Memorial Day weekend was presented to us with a mixture of embarrassing awe and marvelous pride.
The president’s announcement for all churches to reopen was embarrassingly hilarious. I realize the president has a god complex, but he cannot order religious leaders to act against the good of their congregates or society. To date, 98,000 people have died from the coronavirus.
As a pastor, I know how painful it is to have a member die of COVID-19 and not be able to give the proper homegoing to the deceased and celebration of life for the family. Fortunately, most religious leaders have ignored Trump and have operated during this pandemic with both faith and reason.
I am particularly proud of black church leaders, who have ignored the president and followed the advice of scientific and medical experts. I was proud to hear the president of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A. Inc. advise National Baptist pastors not toopen their churches for face-to-face gatherings until the science says it is safe. The convention represents the largest predominately African American denomination in the U.S. It, along with other predominately black denominations, realizes that African Americans are disproportionately susceptible to contracting the virus and dying from it than the white community. Staying closed and Zooming worships helps to keep our people alive. Again, this is another example of faith grounded in reason.
All of us were shocked at the irresponsible behavior of partying folks in Daytona Beach, on the beaches and party spots on both coasts and, of course, at the Lake of the Ozarks. Of the hundreds and thousands of people caught on video, very few, if any, practiced social distancing or wore masks. No rational activity was being practiced, only pure hedonistic egoism. Bad faith said to them, “just have fun and to hell with anyone else.” May I remind us that the death toll is rising in this country?
I understand the argument of people who need to go back to work to save their families from financial ruin, but shameless disregard of social distancing due to a desire to have fun is both immoral and criminal.
The time is now for all of us to act with a sense of moral character. People need to realize that no one cares about your health and well-being unless you care about yourself. You cannot blame business owners if you do not practice social distancing and listen to the medical/scientific community. All people need to act with an acute social consciousness. As people of color in the U.S., we must be exceptionally vigilant.
One definition of faith is that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. I have faith that most Americans understand the importance of being disciplined and responsible. I have faith that the religious community to which I belong, and others, will continue to engage in practices that empower us in these difficult times and not threaten our life. I have faith in the scientific community that the virus humans created will eventually be defeated. I have faith in a God who stands with us during this pandemic.
My reason tells me that I must protect myself and my family, friends, church members and students because we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. Reason tells me survival is imperative, and the greatness of a society is determined by how it cares for the citizenry and not by the interest of the economy. If we take care of people, people will take care of the economy. That is just business ethics 101. Faith and reason confirm my belief that we will make it through this time but only if we are faithful to one another as fellow members of this democracy and reasonable in our actions. Be well; be safe.
The Rev. C.W. Dawson Jr. was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at MU. He teaches at Columbia College and Moberly Area Community College and writes for the Missourian.