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Believe in Good — The pandemic conversation

Please note: in the rapidly-changing dynamic of the coronavirus crisis, by the time this column is printed some aspects may be irrelevant or superseded by events.

I had a phone call last week with a relative residing in another state. He is 30 and a self-described conservative. He called just as I was watching the news of the NBA suspending its games due to the coronavirus. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hello?

Relative: Hey. What’s the big deal with this coronavirus thing? The NBA just canceled games!

Me: A lot of organizations are doing that. Someone in a locker room had the virus.

Relative: But it’s so stupid. The coronavirus isn’t any worse than the flu. It’s obviously the liberal media trying to ruin Trump.

Me: Um…I’m pretty sure it’s fairly serious. I don’t think it’s a liberal versus conservative thing.

Relative: You say that because you’ve been brainwashed by CNN. My doctor says the whole thing is a conspiracy to make Trump lose the election.

Me: I think you need to find a new doctor. And I don’t only watch CNN. Neither do the people who run the NBA, or the folks in charge of cities and school districts and concerts and airlines and other places where crowds form. It’s a virus. Viruses don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat or whatever.

Relative: I still think it’s all political scare tactics.

Me: I think it’s real, and it’s understandable for people to be overly cautious and even a little freaked out. It’s scary because we feel like we don’t have enough real-time information. And, using common sense and being diligent about hygiene is all good, but it still feels like a crazy situation.

Relative: Yeah, but it’s tanking the economy! I can’t even book any flights.

Me: Tell me about it. I’m afraid it’s going to be a rough ride for a while.
Relative: And you seriously think this whole thing isn’t just a bunch of hype? I’ll bet it “miraculously” disappears after the election.

Me: Scientists have been warning for years that global pandemics are bound to happen more frequently, and that they’ll have big consequences in every area of life. If this was just a political ploy here, then why is it affecting other countries? We’re not as isolated as we imagine ourselves to be. If there’s any positive lesson in this, I hope it’s that we realize how interconnected we are with all of humanity. We need to be compassionate and help each other no matter where we live, instead of seeing other people as aliens. We’re all in this together.

Relative: You’re going all liberal on me again. This virus was caused by foreigners.

Me: If that’s what you want to call me, fine. But a virus can start anywhere and spread everywhere. We’re all on the same planet, so we have to work with each other.

Relative: What are you doing about church services?

Me: It’s having an impact on every church. We’re transitioning completely to live streaming of Sunday worship on Facebook and holding meetings by video conference. A bunch of churches are doing that. We’re following official guidelines and trying to do what’s best for everyone.

Relative: What are you telling your church members about all this?

Me: If we can be a calm in this storm, and assure people that no one is alone, and preach compassion and care, I think that’s really important. We have to be honest and take this seriously, but it’s also important to have hope. There are a lot of people hurting and afraid right now, but there are also a lot of people who are being loving and heroic, like the young woman in my church who’s grocery shopping for some of our older members. That’s a great expression of faith. I see that, and it gives me hope. We’re working to encourage more of that.

Relative: But I still miss the NBA.

Me: I’m praying you don’t get sick. But if you do, I hope someone offers to shop for your groceries.

David Green is pastor of Salem Church in Doylestown. He can be found at