Saturday, May 2, 2020

Short attention spans and bad memories. . .

Some have suggested that perhaps the COVID19 pandemic will cause a resurgence of the Christian faith.  While I would hope that such would be the case, the history shows that there is usually an upswing but that it is small and temporary before things continue on their usual trajectory of decline.  I saw it after 9-11 and again after the market fell in 2008 and I am sure that there were others who witnessed such swings at other times.

What is different today is our short attention spans.  I do not mean something that is physiological but habitual.  We are overwhelmed with news (fake or real), we get our news from nontraditional sources, and the quick cycle means that major events can soon be moved to the back burner and are passed over in favor of breaking news.  What will we remember from the coronavirus pandemic?  To wash our hands?  To practice social distancing?  To heed the advice of medical professionals?  I wish the answer were yes to those.  I fear our short attention spans will make it easy to move on to other issues, events, and challenges without learning lessons.

What is also different is our bad memory.  Again, I am not speaking of something physiological but of how quickly we forget what we thought we were always remember.  Ask any grandparent if they recall the memories of their children doing what they see their grandchild doing as they grow up and they will tell you.  I thought I would remember these things forever but I have forgotten most of it.  We do not remember the epidemics of the past (as recent as 2009 when 12,500 died of H1N1 according to the CDC).  We definitely have forgotten those that occurred long ago (such as H3N2 when, from 1968-1972, some 100,000 died in the US or H2N2 in 1957 when some 116,000 died in the US according to the CDC).

My point is that a resurgence of attendance or faith is the work of the Holy Spirit and while tragedies, disasters, and even pandemics may seem like calls to repentance, the vast majority of folks will either not hear this in that way or will dismiss it before the good habit of worship is learned.  In other words, we cannot presume that events will do the work for us.  Speaking the Word of God, calling people to repentance, addressing the baptized, and encouraging the faithful are still the main and central work of the Kingdom.  This is what will bear fruit in the pews.

One warning we should take to heart.  As quickly as things return to normal, we may see an even more rapid decline of the family, of the willingness of culture to hear the voice of orthodox Christianity, and of the place of the Church and faith within the lives of our people.  The world is not moving to some better place but is manifesting more fully the deterioration and decay of sin and it will be harder and harder for Christians to swim against the current of society and culture.  Of this we can be sure.  But God is with us, His grace sustaining us, and His purpose is our goal and our hope.  This we dare not forget.

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