Numbers, Dollars, and Sense

As I am writing this, our country; the United States of America and the world is in the midst of the Coronavirus COVID – 19 pandemic. However, the thing that is troubling me, even more than the pandemic itself is the diverse reactions and responses to it!

Even after all this time and the untold numbers of those who have fallen ill and died, there are many who are still claiming that it’s not that bad and that it is more important to get back to work to save the economy! In the state of Georgia, where I live, the governor has lifted restrictions and allowed businesses, such as hair salons, tattoo parlors, barber shops and other business where it is impossible to maintain social distancing to re-open! This is being done at a time when the rates of infection and deaths are still going up and the state is nowhere near bringing testing up to point to adequately gauge the virus spread! (One of the suggested federal guidelines stipulated that no state should attempt to reopen until there has been at least a 14-day decline in the infection rate!) The governor states that he has been listening to the medical and scientific experts, but one wonders who they are when the data suggest otherwise.

But at any rate, the thing that is so disturbing to me is that our country; the United States, is any and everything but ‘united!’ In the midst of this pandemic, which is the greatest crises this nation has faced since 911, many members of Congress and the President are obsessed with petty politics and political power! Instead of working together for the good of the country, many of our government leaders are focused on what’s good for their own political party and power base!

For the last several years, even before this present crisis, the American public and even the world has been subjected to an unbelievable display of petty, immature, and narcissistic behavior that is unmatched in the history of American politics! If someone had suggested twenty years ago that this would have been the ‘norm’ of American politics, they would have been deemed as crazy, because such levels of incompetence and the absence of human decency were beyond anyone’s imagination!

Who would have thought back then, that there ever would come a day in America when there would be a debate about which is really more valuable; the economy or human lives? Who would have thought that there would come a day in our country when people would have to actually decide, on a personal level, whether to go to work to pay their bills or stay home to save their lives?

The government leaders are saying that the economy should open when there are acceptable rates of infections and deaths. But what about the people who are actually being infected and the people who are actually dying? Is the sacrifice really worth it to them? In a country where there is already systemic discrimination in health care and benefits, is it reasonable to sacrifice the health and lives of people who were already being sacrificed and think there is some moral justification in it?

There is an effort by some to show appreciation for the health-care workers and other people who are hourly and daily sacrificing their health and lives for the sake of others, and that is good. But, would those who advocate opening up the country for the sake of the economy in spite of the overwhelming good-sense recommendations that it is too soon, be willing to make sure those and the families of those who get sick and die as a result of this premature action be compensated in some way? I think not! For those who are pushing such actions have already, by their actions, prove they value dollars over human lives!

I am not an economist, neither am I a business owner, but I do have bills to pay! Therefore, I have enough sense to know that we cannot indefinitely pause the economy! I know we cannot keep our present course indefinitely! But in the meantime, we should be willing to be patient and make some sacrifices if that means we are saving human lives! For we must all remember, the numbers we see and hear about in the discussions about infections and deaths, are not just numbers; they are people! They are husbands, wives, daughters, sons, grandparents and grandchildren! Their sickness and their deaths have an immediate impact upon the lives of countless other people!

And so, I appeal to you, no matter where you stand on the issue, this is much bigger than petty politics! It’s more important than the label of Democrat or Republican, liberal or moderate, right-wing or left-wing! When a person is sick or dead, none of that matters! This virus does not care about ethnicity, race, political persuasion, or social status! The real issue is not about numbers, because even just one is one too many! It’s not about dollars because how can anyone put a dollar-value on a human life? No! It’s not about the numbers or the dollars, it’s about sense! A sense of decency! A sense of mutual respect! A sense of what is right and what is wrong! As far as the dollars are concern, I hear a carpenter from Nazareth of Galilee, asking questions that have echoed down throughout the centuries: “What good will it do someone if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life? Or, what can a person give in exchange for his life?” (Matt. 16:26 CJB) My modern-day Miller Translation is this: “What good is it to restart the economy at the expense of human life? What profit is it to the economy if people are too sick or too dead to benefit from it?” Some one might say that it will benefit those who are left! But how cold and callous can you be to sacrifice the life of someone else for your own? Such an attitude of one of privilege and superiority, which just might be the root-cause of this debate in the first place!

It’s A Funeral; Cry If You Need To!

crying at a funeral

There is an attitude that is being promoted today by some ‘spiritual’ people in the church toward death and funerals that I don’t think is really good. I attended a funeral service (or as many from my neck of the woods, tend to call it; ‘a celebration of life,’ or ‘a homegoing service) not too long ago and one of the speakers got up and said: “This is not a time to cry! This is a time to rejoice, for another soldier has gone home to be with the Lord!” Well, I take issue with his statement and the trending ‘anti-grief’ stance at funerals for several reasons.

First of all, I think suppressing grief is harmful; emotionally, psychologically, and physically. The same Bible people ‘abuse’ to justify rejoicing and not grieving at funerals also says: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. . . . A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”  (Eccl. 3:1-2, 4 KJV) Well, if a funeral is not a time to weep and mourn, then when is? Now, I’ve heard some say that the Bible says (I’m not saying that it’s not in the Bible, I’m just saying that I haven’t found it yet!) that we should cry when a baby is born and rejoice when someone dies! Well, if that is the case, when was the last time you heard of someone crying or even suggesting people should be crying when a baby was born or at a baby shower? Such a suggestion or action would be deemed unacceptable or strange, to say the least! Therefore, since no one dare suggest crying at the birth of a baby (though some say that’s what the Bible says we should be doing), why only promote one half of the suggestion and insist that people rejoice at a funeral?

Now, I understand the intention (I am a preacher, after all) is to focus on what lies ahead for the (supposedly) righteous deceased, but what many people fail to understand is the fact that funerals are not really for the dead; funerals are for the living! Funerals are for those who have been left behind! There is nothing that will be said or done at any funeral that will, in any way, have a positive or negative effect on the dearly departed! While many suggest the purpose of the funeral is to celebrate the life of the person who has gone on, the actual purpose of the funeral is to be a therapeutic tool for the survivors!

I have often said: “Death can kill you, if you let it!” The meaning of that statement is that if the death of a loved-one or friend or whoever is not processed correctly, it can have an adverse effect on your well-being. Suppressed grief at the funeral service will eventually find expression in other places! It’s like trying to bottle-up steam in a boiling pot, if there is no venting, it will eventually explode! Many times the explosion will be in the form of a stroke, neurotic disorders, anxiety, dysfunctional relationship patterns, heart attacks, or psychological disorders! Whatever the case, you can rest assured that grief cannot and will not be denied expression! So, since that is the case, why not at the funeral, where it can be therapeutic and spiritually guided?

Did not Jesus weep at the grave of his friend; Lazarus? I mentioned that because it seems to be promoted by some that weeping is a sign of weak faith or spiritual deficiency! No! Crying at the death of a loved-one or crying at their funeral doesn’t mean your faith is weak; it means you are human! To do otherwise is to deny your humanity and to inadvertently abort or deny your recovery from the loss!

Grief and grieving is a process and trying to stop or deny that process is just like trying to stop the rain from falling! I understand all about honoring God, but the same God people claim to honor by celebrating instead of grieving is the One who made us with the capacity to grieve! How is God honored in attempts to suppress expressions of grief by making people feel guilty for grieving?

So, with all that being said, If I should happen to go before you; you have my permission to cry at my funeral! And, if any one should happen to get up and even suggest that your crying is out of order, you have my permission to tell them; “It’s a funeral and I can cry if I need to!”