Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Not safe. . .

Catching up on my reading (I am always behind), I encountered the interesting article from the FIRST THINGS blog called, Morbid Safetyism

You can read the whole thing but I must admit that I was captivated by the title and loved the final two paragraphs:

. . .how much “life” we are willing to give up for the sake of secondary goods. These secondary goods, like health and safety, undoubtedly make life better, but certainly don’t define it, not even in the abstract. A good life isn’t just an additive bundle of all the secondary goods. It isn’t worth more if we are healthy, or able-bodied. And anything truly great requires real risks.

A morbid obsession with safety jettisons life in order to preserve life. (As I have six sons, this is a lesson I have to learn over and over again!) I hope that the political realignments of our time will include serious pushback against the notion that policy and class preferences for eliminating risk have moved us closer to the good life, or even to the good society. A sanitized life is no way to live.
Interesting questions.  When did the safety of life begin to be at odds with such things as having a child or going to work or, shall I say it, going to church?  Health and safety make our lives better -- who can argue with that -- but they are not ends in and of themselves.  At least they were not until COVID 19 came along and people began to look at anyone and everything as a threat.

I do recall Dr. Fauci, ever present voice of the corona virus pandemic, who said that he did not expect to see or hold a new grandchild or shake hands or spend holidays with the larger family.  In other words, he was willing to change his life and give up some of the things that were once prime indicators of what a good life well lived was about (children, meeting people, making friends, and celebrating occasions) in order to prevent getting that dreaded virus.  But what kind of life is a sanitized life in which we peer into the nursing home through an exterior window to see loved ones isolated there or content ourselves with Facetime with the grandkids or keep our distance from those who might prove to be our best friends or to give up church (and its foretaste of eternal life) for a safer life now (not better though it might be safer)?

A bubble wrapped existence is not life -- real life has hardship, risk, threat, and blessing that must be held in tension.  No one is suggesting that we flaunt every safeguard but to give up what were once the very marks of a rich life for a sanitized one leaves us poor and alone.  Maybe you are willing to live such a life.  I am not.  And I do not believe a Christian can live such a life either.  The sanitized life would have left Jesus distant from the lepers, the needs of people, and the sinner's shame.  There can be no Good Samaritan in a sanitized life (or one who merely thinks good thoughts as he passes by on the other side).  St. Paul's analogy of the Church as the Body of Christ implies that we are connected in more than a mental or spiritual way.  The bread broken and cup shared exemplify this unity in time that we confess exists also beyond the reach of clock or calendar.  

This sanitized life is the same sort of screwed up stuff that comes from those who insist you must love yourself first or you cannot love your neighbor.  This sanitized life sees faith as a solitary endeavor, a life lived outside the pale of human connection, and without incurring any cost or risk.  That life may be what folks want but it is not the life that Jesus lived or the life that He calls us to -- take up the cross and follow Me (especially when that cross may be the morbid concern for safety that threatens our community in Christ and our own faith.

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