I am not sure there are enough adjectives to describe 2020 so far. And none of them would be flattering in depicting what has been a strange and stressful year.
COVID-19 pandemic, economic stressors and political campaigns are enough to test any person’s mettle, but especially Christians trying to navigate taking care of each other and themselves.
There’s one word that may not come up first but may accurately describe how people have handled 2020: selfish.
Too many of us have forgotten the teachings of Jesus to care and love for each other.
It started as soon as the pandemic struck, sending crowds to the stores who stocked up on essentials. Well, it was more than stocking up. It was hoarding.
The meat aisles were wiped out. Canned goods were piled high into carts. And people bought enough toilet paper to cover a forest. It was embarrassing.
Of course, some had to try and make a buck off it. One person traveled from Tennessee all through Kentucky to remote Dollar Stores to buy up all the hand sanitizer and then tried to sell it.
The Black Friday mindset led stores to implement limits on certain products to make sure everyone had access to essentials.
Yet, some shoppers decided they didn’t have to follow limits. In fact, I read several tweets from people who said, “This is America. You can’t tell me what I can and can’t buy!”
Obviously, these people have ignored American history of ration books during World War II.
More importantly, they have glossed over the Hebrew prophets’ message of how others should be treated, including widows, orphans, the elderly and that the nation would be judged on how they failed to take care of their neighbors.
From there, we only behaved worse.
People fought over packages of toilet paper, and the federal government abdicated its responsibility to lead. While some state leaders were also slow to act, others more quickly implemented stay-at-home orders and other restrictions to limit contact with each other.
That’s all they asked of us. Just stay home. But you would have thought they were asking us to carry full gear into battle or climb a mountain.
Some people refused to stay home, saying, “You can’t tell us what to do.” They came armed with weapons and stormed statehouses, screaming at officials.
In Kentucky, they marched to the governor’s mansion, demanded to see the governor and then hung him in effigy – never mind he has two young children.
And some Christians were worst of all. Many governors asked churches to not hold services. Some Christians decided to ignore the order, saying God would protect them.
When it was pointed out we were asked to stay home to not carry the coronavirus to other people, Christians said God would protect them and it was their right to do what they wanted and they didn’t care if they carried it to other people.
Christians also were part of these crowds with guns who said God and guns were rights and nobody could tell them what to do.
Then we got to face coverings and orders to wear a mask. Again, groups of people, including some Christians, said no one could tell them to wear a mask. In fact, this was America, they claimed, and nobody can tell us to do anything.
And to top the summer off, we have the debate on sports. Many states decided to start fall sports, as parents, students and others begged to #LetThemPlay.
So, officials said OK, but capacity would be limited, tickets sold to spread people out and fans had to wear masks. No sooner than permission was granted than people said, “Nobody is testing my kid” and “I’m not going to wear a mask” and “I’ll sit wherever I want.”
Again, people got what they wanted, but they didn’t want to follow any of the responsibilities to ensure health and safety.
Medical experts said the simple act of wearing a face covering could be one of the best defenses against coronavirus. Again, many people, and a lot of Christians, said they would not follow protocols, and nobody could tell them what to do.
People bought into whatever conspiracy theory they heard on talk radio or read on the internet. They started believing those things instead of what God has taught us about how we should treat one another.
The whole time I watched these stories I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of message this is sending to those around us.
Is this anger and selfishness the example God expects of Christians? How have we devolved to the point that the simple act of staying home, limiting our contact with others or wearing a piece of cloth around one’s face was an inconvenience or a test of our faith?
I kept coming back to what Jesus said about separating the goats and the sheep in Matthew 25.
When Jesus uses the guidelines of feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty and clothing the naked, we could easily adapt this question to say, “To protect the elderly and the weak, did you wear a mask? Did you deliver groceries to a shut-in? Did you stay home to stop the spread?”
Or were you among the crowd at the statehouses screaming at legislators, threatening them? Were you more interested in getting to do your activities?
Are you prepared to answer those questions? Or are you prepared to defend your selfishness?
Masks are as vital as ever with COVID-19 cases across the nation remaining high and over 185,000 citizens having died from the virus.
There’s still time to change your answer by aligning your mindset and actions with that of Jesus and the Hebrew prophets who called us to work for the collective, common good.
Steve McClain works for the Georgetown (Ky.) News-Graphic, covering everything from local government to court to schools to features to sports. He and his wife Sara attend Georgetown Baptist Church and their daughter Julia is a vet student at Mississippi State University. He is an avid reader and sports fan.