“I am sending you out like sheep amongst wolves, so be wise as serpents yet as innocent as doves.” - Matt 10:16
As a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre I have seen many zombie/end of the world flicks over the course of my life, not only have these movies entertained me immensely but strangely they’ve solidified certain insights about the human psyche, a lot of which are coming to the fore now in the state of current world events.
Currently at the time of writing this article in Australia we have 565 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 (Corona virus) 37 of which are in my home state. Each day these numbers are rising so who knows where these number will be when this article is published (or when you may read this article). Currently the whole of Italy is in a lock-down and we have fears that this will be enforced here in Australia also to slow the rate of infection.
The reason I shared the verse at the beginning of my article is this… this virus is a real danger, a very real threat, to our health, to our lives, to society, to the economy and the world at large. Therefore, the fear that these uncertainties bring are very real indeed. Fear is the reason toilet paper is running out, fear is the reason people are angered because they can only purchase one loaf of bread, fear spreads and engulfs… just like a virus.
If you have watched any zombie or post apocalyptic themed movie you will see that once the threat is released, this fear and panic is played out in full force in front of you… Masses of people descending into madness in a desperate attempt at self-preservation. A great example of this is in the movie ‘War of the Worlds’ starring Tom Cruise. There’s a scene in the middle where Ray Ferrier (played by Tom Cruise) and his family are in their vehicle (the only running automobile for miles) and jealous anger looms from the surrounding mob at this family who, “gets to have a car and they don’t”. The endangered Ray pulls out a gun to protect his family when suddenly a stander-by outguns Ray and he barely escapes with his daughter whom he quickly grabs from the back seat. In the next scene you see his family take refuge in a nearby café and gunshots ring out as people try to take claim of the vehicle which slowly drives off in the rain… this is what mob mentality and survival of the fittest brings… a descent into self-centered chaos.
You will start to see this in small scale right in front of you now... people fighting in Coles for the last can of tomato sauce or the last roll of toilet paper. Hoarding, anger erupting at supermarket staff for EFTPOS machines being offline for a few minutes.
Magnify the threat, the lack of whatever resource you need, the wait in line for bare necessities and witness the magnification of human nature.
Most of us are civil, welcoming, patient and giving when these things are plentiful, when things take no time, when things cost – but don’t truly cost. But true civility, true patience, true charity and love only exist when these things are in lack, when you don’t know if there is any ‘more’ coming or whatever you are after will cost you more than you ever had bargained for. True charity only exists when you value them above your base human instincts. They only exist when they are ‘part’ of you and ‘apart’ from all external circumstance.
One of my favorite sages/Christian/theologians/mystics is Emanuel Swedenborg - his insight into these things is beyond anyone I’ve read. His take on all these things is this… Your intention or what he calls your ‘inner loves’ come to the fore in the afterlife and sometimes on earth also, these things can be hidden here on earth due to civility, public expectation, reputation, the law or a myriad of other external influences… but take these external barriers away from the individual and slowly but surely their true nature (or loves) is revealed whether they be good or for evil.
So today and from tomorrow on be wary, be wise as serpents and know that once base, unregenerate human nature takes over it will be survival of the fittest for most people. This is the time to be wary that not everyone will see you as you see them, as a human being deserving of dignity, respect, care, love or when the worst comes even the basic needs such as water, food and shelter.
Our only hope – be as innocent as doves.
As believers though, as ones who truly value these virtues (as our inner loves) because of their goodness alone and because these virtues honor God and cause the resultant love and care of our neighbour, these will still be in place if fear takes hold. If they don’t we need to reevaluate ourselves and refocus on the one who holds the universe in his hands – the one who calls us to love our neighbour, just as we love ourselves. We don’t have to resort to our base human instincts to become as low (or lower than the animal) to survive at all costs. We can rise above this and be who we are called to be in this world - love, salt and light.
We are no more, nor no less important than the person next to us in line in the grocery store, or the individual behind the counter at the hospital. God calls the sun to shine on the sinner and saint alike… and now is the time to show the world that we are saints, that external circumstance do not erode what we believe, and we act in accordance to what we believe – that each of us are made in the image of God and deserve the same amount of dignity, grace, mercy, love, kindness patience and care.
Some people may believe this virus is a judgment of God, I for one haven’t even given this position a single thought one way or another, but one thing I know for sure is we will be judged for how we treat our fellow human beings for in them is both the opportunity for Christ’s love to be shown to them but also an opportunity for his love also to be made manifest in them, and if we ever wonder what that may look like we just need to read the gospels and look to Jesus, our guide, hope and salvation.
And for goodness sake, quit hoarding all the toilet paper!
Tim Everton is from South Australia, is a youth worker by trade and runs his own small business making miniature things. In his off-time he enjoys making more miniature things, playing board games hanging out at the beach and seeking out the next best cafe latte.
Tim Everton’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-everton.html