesus-shaped way.

In contrast, Reno’s article is preposterous, Pharisaic, and a complete failure to discern what it means to be a Christian in the world, especially in times of crisis.


  1. Words fail me… almost. Christians like Reno are only out to speak to and please their own fan base. Pharisaical indeed.

    Meanwhile, Jesus weeps. Lord, have mercy on us all.

    • RJN is probably spinning in his grave right now…

      • Echo that. I used to like listening to Richard John Neuhaus, the founder of First Things. I think I saw him on Bill Buckley’s show a few times.

        Unfortunately, R.R. Reno is the current editor at First Things, so what’s up with that? And there’s a similar article dated yesterday by Matthew Schmitz entitled “Church as a Non-Essential Service.”

        • There are fundamentalists who think this way in the Catholic Church, and some of them are intellectuals and theologians. Also, see this pronouncement by the Greek Orthodox Church.

          • Just like guns. Communion doesn’t infect people; people sharing communion infects people.

            On a related note: what do some of you clergy types think about stay-at-home communion? I’ve seen a little discussion online about this. I think most would probably say just wait, no need to take communion until back in church and with an ordained pastor or priest.

            But what about tele-church? Can a pastor or priest, remotely, encourage people to take wine and bread at home? Should he or she do that? What do we really believe about “the priesthood of all believers?” Can I do communion at home or not?

              • I’m for it.

              • I’m for tele-church, and our parish is doing it tomorrow. After our priest gives the sermon we can switch over to the diocesan cathedral for a service, or to the National Cathedral at 11:15. I’m actually looking forward to this.

                Tele-communion? Don’t know how that would work, but God works everywhere, and I think it depends on the intentions of the priest/ minister and most particularly on the intentions of the communicant. If done in all reverence and faith and sincerity, God will bless it.


            • Burro (Mule) says

              The Orthodox can’t.

              If you really feel the need for communion, though, the clergy will offer it if you call and make an appointment.

              Frequent communion is only recently re-emerging in the Orthodox Church after about a 400 year hiatus, or so they tell me. The Russians and the Serbs, as usual, are on one side and the Greeks and the Arabs are on the other.

            • Our ELCA church, starting last Sunday, has Sunday service on internet video, followed by drive-through communion, wafers and individual mini-cups, with all due attention to sanitary handling of course. All communicants stay in their cars.

          • Burro (Mule) says

            Yeah. But it’s not like its number one on anyone’s short list for peer-reviewed experiments. Our archdiocese wisely (this is not our first epidemic) limited services to 50 early in February before moving entirely online early in March.

            Holy Week looks increasingly unlikely this year as well.

            BTW, Georgia’s hotspot outbreaks have all been traced to church services. Ha! Honey Badger Coronavirus don’t care if you’re bustin’ a move on PC Beach or praising the Lord at Sentinel Baptist.

          • Dana Ames says

            The article linked is 3 weeks old and is mainly about transmission via Holy Communion. There is a later communique from Pat. Bartholomew urging cooperation with government restrictions.

            Back when AIDS first broke out, the Episcopal Church did extensive research, with the input of lots of scientists, on whether the disease could be transmitted via a shared communion cup. The answer was that there has never been any evidence, from any Christian group partaking of communion using serving utensils that come into contact with people’s mouths, that any kind of communicable disease can be caught from them, or the bread and wine therein. For those of us who trust that God has answered our prayer that the Holy Spirit will make the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, it is not possible that his Body and Blood could ever transmit something harmful to us.

            We do know, though, that it’s very possible to catch the corona virus if someone – even the priest – coughs on us in the communion line, or otherwise standing next to one another, which is why most Orthodox parishes in the US have suspended all gatherings. Where gatherings are still permitted, parishes have increased disinfection measures and required parishioners to maintain distance and not to kiss icons or crosses. To my knowledge no jurisdiction is telling their people to defy the orders of public health officials, either here or abroad; Pat. Bartholomew’s message is quite to the contrary. Greece has banned sporting events and any gathering of more than 1000, and Russia has just begun to impose limits (remote work, closed restaurants,etc), so those governments have not locked things down yet, unfortunately. Some of our states haven’t been very strict, either. Not defending them at all – simply stating response has been slow (for sometimes stupid reasons, among people who should know better).

            There are stubborn/daft Orthodox, too, no different than any other group of Christians, or people in general. BTW, Dreher has written in clear and detailed disagreement with Reno, who is a friend.


            • I don’t see how, barring a special and continuous miraculous intervention of God, the cells of ones very human neighbor, with all their imperfections and proneness to mortality as well as disease, would not end up on the spoon used to serve Communion in Orthodox churches, even if the Communion elements themselves cannot transmit disease. It’s not Christ’s Body and Blood that is dangerous, but ones fellow communicants’.

              • Burro (Mule) says

                Well, the last time I took communion on Feb 23, I noticed that the alcohol content of the wine was off the charts. More like brandy.

                Also I believe that the Patel, the communion spoon. Is copper, so that helps too

                • It would need to be 60% alcohol, applied the right way, to make any difference. And then it would be toxic to the partakers all by itself.

                  • Wait — brandy actually is 60% alcohol? Wow.

                    • Pellicano Solitudinis says

                      No, it’s more like 40% (most spirits are). Overproof and double distilled liquor can be anything up to 90% (hello, spiritus).

                  • Hey, 151 rum is 75% alcohol and it is NOT toxic – at least, if properly mixed with citrus and spices. 😉

          • David Greene says

            Basically this position of the Greek Orthodox Church, that the virus cannot be transmitted by communion, is a belief in magic rather than Christianity so it seems to me. There seems to be a lot of believers of magic in many other parts of the church too.

          • It’s not my intention to offend deeply held metaphysical beliefs but if anyone thinks the Communion Wafer cannot transmit the COV-19 virus they are in a dangerous state of denial.

