Romans 8, as applied to a pandemic

In the few weeks that we’ve faced this global crisis it has become cliche to say things like, “this is an unprecedented time.” I’ll avoid using that phrase for two reasons. First, I don’t love to use buzzwordy terms. Once everyone starts using a term and all the talking heads on the news start using a term, we sometimes mindlessly repeat it without thinking much about it. We saw this early on with the coronavirus. Events were being canceled, offices were being shut “out of an abundance of caution.” That’s all well and good, but the phrase started being batted about like a beach ball, and treated with the same gravity as a beach ball.

But that mindless mimicking has consequences. Perhaps instead of thinking critically about whether it’s in the best interest of society or employees or customers, people simply closed their doors “out of an abundance of caution.” A catchphrase like that can often be a placeholder for actual critical thought. Most all of the country was shut down out of an abundance of caution, but how much thought was given to a potential surge in the suicide rate, as people lose their jobs and healthcare, in the midst of a health crisis? How much thought was given to the number who would be added to the roles of opioid addicts? What about to the billions of people worldwide that the great engine of American economy and ingenuity have lifted out of poverty, and in doing so, raised their life expectancy dramatically?

These are legitimate questions and considerations, and by no means am I saying the government or anyone else is making the wrong choice. I am saying that it is wrong for us to parrot phrases like “an abundance of caution” simply because it sounds good. Worse yet, it’s wrong to make decisions based simply on a catchy phrase. We’d be far better off if we used words that we truly believed in. And to do that, we need to know their true meaning.

So what’s all this about? Is it really about how upset I am at “an abundance of caution”? Of course not; I kind of like the phrase. I’m merely using this as an example to demonstrate how we repeat terms without thinking of their consequences. I’m far more concerned with “unprecedented.”


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