Friday, May 1, 2020

Our New Normal

Our nation is beginning to come out of the Coronavirus lock-down as states are slowly rescinding their stay at home orders. All of us are looking forward to returning to normal. But what exactly does this mean? What is normal in a world coming out of the pandemic crisis? What is normal when the Coronavirus is still with us? As much as we long for the old days – old as recent as three or four months ago, a return to these days is not likely to come anytime soon. Too much has happened. Like it or not, our nation has been profoundly changed.

First of all, the virus is still with us and the threat of being infected by COVID-19 remains. The pandemic has made us wary of being too close to other people. How long will it take for people to feel comfortable in a crowded sports arena or theater? The airline industry is currently reeling from the pandemic. Flights are down by 80-90%. This isn’t the result of governmental control or regulation. It is because people are choosing not to fly. How long will it take before people feel comfortable sharing air on a jet with 150 other people and sitting next to people they don’t know? The cruise industry was booming three months ago. Over 100 ships now sit in port empty. How long will it take for people to feel comfortable sharing space with 3000 other passengers? This is the new normal.

Millions of people have been laid off due to the shut-down of our economy. Unemployment has gone from historic lows to historic highs, all in three months. They are off work and anxious to return, but for many there is no job to return to. The shut-down of thousands of small-businesses have forced many to close permanently. They will not return. This is the new normal.

And then there is the sudden political power that has fallen into the hands of our politicians, power that is hard for them not to seize. Over two and a half trillion dollars has suddenly been pulled out of thin air and they are salivating for more and more. The sad thing is, this is what America wants—give me more and more. It reminds me of the words of Solomon: “The leach has two daughters, ‘Give,’ ‘Give’ (Proverbs 30:15). It is a temporary salve. It seems wonderful, until this influx of cash causes inflation to explode. There is a term for a managed economy. It’s called socialism. But this is our new normal.

We should expect many efforts by politicians seeking to exert their control. More and more we are finding ourselves under the “direction” of our leaders. They have decided which businesses and products are “essential” and which ones are not. Liquor stores are essential while barber shops are not. And a single governor has the authority to mandate whether or not his or her state is open for business or which products should be sold. In our new normal we should expect many other mandates. For example, enforced mandatory vaccinations are probably on the horizon. I am a great proponent of vaccinations. Not only do they help protect me from infection, just as important, they help protect others through herd immunity. I feel I have a duty to care for my neighbor. So, I get my annual flu shot. But I recognize this is my decision and others may not hold the same position. The government should not mandate this decision for me, and they should not infringe upon the authority of parents over their own children. Vaccinations should be left to the liberty and discretion of individuals. Of course, we could debate endlessly about this. The point is, our new normal will see many infringements upon our freedoms.

How long will it take for hospitals and nursing homes to be open to visitors? This is important to me as a pastor. It is hard to care for the sick from a distance. I’m not blaming the healthcare industry. They are acting out of prudence. This is just our new normal.

We’ve been reminded how fragile the supply chain is in our nation. Overnight, toilet paper became a precious commodity. There are many common products we use daily that are hard to get. Try to find a package of baker’s yeast right now. Because of COVID-19 outbreaks among workers in meat-packing plants, some meats shortages are occurring. While these issues will hopefully be resolved in the short term, they are still a part of our new normal.

And then there is life in the local church. What will this look like? Will we immediately return to the way things were before the pandemic, back to the “old days” of 3-4 months ago? Churches, too, will have to be flexible as they adjust to the new normal. While we are all looking forward to getting back to normal, we must be patient and realize we live in a world of change, all under the direction of our God who rules all things.

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