  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/opinion/coronavirus-trump-evangelicals.html

    i do no know the extent of influence and following the group First Things has. I agree with CM completely about the error and tone deaf article from Reno is, nailed the rebuttal to the piece. However the NY Times is a major perhaps the most prominent opinion section is the nation. Well, it use to be as it is losing its standing and credibility due to article like the one I linked. It is a patch work piece of tying individual actions and linking them to arrive at one opinion which is easily detected. That certain leaders in any organization make bad judgement calls and fail to follow sound advice is always to be found. The claim that members of Trumps cabinet who are people of faith have some kind of Rasputin hold on him is nuts but good enough to be in the NYT. Again the bad opinion in a rather obscure First Things mag is one thing, to have the “paper of record” use their opinion page for this is why the press is failing in America. I do appreciate how the use of the facts from 1918 from newspapers show the bad judgement call from first things first. However, it is an opinion piece by an organization with a specific agenda, oh well, so is the opinion piece in the NY Times, both appealing to their base. Freedom of speech cover a lot including the right to be stupid, wrong or whatever but it is our responsibility to form our own opinions based on fact.

    • Point missed, me-thinks.

      Read again the first box highlighted by CM. Then ask yourself how this can come from the mouth of an ambassador of Christ. Then read the second box, and ask yourself how this can come from the mouth of someone interested in the health and well-being of his neighbor.

      What other media outlets do or do not do is irrelevant to how a Christian voice should behave.

      • And CM here is speaking to specifically Christian expressions and media. He’s keeping it in house, not about the New York Times or the MSM or FOX. And the DeLorenzo rebuttal is one Catholic responding to another Catholic’s (Reno is Catholic) defective moral theology and religious rhetoric.

    • Dan, an excerpt from the oped you linked. In your opinion how truthful is this?

      Religious nationalism has brought to American politics the conviction that our political differences are a battle between absolute evil and absolute good. When you’re engaged in a struggle between the “party of life” and the “party of death,” as some religious nationalists now frame our political divisions, you don’t need to worry about crafting careful policy based on expert opinion and analysis. Only a heroic leader, free from the scruples of political correctness, can save the righteous from the damned. Fealty to the cause is everything; fidelity to the facts means nothing. Perhaps this is why many Christian nationalist leaders greeted the news of the coronavirus as an insult to their chosen leader.

      In an interview on March 13 on “Fox & Friends,” Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, called the response to Coronavirus “hype” and “overreacting.” “You know, impeachment didn’t work, and the Mueller report didn’t work, and Article 25 didn’t work, and so maybe now this is their next, ah, their next attempt to get Trump,” he said.

    • “i do no know the extent of influence and following the group First Things has”

      They are, or used to be, a major ecumenical journal that, with some intellectual rigor, defended conservative politics and Christianity, under the editorship of Richard John Neuhaus (I would give my right arm to write half as well as he did). But Neuhaus is long dead (RIP) and the magazine he founded, like much of conservative media, has surrendered lock stock and barrel to the tide of anti-intellectual populist nationalism that has swallowed most of evangelicalism and the Republican Party.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        I have a category in my RSS/ATOM reader titled “Gone Bad”. I’ve moved quite a few feeds there since 2016; feeds which were legitimately interesting prior to ~2015. 🙁

      • “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” You probably have read our Lt. Governor said that getting the economy jump-started is worth sacrificing our grandparents. He is a self-identified evangelical, and I’m hearing echoes of this throughout the tribe. When I read Reno’s argument dressed up as morality, it saddened me to see that fundamentalist Catholics are busy polishing the same turd. I’ve set up a self-quiz to see how these arguments measure up:

        a. Ayn Rand
        b. Arbeit Macht Frei
        c. Nietzsche
        d. Jesus of the Gospels

        • #oneofthesethingsisnotliketheothers

        • –> “You probably have read our Lt. Governor said that getting the economy jump-started is worth sacrificing our grandparents. He is a self-identified evangelical…”

          Apparently he’s not as pro-life as I assume he claims to be. Or maybe he’s pro-life… with conditions.

      • Richard John Neuhaus (a Lutheran turned Catholic priest) was also one of the founders of Evangelicals and Catholics Together, along with others such as Charles Colson and J.I. Packer.

        ECT was an ecumenical attempt at dialog, and it came under harsh criticism by other heavyweights that included R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur. Some of them clearly did not wish to dialog.

      • Although my philosophical tendency was to disagree with Neuhaus on most issues I was a regular reader. It was precisely because it differed from my point of view that it was so useful to me. You can learn a lot from a rigorous point of view with which you disagree. At the very least you learn what the opposing side’s actual position is rather than waste your time arguing against a caricature. Now it doesn’t challenge me much. I already know what they’re going to say before I read it.

        • Stephen, that’s a healthy point of view. I enjoy a differing viewpoint as long as the author is intelligent and respectful. Neuhaus was that.

    • Clay Crouch says

      Dan, thank you for calling attention the the NYT’s editorial. The banner photo alone in this piece goes a long way in dispelling your claims to the contrary. And given our president’s claims and non-responses to the epidemic, it would be fascinating to read your rebuttal to assertions the author makes. If you haven’t already, I suggest you start by reading the linked articles in Ms. Stewart’s editorial.

  3. senecagriggs says

    Can my actions actually change God’s timetable for my neighbor’s death? I would say no. [ Within the sovereignty of God, no dies outside His eternal timetable.]

    Am I sinning if I scoff at the requests of our duly elected governors and representatives? I would say yes.

