The worldwide health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by an economic crisis, a social crisis, a political crisis, a security crisis and all manner of other problems. But even before all these interconnected issues came to the fore, the world was already in very bad shape. There are some long-term trends which were already noticeable but which will be accelerated by this crisis. I would like to comment on a few of those trends with the hope that it informs and guides the prayers of those who read this blog.
Trend No. 1, social distancing as a way of life
The term “social distancing” has entered the popular lexicon recently but the phenomenon it describes has been growing in significance for many years. I’m referring to the use of the internet and internet-connected devices as a substitute for physically travelling to a certain place and interacting with other people for the purposes of work, recreation, shopping, education and last but not least worshipping God. More and more of our lives have been lived “online” in recent years and this crisis is causing this to become normalized to a degree that would have been difficult (and perhaps unpleasant for some) to contemplate just a short time ago.
This trend has good and bad sides to it and the Church is not immune to either.
I’m among those who think it’s very important for Believers to physically assemble in one place for worship and fellowship on a regular basis. But I also kind of think that this might be at least a partial solution to the phenomenon of younger Believers being less connected to the community of faith. Like it or not, most younger people are far more ready to be connected to other people online, and if the Church doesn’t have a robust online presence, most younger people simply won’t even know how to find it much less be connected with it.
Here in Israel many of the congregations and ministries have a very robust online presence including livestreaming and video services for their congregational meetings, podcasts, distance learning programs, etc. That’s a good thing and if you’re a pastor reading this somewhere outside of Israel and you’re looking for help in getting yourself set up for this new normal, Israeli congregations can be a source of assistance for you.
I would also say that anyone who works in technology-related fields servicing computers, communication, online content production, and the production/maintenance of the physical infrastructure that makes it all work has a pretty bright future. If you’re a young person wondering what field of work to go into and/or how you can serve the Kingdom, these are the jobs that will be in high demand in the near future and for a long time to come.
Trend No. 2, Ageism and Euthanasia will all see an increase in popularity
This COVID-19 virus is most dangerous to elderly people, but everyone is suffering because of it. I have already seen talk online about how younger people are resentful that their lives are being so unpleasantly disrupted, and their economic futures are being endangered, because of a disease which they are in little physical danger from. Questions I see being asked, with increasing anger, run along the lines of “why should we lose so many of the things we were looking forward to enjoying in our lives so that these older people, who already lived their lives and had their chance to enjoy them, can maybe live a little bit longer?”
Once again, this trend was noticeable for many years. It could be seen in the growing anger expressed by so many young people all over the world at the way previous generations have recklessly damaged the environment by over-consuming natural resources, especially hydrocarbons. It can also be seen in the way younger people expressed growing fear and anger about the way their governments racked up massive public debts which they (the younger generations) will be paying off their whole lives while reaping few of the benefits which all that borrowed money went towards paying for.
The term often used to describe this was “colonizing the future” and if you google that term you’ll find a great deal of material that’s been published on the subject.
This anger (and the guilt/sympathy it has engendered among a certain portion of older generations) will add fuel to another trend which has gained considerable ground in many countries, the trend of legalized suicide and euthanasia.
Feelings of guilt over the money and resources needed to keep them alive which will not be available for use by their children and grandchildren is one of the reasons given by many of those who take advantage of the legal, doctor-assisted suicide options already available in several Western countries. With all the emphasis put on “flattening the curve” in this current COVID-19 crisis, I think it’s not unlikely that there have already been elderly people who have taken their own lives because they thought they might soon die anyway and they wanted to get it over with in a way that wouldn’t put any additional burdens on hospitals or their own families.
All of this is related to the philosophical ideas popular in this Age which say that human beings are merely the result of a chance (accidental) union between random microscopic cells which allow us to live for around 80 years before we die and then we will simply cease to exist. Therefore, your life and mine has no meaning beyond our own fleshly gratification and accumulation of material possessions. According to this philosophy, we owe nothing to each other, much less God. There is no life beyond the tangible, physical reality we currently see around us and there will never be any consequences beyond this life for anything that we do or fail to do here.
