Coronavirus Diary: June 2, 2020

Sayville BIC

Sayville Brethren in Christ Church

When I published my last diary entry on May 23, 2020, my Pennsylvania county had 584 coronavirus cases and 46 deaths. Eleven days later, we have 644 cases and 52 deaths.

The first day of summer (June 20) is still a few weeks away, but for those of us who follow the academic calendar, the 2020 summer of quarantine has begun.

The social unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death has diverted my attention away from the coronavirus. But the pessimist in me worries that all of these protests and demonstrations, coupled with the “opening” of the states, will come back to haunt us.

It will be a different summer. I plan to spend it writing, reading and teaching. On the latter front, a version of the Gilder-Lehrman “Princeton Seminar” will be making its way online in July. I am happy to be teaching colonial America again with Nate McAlister.

We are also hoping to do weekly podcasts this summer, but we are not yet there financially. (Here is how you can help).

Messiah College announced that it will open for face-to-face instruction a week early (August 25) and end the Fall semester a week before Thanksgiving. I will be teaching two courses: U.S. History to 1865 and Pennsylvania History. I am waiting to learn more about what the method of delivery will look like.

I tend to process things through writing, but not everything I write on this blog makes it to Facebook. If you are interested in getting all of the posts that appear here, either subscribe to the e-mail feed (the black “Follow” button on the right) or check back regularly. I don’t re-post everything on Facebook because I don’t want to clog-up people’s feeds, although every post does go automatically to Twitter. And for those who think I post too much, feel free to unfollow or unfriend on Facebook. Seriously, I will not be offended! 🙂  Thanks to everyone who reads regularly, especially those of you who are new to the blog.

My nerves were raw this weekend. I had a hard time balancing righteous anger (if you could call it that) with just plain-old unhealthy anger. I was mad at the police. I was mad at the rioters attacking the police. I was mad at the looters and the violence. I was mad at Trump and his administration. I was mad at white evangelical pastors who were not using their Sunday services to address what was happening in the world. I was mad at evangelical friends on social media who were defending their churches for not addressing racism because they thought the church should not be “getting political.” I was mad at myself for being so angry. I was mad at myself for not being angry enough. If I lashed out at you in a social media space, and I have not already contacted you directly, I apologize.

I am an introvert and do not always gravitate to people or revel in a sense of “community.” But the longer I stay at home, the more I find myself wanting to get in touch with people. I haven’t talked this much to my brother in years. The other day I sent some long-overdue texts to old college friends  This longing to connect also helped me get through some of the anger. Let me explain.

I have several friends in the Christian ministry. Three of them were preaching on Sunday. I found myself lifted spiritually by their words.

Andy, who pastors two small, rural Brethren in Christ churches in central Pennsylvania and proudly calls himself “a middle-class white kid from the sticks,” eulogized Joe, a partner in ministry, a spiritual mentor, a product of the Jim Crow African-American South, and one of his best friends. Andy noted that the celebration of Joe’s life–and the work of racial reconciliation that defined their long friendship–somehow felt diminished by the pain of what happened to George Floyd. But in the end, Andy would not let that happen. His sermon, and the previous day’s memorial service–offered hope. In his own humble way, Andy pointed to the possible.

Bob, who pastors a small Presbyterian Church (USA) in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, connected the Holy Spirit’s coming on the Day of Pentecost to the social unrest and racial divisions in our country. On the day the Holy Spirit arrived, he reminded us, the disciples were “sheltering in place,” fearful of persecution. Yet the Holy Spirit met them where they were. The Spirit fell on people of all races who shared a common faith.

Paul, who preached at an Armenian Presbyterian Church in Fresno, California, offered a sermon of lament and mission. He challenged the members of the congregation to consider their role in these troubled times and remain open to opportunities to be a witness for the Gospel. At the start of the sermon, he read a passage from Christian writer Peter Heck:

Take the tragedy that unfolded on the streets of Minneapolis this week, but do it from the view that none of us likely considered. View it not through the eyes of your biases (original or adopted), but view it through the eyes of heaven:

An image-bearer of the Creator was suffocated to death by a fellow image-bearer of the Creator in front of a group of image-bearers of the Creator. The act sparked image-bearers of the Creator to lash out at other image-bearers of the Creator, accusing them of all manners of evil. As these groups of image-bearers of the Creator exchanged accusations from places of pride, defiance, bitterness, and anger, still other image-bearers of the Creator moved to pillage and loot a city full of image-bearers of the Creator, destroying their property and livelihoods in the name of justice.

This is what I meant by seeing a hopelessly marred creation begging for redemption.

Hope.

Until next time…