Today is Easter Sunday, which is a day many people typically spend in church. Or, at least they spend an hour or two in church, celebrating Christ’s rise from the grave. This year, we have a global pandemic going on, and people are being asked not to congregate. Many wise people are following this advice and staying home. Some people are worshipping remotely, using the power of the Internet to connect with religion. Some are having church at home with family members. And then there are people like me, who aren’t particularly religious and won’t spend much time thinking about Christ today.
Easter has become kind of a special holiday for Bill and me, mainly because it was Easter 2000 when he and his ex wife drove to a notary public in Tennessee and signed their divorce papers, which were later filed in Arkansas. Ex hadn’t actually meant to get divorced. She’d stupidly issued an ultimatum– as Captain Lee on Below Deck would say, “her mouth wrote a check that her ass couldn’t cash”. But rather than admit that she’d done something really stupid… which actually wasn’t all that stupid in the grand scheme of things… she stubbornly allowed Bill to take her by the hand, lead her to the car, and drive to the older couple’s house, where they began their divorce proceedings.
I’ve always thought of that moment as the day Bill’s life was resurrected. Things only got better for him once he and his ex wife split up. Sure, he went through some hard times, but at least he was with someone trustworthy… himself. And he had already met me online when this was going on, so a year later, we were able to meet in person. And now look at us. We don’t mind the social isolation, because we enjoy each other’s company immensely. We still have a good time talking, listening to music, eating, drinking, watching TV, and laughing at each other’s jokes.
A lot of people are not content to stay home today. I’ve read about it in the news. Some stubborn folks– much like delusional ex– have decided they’re going to going to go to church. I read one account of a pastor who expects 2000 people filling his pews today. Reverend Tony Spell of Baton Rouge, Louisiana is conducting business as usual at his Apostolic Life Tabernacle Church, despite the governor’s stay-at-home order. He says “Satan and a virus won’t stop us.” Spell adds, “Like any zealot or like any pure religious person, death looks to them like a welcome friend. True Christians do not mind dying. They fear living in fear.” I think the real reason these folks want to have such huge Easter services has to do with money. As one astute friend cynically pointed out, Easter is like the church’s “black Friday”. This is a time of year when people make donations. So what if some of them get sick and die?
Up in Idaho, Ammon Bundy, a rancher who made news in Oregon by leading an armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge, is up to his old tricks. Fed up with the government telling him what to do, he’s now leading a “liberty rebellion”, calling upon others to ignore Governor Brad Little’s orders to stay at home. Bundy says that a group in the Boise area was looking for a venue to host an Easter service today with a potential crowd of 1,000 people. He said a man in Twin Falls plans to host communion in a park. Bundy himself holds regular meetings with scores of people to decide how to fight back against what he considers government overreach.
Meanwhile, last night I read about some very sorry people who spent time at Florida’s beaches last month. They were dancing, drinking, bonging beer, getting some sun, passing out hand sanitizer, and now a lot of them are sick with COVID-19. As of last night, there were 38 people who from one group who had gotten the virus and a couple of them have died. And again, as of last night, Florida itself has over 17,000 COVID-19 cases, and of those about 400 people have died. It’s true that most people who get the virus aren’t going to die from it. They might not even get very sick. But those who are at a higher risk will no doubt suffer more, and some will wind up on respirators in intensive care units, where the chances of leaving without a body bag are very slim. I almost wonder if some people, when faced with the prospect of being on a respirator, won’t just take matters into their own hands and avoid the huge hospital bills.
I can’t really blame those folks in Florida, though. I remember what it was like to be young and relatively poor. When I was in my 20s, I had no money for trips to Florida. I never took a “fun” spring break trip in high school or college. I think if I had spent money on a long awaited trip to Florida and a virus came along, I might be tempted to risk it. People in their 20s often think they’re invincible anyway. I can see why so many people thought this virus wasn’t a big deal. They live in the United States, and a month ago, it seemed like the risk was just in far away places like Italy and China. It didn’t seem like a tsunami of respiratory disease was on its way. Spring was coming; deposits were paid; people wanted to party. Some of them are now paying the price.
I do hope that things get back to somewhat normal soon. I would hate to spend the rest of my life living this way, even though Bill and I get along so well. I do think this pandemic could change a lot of things in the future. Some people will come out on top. Some will make the ultimate sacrifice. I’m reminded of an old George Carlin quote from about 20 years ago, when he made his album, Jammin in New York. He was taking on all of those people who think they can control the Earth, and trying to “save” everything. In his routine, Carlin rightly points out that humans can’t control nature. And trying to control nature is what gets us into trouble. Carlin says the Earth has been here for billions of years and has been through a lot worse than human beings. He compared human beings to a bad case of fleas. The Earth will shake us off. The planet isn’t going anywhere… we are. Shit… Carlin even mentions viruses, and how difficult they are to control or eradicate. Yeah… he was way ahead of his time. Wonder what he’d think of the coronavirus.
Maybe all this social isolation really is pointless. But this isn’t about preventing people from being exposed to COVID-19. It’s more about making it so that not so many people are sick at the same time. I don’t think it’s a good idea to go to church today. Luckily, I wouldn’t be going anyway.