By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
Whatever follows the coronavirus pandemic, there will be major political and cultural changes in America. We’re in a world-wide crisis that will test our moral standards of political legitimacy. As we’ve been hunkered down in our homes hoping the plague will pass over us, all of us have had time to think about what comes next--especially old people like me.
The future of post-pandemic America will be different than how it looked just a few months ago. In politics, it’s deja vu all over again, circa 2008 and the TARP bailout. The Trump administration and congress are working together for the first time since 2016 to prepare a trillion dollar stimulus package that ignores the massive deficits it will create.
At the personal level, America is in a lockdown mode with social distancing. Schools have been closed and meetings of over 50 people are banned. Restaurants have been limited to take-out orders, and cities have imposed curfews until more is known about the spread of the virus. Main streets and malls around the country are eerily quiet, and toilet paper is hard to find.
In religion, the myriad variations of the church remain strong community organizations, but aside from the white evangelicals who elected Trump, Christianity has become irrelevant to American politics. The only effective voice of religion in politics comes from the charlatan white evangelicals who support Trump and his Republican Party with their distorted partisan doctrines
America’s churches have mostly elderly congregations and services that include more than 50 people. With Easter approaching, it’s uncertain how churches will conduct their services. While most schools and colleges have cancelled classes and are experimenting with distance learning to avoid crowds, few churches have gone that far.
The greatest commandment to love God and to love others as we love ourselves is a moral imperative of Christianity, while social distancing is a medical imperative necessitated by the coronavirus. How can churches nourish the souls of their congregations while protecting their health? Easter will be a test for pastors to balance those conflicting priorities.
Congregational worship in church sanctuaries has long been a priority of Christianity, and that enabled it to become the world’s most popular and powerful religion. Jesus never emphasized worship; he emphasized caring for the needs of others. Exclusivist church doctrine subordinated the universal moral teachings of Jesus to the popularity of the church, and the mainstream church has avoided politics to remain popular in a nation of diverse politics.
Where do we go from here? The crisis will be over when a vaccine is developed, but before that happens America will elect a president and a new congress. COVID-19 has challenged the expectation of increased life expectancy by targeting the elderly. That includes both Trump and Biden, and it makes Biden’s choice of his vice president critical.
Less than a month ago in a raucous rally in North Charleston Trump described the coronavirus threat as a Democratic hoax to prevent his re-election. Later he took issue with health officials who called it a serious threat Only in the last two weeks has Trump admitted the ugly reality of COVID-19, and he has dishonestly denied that he ever suggested otherwise.
Trump has described himself as a wartime president and declared a national emergency giving himself extraordinary powers. In November America may have to vote by absentee ballot, and we should expect Trump to use all of his powers to influence the election in his favor. His demonstrated lack of moral integrity in the past should prepare us for trouble ahead.
On How the coronavirus will change our lives forever--from music to politics to medicine. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/03/20/what-will-have-changed-forever-after-coronavirus-abates/?arc404=true.
David Ignatius has described the coronavirus as a test of our national character in foreign affairs. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/where-would-the-us-stand-in-a-post-pandemic-assessmentm/2020/03/19/e5642cf8-6a0d-11ea-abef-020f086a3fab_story.html?utm_campaign=wp_todays_headlines&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_headlines.
On Trump’s eruption at an NBC reporter says it all about his alternate reality about coronavirus. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/03/20/trumps-eruption-an-nbc-reporter-says-it-all-about-his-alternate-reality-coronavirus/?utm_campaign=wp_evening_edition&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_evening.
After describing the coronavirus threat as a Democrratic hoax, Trump then spent weeks downplaying coronavirus and has now declared himself a “wartime president” as the U.S.gears up to fight it. See https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-trump-declares-himself-a-wartime-president-2020-3?fbclid=IwAR2q0RZDLJRs9hIT5mkanHVvGmUWXPc1p2YMZy_-oYetU9mmnemdrLMz_Ew.
Jennifer Rubin has cited a study in the UK that predicts 1.1 million coronavirus fatalities in the U.S., and described Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis as the biggest blunder in presidential history, See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/18/trumps-lie-is-worse-than-truth/?utm_campaign=wp_post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most.
On Joe Biden as a Christian Democrat who is well suited to be America’s next president, see https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/16/joe-biden-election-liberal-moderate-christian-democrat/?utm_source=PostUp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20376&utm_term=Flashpoints%20OC&.
Annie Lowery has described the current employment crisis as Not a Recession but an Ice Age. See https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/quantifying-coming-recession/608443/.
Mnuchin has warned that Senate inaction on a stimulus bill could lead to 20% unemployment. See https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/03/17/source-mnuchin-warns-senate-inaction-could-lead-to-20-unemployment/.
Yesterday the Dow tumbled 900 points to end Wall Street’s worst week since 2008. See https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/19/stock-market-futures-open-to-close-news.html.
In my commentary posted on February 29 urging S.C. voters to vote in the Democratic primary that day, I noted that the night before Trump had told a raucous rally in North. Charleston that the coronavirus threat was a Democratic hoax. The S.C. primary vote gave the Biden campaign a critical boost. See http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2020/02/if-you-live-in-south-carolina-vote.html.
