Depending on who you talk to, my family and I have exposed ourselves as “socially irresponsible.” We have contracted COVID-19, the dreaded coronavirus. I’ll admit it: we weren’t wearing our masks in the car. We shared air with people – people not in our immediate family. We accepted handshakes from people, even when no recent use of hand-sanitizer was in evidence. As a result, we have been banished from society for a period not to exceed six months, given that we follow all protocols to allow for successful reentry into society. People in our circle of contacts must now face hard realities and reexamine their interactions with our family. They must determine whether they should invite space-suited medical professionals under white canopies to jam a q-tip up their nose and swab vigorously for 15 seconds.
While our family does penance for this egregious lapse of sound judgment and social consciousness, some assure us that the stigma of having contracted the coronavirus will not be too severe. Besides the fact that some refuse to attend our church right now, lest we infect them in our absence, they say that the primary fault for this breach falls to President Trump, Vice President Pence, and the fact that we live in a red state that “opened too early.” The shut-down was both prudent and necessary to crushing the curve and stopping the coronavirus, and if we had only stayed the course, we could right now be eating our furniture and scavenging our yards for mealworms like the people in New York. Employment? Who needs that? It would be better to starve to death than to contract COVID-19.
Let this be a lesson to all of you, lest you too contract this vile virus: social distance. Wear a mask. Stay home from church. Work from home. Unless you work on a road crew. Or a fast-food restaurant. Then, make sure you wear gloves when you take my money and pass my food and take the next guy’s money and pass his food.
And so, from the basement of my shelter-in-place safe-space, let me offer a few observations, only slightly less facetious than this introduction.
First, it is human nature to look for a scapegoat. My family and I traveled out of state the week before the onset of symptoms from the coronavirus. We flew to Baltimore, then two of my kids flew on to Indianapolis while three of us drove up to Pennsylvania. Our friends in Pennsylvania have solemnly assured us that our secret is safe with them. They promise not to tell anyone in PA that we have this disease. They don’t want people who don’t have the virus to know that we do, because those people might blame us when they get it. Never fear: if someone gets the coronavirus before you get it, they gave it to you.
Of course, we figure that we picked up the coronavirus either in the airport or on the airplane or in one of the nearly 100 different yard sales we visited in Pennsylvania (yard-selling being PA’s official team sport). But you can be assured that if anyone we know gets this disease between now and Christmas, it came from us. That goes for all the states we visited, including but not limited to Maryland, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Utah, and Wyoming. And maybe Nevada. It would be dangerous and irresponsible for people to visit our church at this time since we infected our entire church, and it is now only a matter of time before we all catch it. We trust that those who have been joining our services via live stream are taking appropriate precautions. Be sure you take your phone out of the case before applying the hand sanitizer.
Second, it is great entertainment to see people skid into a complete 180 on the significance of COVID-19 once they know someone who has it. During the months when our church limited attendance to 10 people, we were treated to a regular barrage of rants against the shut-down. When we asked everyone to wear masks, people greeted me at the door with mask factoids: the CDC says masks are unhealthy for healthy people; the WHO says masks are unhealthy for healthy people; Dr. Fauci says masks are essentially non-essential. This virus is silly, a scamdemic, ridiculous, pointless, absurd, just a little virus, you can’t stop it. Then, Pastor Mallinak contracted the virus, and lo-and-behold, we need to shut down immediately, we shouldn’t be bringing anyone to church, we shouldn’t be having church, we should all be wearing masks, we shouldn’t even look each other in the eye. Okay, I made that last one up.
Nobody should change their view of COVID-19 because Pastor Mallinak contracted it. We shouldn’t be saying, “Wow, this must be serious if he caught it.” I mean, yeah, I do have the special pastor force-shield that would, under normal circumstances, prevent my contracting the garden-variety diseases that afflict the common man. Unfortunately, I left it home with my mask when I hopped on that airplane.
Seriously folks, if you thought the disease was nothing before you knew someone who had it, don’t let little-ole-me change your mind. As in most cases of the coronavirus since the beginning of your life in those ultra-dangerous days when your mother dropped you off at the church nursery, unnecessarily exposing your feebly beating heart to a whole myriad of life-threatening respiratory diseases, COVID-19 is no fun. It has a high misery-factor. You won’t be lying in bed, thinking about how fun it is to be sick as you scroll through Facebook. It acts a lot like the A-strain flu. Which many, many people have had and passed around to others with whom they don’t share an address.
Third, we are so glad that our nation decided to “crush the curve” on this one. That way, we could catch the virus in the summer when things are back to “normal” instead of in the spring when things are shut down already. Because you know of course that the goal all along has been to “stop” the coronavirus in its tracks. The best way to fight a virus, as we all know, is to shut down the world around it so that it will only pass to one person at a time. The virus will magically run out of people to infect if we all live in isolation from each other, as you well know. Follow the data. If we just stay home until they develop a vaccine in a year and a half, we can avoid infecting people. And there won’t be any new virus in a year and a half. Besides, the government prints the money. Unemployment pays.
I recognize that the coronavirus affects different people in different ways, and some are especially vulnerable to this disease, especially while attending church. I certainly wouldn’t want someone to be careless about the lives of those around them. Please don’t stop by my house and ask me to cough on you. Please do your part to avoid this disease. I don’t want to see it spread through my church or anyone else’s church. And apparently, churches are far more contagious than protest riots or work environments.
At the same time, I hope I can encourage my friends and loved ones to keep things in perspective. More than once, I have had someone tell me that I am the first person they knew who contracted this virus. Please don’t let the fact that my family has it change your mind about this disease. It isn’t the end of the world, nor does it change a few basic facts about viruses – mainly that they will work themselves around at will, and we really can’t stop a virus. None of us are likely to die from it. If you happen to catch it, you will miss some work, you will be uncomfortable for a few days (maybe longer), and you won’t want anyone else to get it. Do your Christian duty – love your neighbor enough to be careful around them. Stay home if you are in one of those “high risk” categories. Look for people you can help, encourage, or share the good news of Christ with. Keep your spirits high. Stay in the Word. Be full of joy and gratitude. Trust the Lord. All will be well. God hasn’t lost control of anything.