    • Christiane says

      We are to answer for what we do and what we fail to do also as to how we treat our neighbor, so personal actions that are known to possibly be harmful to others ARE something to consider, yes.

      following blindly your ‘leaders’ is not nearly as important, senecagriggs, as following your moral conscience

      • senecagriggs says

        Actually Christiane, “following blindly your leaders” has never appeared to be in my skill set. Now questioning my leaders – that’s a different matter.

        • Eventually, questioning must give way to action, either by obedience or dissent. The question is, is the questioning a way to clarify the decision… Or postpone it?

    • One morning a Calvinist exited his bedroom, walked along the landing to start down the stairs which at the top of tripped on an edge of rug and tumbled head over heels down the stairway. He lay at the bottom for a moment, then felt around his body to be sure everything was in proper alignment, after which he slowly stood to his feet and straightened his clothes. Before walking out the front door to begin his drive to work he looks back up the stairs then to the spot at the bottom where he came to a stop and said to himself, “Thank God. I’m glad we got that over with.”

    • “Can my actions actually change God’s timetable for my neighbor’s death? I would say no. [ Within the sovereignty of God, no dies outside His eternal timetable.]”

      A religious assumption/assertion that is non-verifiable, yet supportable within the narrow confines of a particular hermeneutic of certain ANE documents. However, if it makes you feel better thinking that something or Someone is in control…

      • senecagriggs says

        IT DOES make me feel better that my Creator remains in control regardless the circumstance.

        • I sort of agree with you, though I might express it differently. If God’s word and will are not the last word and will, then God can lose in the end, he can be vanquished by sin or death or the devil or just a world spinning out of control, and is not actually God — which means that I can’t trust him to be able to keep the proleptic promises he made in Jesus Christ.

        • Dana Ames says

          There’s a difference between the idea “God is in control” and the understanding of God’s providence. We trust God to work all for Good. Beyond that, I think it’s foolish to pronounce anything, precisely because we don’t know everything God is up to, and much of the time such pronouncements are simply not kind, or even very useful. Jesus said we are going to be held accountable for everything that comes out of our mouths. That gives me pause.


    • God’s timetable is not ours to know. If we *do* know that actions we take can be of aid to others, it is our responsibility before God to do them, even if “liberals” also think those actions are a good idea.

    • Michael Z says

      So, if you shoot someone, would you argue that it wasn’t your fault because your actions can’t change God’s timetable for when they die?

      Now, suppose you pointed a revolver at them and only one chamber was loaded, and pulled the trigger – would you be any less responsible if the gun went off? Would you argue that it was all dependent on God’s will because there was random chance involved?

      Now, say the gun has a thousand chambers and only one is loaded; you could shoot it at a dozen people and still there’s only a small chance someone would get hurt. But does that make you any less responsible for choosing to pull the trigger?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        Agree, this principle of “sovereignty” is completely without meaning.

        • senecagriggs says

          That’s certainly true if you’re not a believer.

          • Yet none of us who are making that argument are non-believers.

          • Again, “sovereignty” as used by too many religionist is an assertion without content. It is a “belief”, that is–opinion.

            Side note; I don’t think that term (sovereignty/sovereign) was used in an English translation until Darby’s–3x. Then it appears in the RSV 44x, then the ASV 1x, then the NIV 297x. Interestingly, the KJV has it 0x.

            There was a trend afoot that Darby initiated and the NIV finalized…

      • senecagriggs says

        I’m responsible for my part; God is responsible for his. He knows the timetable and the circumstances that lead to it..


        It is appointed for men once to die and after this the judgment.

        • Dana Ames says

          Sen, do please notice the context.

          “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

          In Hebrews, the writer is making a point about the sufficiency of Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice to do what it was meant to do, and there will be a second movement in the future, following on from the first. It’s not simply “there’s going to be death and then judgment – BOOM!” It’s that one thing follows on from the next, but with the looked-for outcome of ultimate deliverance and healing. In Jesus’ day among the Jews, “judgment” meant “God finally making everything the way it’s supposed to be.” Isn’t that what we really want, deep down? (and if not, why not?)


          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            It’s not simply “there’s going to be death and then judgment – BOOM!”

            Unfortunately, everyone seems to fixate on that part and that part only, cut out of the chapter and used as a scare-em-into-the-kingdom proof text.

            “judgment” meant “God finally making everything the way it’s supposed to be.” Isn’t that what we really want, deep down? (and if not, why not?)

            In this context, the word has been redefined to mean “Somebody (Thee, NOT Meee) Gets It In The Neck from God on the Last Day”. The image of “judgment” that keeps sticking in my head is Jack Chick’s one-panel version of The Great White Throne.

            It’s a major factor in my now-constant fear/panic attack.Not only am I afraid about coronavirus death, about the pain and suffering, about so much left undone, but after that God gets to do whatever He wants to me. ME as the Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God.

          • Again, Evangelicalism has become a suitcase of cliches.

    • David Cornwell says

      So Seneca, since God decides when we die, does he also decide how this will happen? And since God decides the “how” does this make what seems evil or bad to most of us good? For instance, I knew a young boy of 16 who passed out in the heat and fell off a tractor on this 16th birthday. The tractor ran over him and killed him. His mom was home making his birthday cake when she received the news.

      Did God pick the time and date of his death? If so, did he also pick the manner of his death? Is all of this within God’s “timetable?”

      If this is in God’s timetable, must this be defined as a “good?” Or does God just tell the devil to do this kiind of stuff and close his eyes while it happens?

      • senecagriggs says

        A discussion that cannot be hashed out in a blog.

        You either believe in the full sovereignty of the Creator God or you don’t.

        “Pays your money and takes your choice.”

        • I believe in God’s full sovereignty. But what does that mean? What does God do with his sovereignty? Does he share some of that with us? Are we partners with him, as Adam and Eve were in the garden, tilling the soil and being fruitful?

          And if we’re too rigid with sovereignty, what good is prayer?

