Hang on. I know this sounds like an inflammatory comparison, but bear with me.
The Black Death hit Europe with a sledgehammer. It arrived on a boat filled with dead and dying sailors, who had come back to Italy with cargo. But when the mayor demanded the ship be sent back out, the rats had already disembarked. The Plague, the Great Mortality, the Black Death had arrived.
Let's set the stage:
"The Black Death (also known as the Pestilence, the Great Mortality or the Plague) was a bubonic plague pandemic occurring in Afro-Eurasia from 1346 to 1353. It is the most fatal pandemic recorded in human history, causing the death of 75–200 million people in Eurasia and North Africa, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. Bubonic plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis spread by fleas, but it can also take a secondary form where it is spread person-to-person contact via aerosols causing septicaemic or pneumonic plagues...The plague created religious, social and economic upheavals, with profound effects on the course of European history." [emphasis mine]
I am intrigued by the "religious...upheavals." As I have shared many times in my blog, I am terribly concerned about the state of the American church. Prosperity gospel, a focus on big is blessed and rock star pastors have caused me to look askance about where we are going as the 21st century unfolds.
The death toll of the Black Death was unprecedented:
"According to medieval historian Philip Daileader, it is likely that over four years, 45–50% of the European population died of plague. Norwegian historian Ole Benedictow suggests it could have been as much as 60% of the European population. In 1348, the disease spread so rapidly that before any physicians or government authorities had time to reflect upon its origins, about a third of the European population had already perished. In crowded cities, it was not uncommon for as much as 50% of the population to die...Monks, nuns, and priests were especially hard-hit since they cared for victims of the Black Death."
The people acting in accordance to Christ's request that we offer cold water to the thirsty and clothing to the naked were the heroes of their day.
How did people respond to the overwhelming death rate and terror?"Renewed religious fervour [sic] and fanaticism bloomed in the wake of the Black Death. Some Europeans targeted 'various groups such as Jews, friars, foreigners, beggars, pilgrims', lepers, and Romani, blaming them for the crisis. Lepers, and others with skin diseases...were killed throughout Europe.
Because 14th-century healers and governments were at a loss to explain or stop the disease, Europeans turned to astrological forces, earthquakes, and the poisoning of wells by Jews as possible reasons for outbreaks. Many believed the epidemic was a punishment by God for their sins, and could be relieved by winning God's forgiveness.
There were many attacks against Jewish communities."
Blame and fear are a potent mix. When chaos is reintroduced into society, we question and ask, "Why?" The genius of the Hebrew people in the Old Testament was to ascribe meaning to their suffering and see it as a invitation to return to God, after their sinful wandering and disobedience to God's decrees.
In fact, I would argue that suffering is a hard but penetrating way to question how we are living--are we walking in accordance with God's revealed ways and not staying entrenched with man-made philosophies and beliefs? Paul is emphatic when he says,
"Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ." (Col. 2:8)
Remember that he was writing to the believers at Colossae. The church can be infiltrated with ideas and beliefs that are not of Christ. All ideas, spiritual and cultural, must be looked at with Christ and His revelation in mind.
I wonder if, to those outsiders watching the Christian church, will be Christians who insisted "I have faith, not fear" and then caught Covid and maybe even died. These Christians used their faith as a kind of shield, a free pass away from any scientific approach to the pandemic and then when they caught it, they turned to the very medical establishment that they had derided and dismissed.
How many family members will weep over their departed loved one, because that person would not get vaccinated, refused to wear a mask, and in general, acted as if Covid was nothing to be hung up about and then caught Covid, went to the ER and struggled to survive. This person either returned home very broken by the ordeal or died, alone, in a hospital room.
The line that was drawn in the sand by people who thought this whole thing was a hoax or greatly exaggerated and then blamed Big Pharma, Greedy Doctors and Big Invasive Government might have been the same people who hunted down people in the Middle Ages, looking for (different) culprits while another pandemic raged.
I continue to be extremely saddened by those fellow believers who have entered heaven way before their time. Will their "faith not fear" protest bring comfort to those who are left behind?
The Black Death forever changed European society.
How will Covid forever change our society?
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