On the future of a church that has lost its moral compass and the end times:
(2/8/15): Promoting Religion Through Evangelism: Bringing Light or Darkness?
(2/15/15): Is Religion Good or Evil?
(4/5/15): Seeing the Resurrection in a New Light
(4/19/15): Jesus: A Prophet, God’s Only Son, or the Logos? http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/04/jesus-prophet-god-only-son-or-logos.html
(10/4/15): Faith and Religion: The Same but Different
(7/9/16): Back to the Future: Race, Religion, Rights and a Politics of Reconciliation
(8/5/16): How Religion Can Bridge Our Political and Cultural Divide http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/08/how-religion-can-bridge-our-political.html
(9/17/16): A Moral Revival to Restore Legitimacy to Our Politics
(9/24/16): The Evolution of Religion and Politics from Oppression to Freedom
(11/5/16): Religion, Liberty and Justice at Home and Abroad
(12/31/16): E Pluribus Unum, Religion and a Politics of Reconciliation
(1/7/17): Religion and Reason as Sources of Political Legitimacy, and Why They Matter
(1/21/17): Religion and Reason Redux: Religion Is Ridiculous
(1/28/17): Saving America from the Church
(3/18/17): Moral Ambiguity in Religion and Politics
(4/15/17): Easter and the Christian Paradox
(4/22/17): The Relevance of Jesus and the Irrelevance of the Church in Today’s World
(4/29/17): A Wesleyan Alternative for an Irrelevant Church
(6/24/17): The Evolution of Religion, Politics and Law: Back to the Future?
(7/1/17): Religion, Moral Authority and Conflicting Concepts of Legitimacy
(7/15/17): Religion and Progressive Politics
(7/22/17): Hell No!
(8/12/17): The Universalist Teachings of Jesus as a Remedy for Religious Exclusivism
(10/7/17): A 21st Century Reformation to Restore Reason to American Civil Religion http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/10/a-21st-century-reformation-to-restore.html.
(12/23/17): If Democracy Survives the Trump Era, Can the Church Survive Democracy? http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/12/if-democracy-survives-trump-era-can.html.
(3/3/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America’s Holy War
(3/17/18): Jefferson’s Jesus and Moral Standards in Religion and Politics
(3/31/18): Altruism: The Missing Ingredient in American Christianity and Democracy
(4/7/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Need for a Moral Reformation
(4/28/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Virtues and Vices of Christian Morality
(5/5/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Nostalgia as an Obstacle to Progress
(5/12/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christianity and Making America Great Again
(7/14/18): Musings on Why Christians Should Put Moral Standards Over Mystical Beliefs
(8/4/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religious Problems and Solutions in Politics
(8/11/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Changing Morality in Religion and Politics
(9/1/18): Musings on the American Civil Religion and Christianity at a Crossroads
(9/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of Christian Universalism
(10/6/18): Musings on Moral Universalism in Religion and Politics http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/10/musings-on-moral-universalism-in.html.
(11/3/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist: Has God Blessed Us or Damned Us?
(11/10/18): Musings on the End Times: God’s Rapture or Satan’s Rupture?
(12/1/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Mystical Logos
(12/15/18): Musings on the Great Commission and Religious and Political Tribalism
(12/22/18): Musings on Faith and Works: The Unity of All Believers and The Last Judgment
(2/9/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Hypocrisy of American Christianity
(3/2/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Post-Christian America
(3/9/19): Musings on the Degradation of Democracy in a Post-Christian America
(3/16/19): Musings on the Evolution of Christian Exclusivism to Universalism
(3/23/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Thinking Outside the Box
(5/4/19): Musings on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
(5/11/19): Musings on the Relevance of Jefferson’s Jesus in the 21st Century
(5/18/19): Outsiders Versus Insiders in Religion, Legitimacy and Politics
(5/25/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Divinity and Moral Teachings of Jesus
(6/8/19): The Moral Failure of the Church to Promote Altruism in Politics
(6/15/19): Back to the Future: A 21st Century Pentecost for the Church
(6/22/19): The Universal Family of God: Where Inclusivity Trumps Exclusivity
(7/6/19): Musings on Democrats, Busing and Racism: It’s Deja Vu All Over Again
(7/13/19): Musings on Sovereignty and Conflicting Loyalties to God and Country
(8/3/19): Musings on the Dismal Future of the Church and Democracy in America
(8/10/19): Musings on Christian Nationalism: A Plague on the Church and Democracy
(8/31/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Politics of Christian Zionism
(9/7/19): Musings on the Self-Destruction of Christianity and American Democracy
(9/14/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Chaos as a Prelude to a New Creation
(9/21/19): An Afterword on Religion, Legitimacy and Politics from 2014-2019
(10/5/19): Musings on the Moral Relevance of Jesus to Democracy
(11/9/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Virtual Alternative to a Failing Church
(11/16/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Irrelevance of Morality in Politics
(11/23/19): Musings on Jesus and Christ as Conflicting Concepts in Christianity
(12/7/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religious Triumphalism and Politics
(12/14/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Prophets, Scripture and God’s Truth
(12/21/19): Musings on Advent and a Not-so-Merry Christmas for American Democracy
(12/28/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the End as a New Beginning
(1/11/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christians as a Moral Minority
(2/1/20): Musings on the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Altar of Partisan Politics