        • David Cornwell says

          Seneca I noticed you always manage to avoid answering this question.

      • “Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states?”, John Piper asked. For Piper and his ilk, bringing about random death and destruction is the mark of a good God. Evil is indispensable; otherwise, as Jonathan Edwards put it, “the sense of good is comparatively dull and flat.”

    • –> “Can my actions actually change God’s timetable for my neighbor’s death? I would say no.”

      I guess if God has pre-ordained you to shoot your neighbor to death, you just might be right!

  4. senecagriggs says

    My own non-medical opinion, do not go to the hospital UNLESS you begin to experience breathing issues. Hospitals are dangerous places.

    • Many doctors would agree with that advice. Don’t go unless it’s life-threatening. If you have symptoms, talk to your regular doctor by phone.

    • Iain Lovejoy says

      But surely Seneca, you can’t change God’s timetable for your death by taking measures to protect yourself like avoiding hospitals, since that would be to deny the sovereignty of God? Or does this argument only apply when it is other people your actions endanger?

  5. Reno’s piece, especially the part about how people acted in 1918, is a classic example of the Frankfurtian sense of “bullshit” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Bullshit. This is not quite the same thing as a lie. The person making the claim is not trying to subvert the truth. Rather, the truth is irrelevant. How did people act in 1918? It doesn’t matter to Reno’s argument. I doubt that he either knows or cares. Rather, he inserts a claim that matches his argument. It might be true. It might not. It makes no difference.

  6. St. Louis MO had half the death rate from Spanish Flu that Philadelphia did because it implemented quarantine, isolation, and social distancing early on at the onset of the Spanish Influenza crisis. The same story is true of all towns and cities that isolated themselves and practiced social distancing within their boundaries as compared with those that didn’t. Many of these municipalities even required those who wanted to enter to quarantine first. The leaders of these municipalities exercised their governing responsibility to protect their citizens; the leaders of municipalities like Philadelphia, the ones that delayed and dragged their feet in implementing the necessary practices, did not. Case closed.

    • In these times, “bullshit” is an important concept. I’ve recently reread Frankfurt’s book on the subject. In light of it, all sorts of things make sense (or, better, show to make no sense at all).

      First Things generally is a level-headed, high-brow conservative journal populated with Catholics, Lutherans and random others. I get it, and read much (not all) of it. Generally, it’s informative and responsible (or has been up until now). Maybe it’s time for Reno to step down as editor. I will remember this when the time comes to resubscribe.

      (Maybe Pope Benedict is looking for something to do in his retirement?)

  7. Reno’s article is dressed up in Christian rhetoric about the resisting the kind dominion of death, but it’s really about the utilitarian moral argument that, ultimately, the lives and welfare of the many must take precedence over the lives and welfare of the few. I will concede that at some point, that is true in any calculation about what policy a society takes in dealing with maters of life and death. I don’t believe we’ve reached the point yet where it is taking too much of a toll on the lives and welfare of the many to protect the lives and welfare of the few (but then I’m one of the few!); but we may reach that point in the future. Let’s keep in mind that in this crisis, protecting the lives of the few so far has partly — and compellingly — been about making sure the medical system is not overloaded to the point that it can’t continue to protect the lives of the many; the only alternative to this is not treating the few, abandoning them, and letting them die of slow asphyxiation.

    • Correction: …Christian rhetoric about resisting the dominion of death….

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        It’s actually more of a “I don’t want anyone telling me what I can and can’t do, especially our lousy government” than how should we act and behave as Christians during a pandemic.

        Isn’t that pretty much what that Spring Beaker said?
        Isn’t death called “The Last Enemy” (to be defeated)?

        Wasn’t the early understanding of the Resurrection (“Christus Victor”) all about Victory over Death?

        Wasn’t the appeal of the Christian afterlife (“Resurrection of the Body”) in the early Church and its surrounding Hellenistic culture that Death/Hades did NOT win? That at the end of it all, not only would the dead escape the Underworld and live again but “Death & Hell” (Thanatos & Hades, gods of Death and the Land of the Dead) would themselves die?

    • –> “…dressed up in Christian rhetoric about the resisting the kind dominion of death…”

      Yep. And his sly, deceptive shift comes when he really makes this about “freedom” rather than life or death or anything to really do with Christianity. It’s actually more of a “I don’t want anyone telling me what I can and can’t do, especially our lousy government” than how should we act and behave as Christians during a pandemic.

      I would like to ask Reno if he truly believes God is the author of life and wishes that none would perish before knowing Him, because he certainly doesn’t think much about protecting people from a deadly disease.

      Reno is choosing death over life.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        It’s actually more of a “I don’t want anyone telling me what I can and can’t do, especially our lousy government” than how should we act and behave as Christians during a pandemic.

        Isn’t that pretty much what that Spring Beaker said?

  8. Let’s keep in mind that Reno is not an evangelical. He is Roman Catholic. His attitude percolates through much of the multifaceted Christian world, evangelical and non-evangelical alike. And among non-Christians/on-religious as well.

  9. “at some point, that is true in any calculation about what policy a society takes in dealing with maters of life and death. I don’t believe we’ve reached the point yet…”

    As an article I read this week so poignantly put it, Reno is ready to throw in the towel after less than two weeks. :-/

    • While the secular, humanistic countries of Europe are willing to go to the mat to protect the lives of their most vulnerable citizens, risking irrecoverable economic loss and catastrophic social disruption. Almost 50 Italian doctors have died in the fight against coronavirus. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

      • Christiane says

        if our own care-givers don’t get protective gear soon, we will lose many of them also, I fear

  10. Michael Z says

    I really don’t understand how people can treat this as a partisan issue, but I suspect it’s happening because the hardest-hit areas right now are “blue states.” Hopefully people will come to their senses soon, but I worry that some Trump-followers aren’t going to take this seriously until the outbreak in the South gets out of control and they start stacking bodies like lumber down in Louisiana and Mississippi…

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > how people can treat this as a partisan issue

      Perhaps partisanship (being in a political camp) rests UPON underlying attitudes towards society, institutions, and one’s neighbors?

