[My friend, James Lamkin, is a former hospital chaplain and now pastor of the Northside Drive Baptist Church in Atlanta. I liked these words so much I asked him for permission to reprint them here.]
By James Lamkin. April 30, 2020
Apocalypse is a rare word. It bides its time and sits quietly on vocabulary’s back pew. However, when tornados destroy, pandemics overwhelm, and when breaking news leaves us broken…apocalypse is a word we reach for.
With Covid-19 spreading, we’ve wondered: Is this The Apocalypse?
But, not so fast. Take a deep breath. Reach for a Bible dictionary (it’s the antique book beside your rotary phone). Look it up—right after Antichrist, just before Armageddon. You’ll notice that apocalypse doesn’t mean devastation or damnation. It means revealing. Unveiling. Ken Sehested reminds of what the poet, Adrienne Maree Brown, said: “Things are not getting worse. They are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.”
Oddly, an apocalypse may be Hope’s first step. Like, “Now that we know the truth, let us begin again with new hope.”
Hope is in short supply. Loved ones have died. Fragile family finances have tipped. Rock stable businesses six weeks ago, now feel like shifting sand. Even if fear isn’t coiled like a snake in the board room, anxiety is never far away.
However, if this is an apocalypse, let’s not waste it. Let’s ask, “What is being revealed to you?” Make a list of those things. Here are some of mine.
First, everything is more connected than I realized. Physicists already knew this. “Pinch a particle over there, and another will say, ‘Ouch,’ over here!” The cosmos is not something we are in; it is something that we are part of. Economy is connected to ecology, and the food chain has weak links.
I knew that. But I know it more now. MLK was right, “We are bound in a single garment of destiny.” How we treat folk on the far side of the globe has a butterfly effect that flaps all the way to Buford Highway.
Second, “essential” is different than what I thought. Maybe I’m deaf, but I’m not hearing a cry for, “More Preachers!” Rather, “We need the Publix check-out clerk to show-up for work, and the shelf-stocker at Kroger.” Thank God they have done so…every day. Essential folk help piece our small lives together.
Third, we are more vulnerable than I knew. We can’t buy our way out of a global pandemic. The human immune system is good, but humans are late comers to creation’s story. Viruses aren’t smart, but they are adaptive.
Fourth, what if Mother Nature is making us stand in “time out?” With her long finger, she points and snarls, “You will stand in that corner by yourself until you learn to behave.” That might be a long time.
We just ran over the 50-year-old speed bump of Earth Day. We’ve made strides since 1970; but, we’ve also backslidden. Ask the Amazon rainforest, aka the lungs of Planet Earth. Ask the rivers, aka the arteries of this small blue marble. Remarkable, isn’t it, that since humanity sheltered in place, Mt. Everest “peeked” into view for the first time in decades? An ozone hole has healed.
Fifth, if human hubris partially got us into this; then humility might be required to get us out. What did Rabbi Abraham Heshel say? “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” If humanity and the Earth were in therapy, what would the therapist say? “Sounds like dominion isn’t working for you. Try kindness.”
Perhaps we’ll try therapy and kindness this summer…as a church…for God’s sake. The rearview mirror might reveal “the meaning of this pandemic.” It may not be the apocalypse; but it can be an apocalypse…but only if we learn from what is revealed.