Trend No. 3, lowering tolerance for people who put their trust in God
In recent years there have been outbreaks of measles and other diseases in many countries where they had been all but eradicated. The reasons for these new outbreaks are no doubt complex and multi-faceted, but in most of the reports about them the blame has been squarely and almost exclusively placed on people who question the need to get themselves and/or their children vaccinated, the so-called “anti-vax” crowd.
I do not belong to this group and my kids have all their vaccinations. But I note with alarm the growing intensity of the venom and contempt being directed at this group and the increasing lack of patience with them and/or willingness to understand their concerns. The narrative is increasingly turning into citizens being told that they must obey their governments’ mandate to allow something to be done to their own bodies which they’re not comfortable with in order to serve “the greater good of society” and if they insist on refusing to go along with this than they will suffer consequences starting with social banishment, followed by economic sanctions and almost certainly ending with some kind of legal censure.
This will add fuel to another highly disturbing trend, the increasing persecution of people who place their faith in God and the Bible. It is already VERY trendy in many circles to openly express scorn, ridicule and contempt for Believers. I recently felt the full force of this when I posted a list of prayer points regarding the current crisis on my Facebook wall and a guy I worked with 15 years ago, who barely ever posts anything or reacts to anything I post, sent me a scathing message demanding to know when I was going to “grow up” and stop “peddling false hope that your imaginary friend in the sky can help you“ instead of encouraging people to put their hope and trust exclusively in science and medicine to save them out of this terrible situation we’re all in.
I asked him the logical question of why, if he thought God didn’t exist, it would bother him if I did. To my sad lack of surprise, he didn’t answer that question but simply informed me that he looked forward to a day, which he was sure would come very soon, when expressing belief in God would be as socially unacceptable (and even illegal) as expressions of racism already are in most circles. Then he blocked me, ending our conversation for good.
The hatred and contempt for Believers by Atheists isn’t logical or rational. It’s visceral, and it’s getting more militantly intense every year.
In my short lifetime, I’ve seen what I call the Anthem of Atheism change from “you believe in God and I don’t but as long as you don’t make an issue out of it neither will I” to “I don’t believe in God and I can’t believe how stupid, uneducated and silly the people who actually do believe in God are. Furthermore, these people who believe in God are causing all kinds of problems for everyone and they’re holding Humanity back from achieving its potential. So I’m going to do everything I can to try to convince them to change their minds and if that doesn’t work we’ll need to think about other ways to persuade them, including direct action.”
Once again, I can see this COVID-19 crises acting to intensify and accelerate this trend.
Trend No. 4, increasing demands for globalism and the rise of authoritarianism as democracy is discredited
Finally, the trend of rising authoritarianism as democracy loses credibility will almost certainly be accelerated by this crisis. The disorganized, chaotic and often ineffective response to the pandemic by many of the Western democracies can be easily compared to the much more effective response from authoritarian governments, especially China.
At the same time, the lack of a coordinated response by most of the world’s major powers and in particular the continuation of a war of words between the US and China during this crisis has made what would have been a very bad situation much worse. This has given much rhetorical ammunition to the growing chorus of voices demanding an end to nation-states and the emergence of a global system of government powerful enough to force everyone to cooperate and sacrifice for the common good. Even before this crisis has reached its peak, the voices demanding greater cooperation and even political integration among the world’s most powerful countries are growing louder.
Taken together, it’s not difficult to imagine how these two trends could come together to produce a readiness for the kind of global dictatorship prophesied in the Book of Revelation to emerge in the End Times. Many of the other circumstances prophesied there will be made more viable by other the other trends mentioned in this essay.
In any event, someday the COVID-19 pandemic will be over, and the world the survivors will inherit will be very different from what we’ve been used to.
May God give us all the faith, guidance, courage, wisdom, clarity and conviction to stay true to Him and His calling on our lives today and for as long as we are privileged to continue carrying the banner of His Kingdom for this lost and dying world to see and be inspired by. Because the Bible tells us that although this time will be a season of great trials and tribulation, it will also be the greatest time of harvest for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ that we’ve ever had. That means it isn’t time for you and me to fear and tremble, rather it’s a time to get busy and raise our heads, because our Lord is returning soon, and He’s bringing our reward with Him!