      > Hopefully people will come to their senses soon, but I worry that some Trump-followers

      I suspect it will be mixed. Take northern [very old very rural mostly poor] Michigan [*1] where there are entire counties without medical centers. Some there are taking this seriously, bracing for what is coming, doing what they can – with very limited resources. Other’s are pointing at those big sinful dirty cities […with their large medical institutions…] and basically saying “Ha Ha!”.

      I’m really hoping for an equally mixed-bag result – probably the best case scenario. And not seeing counties just burned over by this thing.

      [*1] Often overlooked detail: ~80-85% of Michigan’s population lives on the I96/I94 corridor, within 20 miles of a passenger train station. ~75% of the state’s tax revenue comes from just that corridor. Reality does not correspond to many people’s picture of “Michigan”.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I really don’t understand how people can treat this as a partisan issue, but I suspect it’s happening because the hardest-hit areas right now are “blue states.”

      I have heard accounts of this in private correspondence – “Breitbart Christians” excited that COVID is going to kill all those Democrats in the Blue States. (Never mind that there are other people in the Blue States…) Maybe even being helped along by policy:

      Everything today is as polliticized as anything in the old USSR.
      Including Christians and churches.

    • I fear that the president’s urging of everyone to go to church on Easter Sunday will lead to some of his followers doing just that, with a huge uptick in deaths to follow. I truly hope he will do an about-face on that very soon, because his followers really adore him, and are likely to do anything in their power to show their loyalty to him.

  11. Andrew Zook says

    Reno’s article, almost strikes me as anti-Christ… when juxtaposed with DeLorenzo’s… What really struck me and upsets me the most is Reno’s attempt to make the common good measures we’re taking, (social distancing, canceling/closing etc) into an evil. He’s trying hard to make good into evil and evil into good… especially with his “Satan… perverse, demonic atmosphere” language. And he’s very purposely lifting up economy/commerce as The god to serve.
    But as is the case with crises like this, there’s always an unveiling… and some “pro-lifers” (not all) are being unmasked in this time…

  12. There have been some eye opening articles in the neglected areas of the Internet these past couple of weeks. It appears that the tension between public health and the health of commerce is putting an undue strain on those elements of society who, above all things, value the health of commerce. Unfortunately, they seem to be close to, or manipulating, the levers of power. Their argument is that we as a nation have to ‘balance’ what would be an acceptable toll in lives in order to get the ‘economy’ running again. Once again, they display Screwtape’s actuarial mindset, which leads to the warning labels on our products and medications.

    Mr. Reno’s article appeared to me to be a not-very-well disguised propaganda piece for the Chamber of Commerce crowd. I’m certain that Mr. Reno was well compensated for writing it and First Things for publishing it. I do not blame Trump or “Trumpism”. This lot, like the poor, ye have with you always.

    On my mind a lot recently is the built in reset switch that God built into the Hebrew economy in the Torah with the year of Jubilee. There is no evidence it was ever implemented, but God seems to have been keeping track, and after enough time had passed, He sent the Jews into exile to allow the land its Sabbaths. Since that time we have exhausted a good amount of energy trying to devise a system in which putting the foxes in charge of the hen house would result in a livable arrangement between foxes and hens. We seem to be incapable of pulling the reset switch on our own, so God does it for us.

    Maybe this is one of those times.

    Hope everyone stays healthy.

    • There is a legitimate argument that at some point the loss of well-being and lives of the majority who are not vulnerable to the virus but are vulnerable to catastrophic economic dislocation may grossly outweigh the loss of lives of the vulnerable to the virus — every social arrangement, in good times and bad, makes this kind of moral calculation, it’s not just a wartime triage reality — but we are not anywhere near that point at this time. Reno should not wrap his utilitarian morality up in religious rhetoric.

      The Chamber of Commerce crowd loves Trump. He’s there guy.

      • senecagriggs says

        Here it is Saturday; we’re talking about Trump again?

        • Given the circumstances, he is the (pun intended) elephant in the room. The atrocious situation this country finds itself in is due in some measure to his abominable lack of leadership.

        • Argue with Mule, not me – he brought up the name, and I responded in kind because I wanted to disagree with Mule’s claim about the man. I promise you I wouldn’t have brought it up, and haven’t here in weeks. This venue is not one in which management wants that name mentioned.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Because he has become a focus of all this, incarnating and illustrating the attitudes under scrutiny.

          And Christians are among the most Fanatical of his Base.

    • So God is pulling the “reset switch” by killing the old and otherwise vulnerable?

      • Burro (Mule) says

        I am as old and vulnerable as anyone I can think of, so I’m gonna answer a qualified ‘yes’ to that. I’d like to take a theological mulligan on this by making a few statement:

        Everybody dies
        God is not a monster
        God is not above using terrible events to achieve His purposes

        • –> “God is not above using terrible events to achieve His purposes”

          I might rephrase that as…

          -God will lift His protective hand at times when He has seen enough

          • Burro (Mule) says

            I’m kind of a heartless bastard, so yeah, your way of phrasing it is superior.

            I can tolerate more cruelty in God than is actually there.

            • –> “I can tolerate more cruelty in God than is actually there.”

              LOL. Yep. And some of us will struggle with some of the seeming cruelty in God forever. (Like me.) So I’m always trying to make more sense out of that angle, just for my own sake.

