It’s not so long ago that the North-Korean dictator was every day in the news. He was portrayed as an acute danger, and we watched closely as Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un were scolding each other, before suddenly changing to a conciliatory tone. Last week there was a report that North-Korea had fired a few more missiles, but it certainly wasn’t front page news. I follow the BBC news very closely, but I haven’t heard the word Brexit for more than a week. Boris Johnson suddenly seems to be a responsible leader, who shows sincere concern for his citizens. In the Netherlands there is hardly any attention in the media for the recent reduction of the maximum speed limit on motorways during the day, and the incessant talk about CO2 emissions, pfas and the buying out of farmers in the vicinity of nature reserves has almost completely stopped. After all, a large part of the world now has other things on its mind. Everything focuses on the pressing problem of how to stop the advance of the deadly Covic-19, the new Coronavirus. One might, of course, wonder how quickly all these issues will once again demand our full attention as soon as the current crisis is over. For the moment, however, the important thing is that we survive. There is deep concern for vulnerable people; there is widespread fear that our health care systems have insufficient capacity, and anxiety about becoming infected and falling ill, besides a sense of great uncertainty about the near future.
And how about the church? Do we see a similar pattern there? Is there a shift of attention from secondary issues to what faith is primarily about? Is dogmatic bickering giving way to an emphasis on a living faith that takes away fear and gives a sense of inner peace?
It is still too early to see trends and for the time being we are left with a lot of questions. Will this crisis inspire churches to do more things together? And is that a good thing or a bad thing? I see it as positive that churches are calling for joint prayer, but I realize that there are people who see any papal initiative, even praying the Lord’s Prayer together with non-Catholics, as a devious attempt to expand the pope’s influence over all Christianity.
When I look at the Adventist faith community, I cannot help but wonder how we will emerge from the Corona crisis. Everywhere I see heartening expressions of care for each other, and of (often digital) connectedness. Hopefully, as Seventh-day Adventists we will, in this unprecedented time, not just show concern for our own group, but for all the people who are affected by the dark aspects of the current pandemic. I was upset by a report in the Adventist Review that three church members in Spain had died of the virus. Surely, this is terrible for those involved and their families, but what about showing our sadness for the thousands of other deaths that have now occurred in Spain?
And so, questions keep popping up. The leaders of the Adventist world organization and of the regional offices (divisions) are grounded because of a travel ban until further notice. Are we really going to miss their presence? And is it a great loss that all those congresses that were planned for the coming months aren’t going to take place? Does this really make much difference to the wellbeing of the church?
One more thing: I wonder how many church members really felt it was important in last week’s Bible study period to discuss the struggles between Ptolomeans and Seleucides, as described in Daniel 11. Is this really relevant to strengthen our faith in this Corona age?
For me, the important thing now is to look together for what keeps us spiritually going as Adventist Christians, and to discover how we can draw courage from our faith and that, in spite of everything, we can face the future with hope. Above all, the supreme question is how we can convert our faith into true humanity. (And, as far as I am concerned subjects as the 2300 evenings and mornings and the mark of the beast can be put on the back burner for a while!).