After almost two weeks of government-advised physical distancing, the President has announced a 30-day extension to this part of the fight against the coronavirus. As various numbers associated with this pandemic continue to grow, especially the shocking prediction that U.S. deaths could top 100,000, we must never forget that behind each and every number is a precious life made in the image of God. Numbers are necessary to communicate scale, of course, but they can also obscure that what we’re talking about here are real people.
Speaking of numbers and names, over three million Americans have filed for unemployment in recent weeks. Combine that with the volatile stock market, and the economic toll of this virus is beyond staggering. Still, behind these dollar figures are also real people, many trying to figure out how to keep their homes and feed their kids.
A one-time check from the government won’t be enough for restaurant and small business owners, hotel and shopping center employees, barbers and stylists, bus drivers and substitute teachers, and many others, who face a financial crisis if they practice social distance, potentially as real and damaging as the sickness they could acquire or spread if they do not.
The tension here is real, and I’m not talking about spring breakers who scoffed at the health and well-being of others to have their own fun or those spouting despicable “if they die, they die” sort of rhetoric. I’m talking about my friend Dale who, after contracting a particularly nasty bacteria during a routine surgery several months ago, would be at tremendous risk if he contracted this virus. He needs others to help slow the spread of this disease by staying home.
But I’m also talking about other friends, legal refugees from a war-torn area of Africa, who go to my church and rely on wages now lost because a local hotel closed until Memorial Day and fired its employees. Certainly, unemployment assistance will help for a while, but it’s impossible to know if their long-term security is now in jeopardy.
As more hospitals reach capacity and COVID-19 cases rise, our city, state, and federal leaders are making some of the hardest choices imaginable outside of wartime. While physical distancing is the most important thing we can do right now to slow this virus and save additional lives, the consequences of doing this will be devastating for many.
Now, I’m in no place to offer different policy solutions, of course, but I am convinced that a Christian worldview can help us think through these tensions.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, John Stonestreet and G. Shane Morris