        • But when the foxes see that what God has allowed has disproportionately effected the hens, they think he prefers them over the hens. Aside from the revelation in Jesus, these kinds of catastrophes in the world generally confirm the foxes in their belief that God is like them, a predator who hunts down the weak and sick, not like Jesus, a suffering servant. The foxes don’t see Jesus, they see a predator like unto them.

          • Burro (Mule) says

            You thought that the Almighty was altogether one such as yourselves

            – somewhere in the Psalms

            • Sadly, many of the hens have been beaten by their fox masters into believing that God is like a predator too, and that he prefers the foxes. Sometimes I believe it myself.

            • Ironies abound. Dawkins is excoriated by believers when he talks about the “blind, pitiless, indifference” of evolution. Now we are presented with the cruel god who lets things take their course. The sensitive soul recoils from both visions of the world. The less-sensitive of us are tempted to ask wherein lies the difference?

              Ironies abound. The relentless individualists of the West are dominated by faceless corporations. And a people who crave piety embrace capitalism, the most spiritually deadening economic/social system imaginable.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Mr. Reno’s article appeared to me to be a not-very-well disguised propaganda piece for the Chamber of Commerce crowd.

      i.e. Those that want “all stores open and churches packed” this Easter?

      • Packed with corpses.

        • Well if they were “packed with corpses” that would change every denialist’s mind of course. But that’s not what will happen. Most of the people who contract the virus will have no ill effects but they’ll pass it on to their neighbors and somebody’s grandfather/grandmother or brother/sister with COPD or asthma will die needlessly. And the contagion will last longer and spread further than it had to.

          • But that ignores the ancillary effects – if the hospitals are packed with COVID patients, there won’t be any room or staff to treat other people – who also might die of their illnesses or injuries. You might die of Coronavirus without even catching it.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              That’s why the USNS Mercy (Navy Hospital Ship) just docked at San Pedro and its sister ship at NYC. They’re to serve as the heavy-duty non-COVID hospital//trauma centers for the area.

              My East Coast informants also said they’re doing something similar out there, reserving one area hospital/trauma center for non-COVID patients.

  13. ” It appears that the tension between public health and the health of commerce is putting an undue strain on those elements of society who, above all things, value the health of commerce. Unfortunately, they seem to be close to, or manipulating, the levers of power. Their argument is that we as a nation have to ‘balance’ what would be an acceptable toll in lives in order to get the ‘economy’ running again. Once again, they display Screwtape’s actuarial mindset, which leads to the warning labels on our products and medications.”

    A hit, a very palpable hit!

    • I have to play Devil’s advocate here: Let’s be clear that at some point severe economic dislocation may result in extreme loss of well-being, health and lives for many outside the population of those at extreme risk from the coronavirus. I don’t think we’ve reached that point yet, but if the economy remains paralyzed to the extent it is now for a few months or a year, we will reach that point. There will not be enough food or other necessaries at the markets, there will not be someone to respond promptly to non-coronavirus emergency calls, the toll of depression and other mental illness and social dysfunction will become worse and worse, and more deadly, etc. And I say that as someone who, along with my wife, is in several high risk categories with regard to cornavirus/COVID-19.

      • Agreed. But as I pointed out above, Reno and his I’ll are advocating throwing in the towel even before the full effects of “flattening the curve” can be felt. Half- measures are almost worse than nothing, yielding economic pain without containing the virus (which will cause even more pain if left unchecked).

        • Right.

          • David Greene says

            You can check your own state for when the curve might go flat. Here in Washington State we are not yet flat but are projected to have enough regular hospital beads when the virus peaks, ICU specific beds are a bit short in the projection but not by much..

            • I haven’t been an Inslee fan prior to this, and may not be one even much after it, but I really like how he has handled the crisis here in WA state. He had shown strong leadership focused on the problem. I hope the data is correct. It doesn’t “feel” like it’s spiraling out of control, whereas a week ago it felt like it was heading that way. Keeping the prayers up for all.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              Note that Peak Medical Resource Use is right around Easter, when “Businesses will Reopen and Churches will be Packed”. (And if so, the epidemic will take off, even worse. But this is All Fake News(TM), remember…)

        • The early Christians took care of their sick non-Christian neighbors, but Reno thinks the Christian thing to do is “eat, drink, and be merry” — and go on Spring Break — in the face of pandemic. Sounds more like what used to be wrongly typified as a pagan attitude to life.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Telemetry from Kinsa smart thermometers shows that cases of “atypical illness” showing fever started a rapid decline once “stay-at-home” lockdowns were put in place. Checking my own state, Kinsa’s data showed a steep rise until limited measures were put in place around March 13-15, at which point it plateaued with a slight downward trend until full measures on March 19-20. At which point the curve went into a steep decline.

          The site says this is for ALL atypical fevers, not necessarily COVID-19. The quick drop might be due to Influenza proper with its short incubation period. More likely COVID-19 will follow with its one-to-two-week lag time.

  14. senecagriggs says

    There is a Very Real “Human Cost” in a global recession. Let us not be naive. People will die.

    • There likely already have been deaths as a result of economic dislocation related to the coronavirus — the poor always get hit first and hardest by it. It’s bad enough for the poor in the US, but in places like India where many people scrounge for their daily bread from day to day, a twenty-one day nationwide quarantine is like a death sentence.

    • There is a solution to that – the wealthy share their wealth.

      • Exactly, it really is quite that simple. It’s abominable that we have the available resources yet aren’t.

        • Burro (Mule) says

          Yeah, everybody living like actual Christians would solve so many issues.

          Hell, leave Christ out of it. We’ve never had a shortage of seriously good advice. Klaasie could point you to a dozen sources. Nobody’s ever solved the problem of how to mass-manufacture the ‘ganas‘, the desire to put it into action. So, as usual, we have two non-Christian alternatives suggesting themselves to us as reasonable courses of action:

          * Stick Granny on the ice floe to make the numbers for the next quarter, so I can buy my 19 year old mistress that necklace she’s been pestering me about

          * Take what you need from the rich people (conveniently defined as two or so levels above you) at gunpoint, then jail them if they complain

          Actually, one of the more sensible ideas I’ve heard bandied about is the ‘dumping money from helicopters’ idea that Hannity et. al. are complaining so loudly about. Just print it. I mean, c’mon, it’s not like inflation is a big problem right now, is it? Sticking demand in at the bottom would work ever so much more efficiently that top-loading it where it would stagnate while looking for ‘investment opportunities’ (read, in the lack of genuine technological innovation, speculative bubbles)

    • –> “There is a Very Real “Human Cost” in a global recession. Let us not be naive. People will die.”

      Hypocrisy alert!!! Hypocrisy alert!!!

      Earlier, you wrote: “Can my actions actually change God’s timetable for my neighbor’s death? I would say no. [ Within the sovereignty of God, no dies outside His eternal timetable.]”

      Yet now you seem to conveniently ignore God’s sovereign hand in our demises by making THESE deaths by global recession seem more egregious.

      Which is it, Sen? Are some pre-ordained deaths better or worse than others? Are some deaths ones you can slough off to the pre-ordained hand of God, while others make you uncomfortable?

      • senecagriggs says

        People will die and God’s sovereignty is quite compatabile.

        • HUG says it best right below…

          “So better they die of primary COVID than secondary economic disruption?
          Because that’s what your choice translates into.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      So better they die of primary COVID than secondary economic disruption?

      Because that’s what your choice translates into.

      Because of COVID’s incubation onset lag time, any such measures will have a lag time of two-three weeks before they show visible results. Lift the restrictions too early (“Churches Packed for Easter”) and the contagion will take off again. Britain is already heading into “Italy” mode.

  15. Coronavirus is getting worse and worse in south central PA, where I live. We are frightened for our lives, and the lives of our loved ones, and the viability of the greater society as a whole. In the event that for some reason I cannot say it later, I want to express my gratitude for this community, for all of the commenters without exception, and for CM and the great writer-contributors who make it possible. You have changed my life, for the better. Thank you.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      According to my sources in south central PA, Lancaster & York counties are already on shutdown; so far, Adams county (more rural) isn’t, but there’s talk of it (either in-county or statewide) coming soon.

      • Here in Lancaster we are in shelter-in-place. Several nursing homes in the area right around us have had coranvirus cases confirmed on premises. The hospital capacity is not nearly enough for the surge of patients bound to come from our many nursing homes/retirement communities in the area. A retired couple from our church recently moved into one of the effected facilities.

    • +1. Thank the Lord for what Michael Spencer felt led to begin here at iMonk long ago, and for CM and the others who’ve continued it, and for all the other daily contributors, commenters and posters who help us “get by.”

  16. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    In contrast, Reno’s article is preposterous, Pharisaic, and a complete failure to discern what it means to be a Christian in the world, especially in times of crisis.

    Reno strikes me as Over-Spiritualizing things — a common trait in a lot of Christians.
    Take that route and like the Gnostics of old, you can become so Spiritual you cease to be human.

    And the stress of the pandemic is bringing out Teh Crazy across the board.

    • –> “Reno strikes me as Over-Spiritualizing things.”

      I have a saying: I believe we tend to over-spiritualize things that aren’t really spiritual, under-spiritualize things that really are, and really have no idea which is which.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        Making the distinction in the first place is a symptom of an underlying disorder, a denial of Chalcedon.

  17. Klasie Kraalogies says

    I love my Christian friends, here and elsewhere, but when I read all this, as well as the really strange arguments about providence and Divine timetables- man, I am thankful I am on the sidelines of these specific debates.

    Methinks people should read Mike’s (effectively Stoic) post of yesterday again.

    • There are times when my own Christian friends make it very difficult.

      Sorry for whatever role I play in you feeling glad to be outside of it all.

    • CM original article was right on target and presented correctly. CM refuted Reno;s commentary with his opinion based on historical facts and examples of real time efforts from 1918. Of course Reno and First Things have the right to free speech , to express their views and freedom of religion. We as the public have the right , the duty to accept or reject opinions, hopefully based on objective and defined facts. If we chose to go totally on individual faith that is fine as long as we do not harm others. Again, my favorite thought about how we should conduct ourselves as Christians, work like all is up to us and pray but know it is all up to God. Many good comments here covering a wide spectrum and that is the beauty of our society. Every event in history creates a new “normal”, creates a change , perhaps very subtle and we move on. I would say this is how God made us to operate. Personally, I believe in three weeks that will be enough evidence, facts or educated decision making to make a rational decision on how to move forward. In the meantime I thank God that the nation at least is helping those affected by this economic crisis and hope that continues until we are back to the new normal. This does make me think about the fear and panic that people in the past had to deal with plagues and issues that they had no idea what caused them. Knowledge does give us some degree of freedom and how to deal with issues

  18. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Wartburg Watch has a regular commenter who’s convinced (hinting at Private Revelation, dreams, and visions) that COVID-19 is God’s Wrath upon Us for Unbelief and Corruption; he has been commenting mini-sermons with lotsa proof texts (mostly from the OT, with one exception from Revelation) about God chastizing through Pestilence.

    I’ve been sending my writing partner (the burned-out preacher) some of this guy’s comment/sermons. His latest reaction:

    He writes: Many of our pastors are doing violence to God’s Word to twist it into saying something that it does not say.

    And then does violence to God’s Word by stretching a prophecy that concerns only Jerusalem and forces it to apply to a situation that is taking place 2,650 years after the Zephaniah prophecy was written. Plus, he acts as if the current COVID-19 epidemic is the only plague that has ever occurred in the 2,000 years the church has ever existed.

    Said comment/sermons are getting longer and longer; I think the guy’s losing it.

  19. senecagriggs says

    Assuming I survive, I would be quite pleased to experience Covid 19 this week. Once I was no longer toxic I could go to the store everyday; pretty much resume my typical life.

    Also, I could make a couple of flights and see some family I need to see.

    Since I have no immune issues or cardiac issues, about 97% chance I’d be just fine.

    Whether I recovered or not; My Apriori, God’s sovereignty rules. But I’d be less stressed if it was no longer a waiting game.

    • I hear ya. Additionally, assuming it DOES get worse and the hospitals near us all ARE overwhelmed, wouldn’t you want to be one of the initial cases than one of the “we have too many now”?

      But man, o man… putting your life on the line for a spin at the roulette table and if it comes up 00… hello awful death.

      C’mon, Seneca… what’s God telling you to do? Go ahead, take a spin on the roulette wheel, you’ll be fine?

      • senecagriggs says

        God’s telling me to read His Word, seek His wisdom and pursue Holiness.

        What’s God telling you R.R.

        • To help others find peace through this and pray for them. Thanks for asking!

          • One sounds like the priest who passed on the road.. the other sounds like a Samaritan. I wonder who’s more right…

    • How much immunity and how long it lasts after recovering from COVID-19 is an open question. In China, some fully recovered patients have recently contracted the disease again, and some of those are asymptomatic but still contagious. One thing for certain: if you get it, you will be extremely contagious to those in your personal orbit, and they may end up in a worse place than you, assuming you recover. Better to avoid it altogether.

  20. Perhaps theirs a balance to be found (I hope) between protecting our vulnerable neighbors getting the economy going again. The attempt at full stop is prudent right now. But folks will eventually have to get back to work.

    I see both sides of the argument being valid. But ascribing anti-Christ to either side isn’t real helpful.

    • The one side is only valid if one prioritizes theology over people. And that is the one thing that really got Jesus pissed in the Gospels.

      • True.

        I confess I’m probably too worried about folks without a job and the hopelessness of not knowing when this will end.

        • Exactly.

          If you knew that one month of economic hardship would result in eliminating Covid-19, then it’d be an easy call.

          But what if we have six months of economic hardship and it DOESN’T eliminate the thing. Then we have people still getting sick and dying AND ALSO without any source of income.

          The worst case scenario is pretty bleak.

          • Indeed Rick. Lord Jesus please with us all through this. We are afraid.

            • Control the things you can control. Take care of your family. Love God and your neighbor. Re-read Mike Bell’s Friday post. Think one day at a time. Trust the process that one month of this will have an impact. Try to freak out a little less each day.

              Peace to you today, Joel.

              • Thank you brother. I will do all of these things this week. God’s peace to you and your family.

  21. Italy has lost ten thousand live to coronavirus, despite extraordinary efforts to flatten the curve in the last weeks and treat those with the disease. I get the feeling the Chinese government was not being honest about the mortality rate.

  22. Does anybody know the whereabouts of Rudy Giuliani?

  23. Klasie Kraalogies says

    As always, it is the wrong people who apologise…

    Hang in there Rick!

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Meant as a reply to Rick Ro’s reply to my comment.

    • (Smiley face)

      Well, I’ve read my Bible. The best modelers of Jesus and God are the ones who willingly throw themselves under the bus and acknowledge that they are part of the problem. (see Ezra, Nehemiah)

  24. Dana Ames says
  25. Rhode Island police and national guard are stopping cars with NY license plates from entering the state. They are also going door to door in RI to enforce mandatory quarantine on all New Yorkers known to have arrived in the state in recent weeks. The federal government is saying it may quarantine parts of NY, NJ, and CT, to which Governor Cuomo of NY says that would be an act of war declared by feds against states. Our social and political fabric is unraveling; I hope and pray it does not come to civil unrest and violence.

    • NY asked for ventilators, but it looks like the federal government might send tanks instead.

  26. Kent Haley says

    The tone in this post is disappointing. Calling a Christian brother’s opinion pharisaic because believes worship and sacraments should continue in a time of crisis seems to be a little over the top. Reno himself has perhaps painted other Christians with a rather broad brush, but if we as Christians believe in the value of worship, particularly liturgical, sacramental worship, it seems we should at least hear his viewpoint. I support the current measures being spread to stop the spread of the virus, but one does have to wonder what will be the outcome of all of this, how long it will last, and what the spiritual effects will be. Maybe Reno is totally wrong, but it doesn’t seem that out of line for a Christian to be concerned about the long term impacts of public worship being completely shut down for a period time. If restaurants can continue to offer carry out food, why can’t churches distribute the sacraments in a manner that observes the proper social distancing protocols?

  27. senecagriggs says

    Until the Lord returns, there will always be natural disasters. At the very least they are a reminder of our dependence upon God. Covid 19 is just the latest. Others will follow

    As long as there are blogs there will be arguments/disagreements and criticisms.

    • As long as there are arguments/disagreements and criticisms, there will always be blogs, or something like them.

  28. in good times and bad
    eyelids get just as heavy
    and beds still await

    • anonymous says

      And I dreamed I was dying, I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
      And looking back down at me, smiled reassuringly
      And I dreamed I was flying, and high up above my eyes could clearly see
      The statue of liberty, sailing away to sea, and I dreamed I was flying
      But we come on a ship they called Mayflower
      We come on a ship that sailed the moon
      We come in the ages’ most uncertain hours and sing an American tune
      And it’s alright, oh it’s alright, it’s alright, you can be forever blessed
      Still tomorrow’s gonna be another working day and I’m trying to get some rest
      That’s all I’m trying, to get some rest
      Source: LyricFind
      Songwriters: Paul Simon
      American Tune lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group