What kinds of questions are being raised in a time like this? Below you can see one possible exercise in highlighting some of these questions, as I pay attention to them in my own context. Maybe it would be a good exercise if you could also try to identify the questions being raised in your own contexts. How does the biblical story help us to engage and respond to these questions?
1. Questions about humanness
a. In this season, questions about human superiority and how much control we have over our lives take centre stage. We have had to come to terms with our limitations, our creaturely vulnerability and the uncertainty/unpredictability of human life. This also leads to further questions about the meaning and purpose of human living.
b. As we live in forced social isolation our society’s narratives of human individualism and autonomous self-sufficient lifestyles have been brought into the spotlight. Our need of the other, and the value of community has enhanced showing that we are inherently social beings and not autonomous creatures. The call to use the term “spatial” or “physical” distancing as opposed to “social distancing” is another example of this.
2. Questions about Christian theology, disciplines and community
a. Online Church – We have had to also ask questions about the meaning of church as we meet online. Do we miss something when we meet online? Has any aspect of church life been enhanced?
b. How do we read scripture – Have we had to rethink what we mean when we talk about God’s protection and security? Does a pandemic show that God’s return is imminent or are there other ways of thinking about eschatology?
c. Forgotten Christian practices – Have we neglected some forms of Christian discipleship (e.g. lament) in our Church life? Why and at what cost? What is the relationship between doubt and faith?
d. Deepening our theology – How do we reconcile God’s goodness and the presence of evil and suffering in the world? Does our collective search for a vaccine show a dependence on science over and above God?
3. Questions about the societies we live in
a. Effects of the pandemic – While the pandemic does not discriminate, does it affect some parts of our society disproportionately? What does that reveal about the disparities in our society?
b. Hidden issues – What issues in our societies have been surfaced during this time? (e.g. domestic violence, racial and ethnic discrimination/stigmatization)
c. Crisis of leadership – How would you rate the leaders in your society? What key aspects of leadership have been missing? How have they used the pandemic to further their own political ends?
d. Questions around value – What has the pandemic revealed about the value system in our society? Have we had to depend on segments of our society that we usually neglect? (e.g. shop keepers, garbage disposal workmen, delivery persons, public health inspectors etc.).
e. Questions around structuring society – Have we excluded the environment/non human creatures when we talk about society making/development? What are the limits we are willing to place on ourselves so that we can live in greater harmony with the rest of creation? What social/economic models need to be challenged? Do we need to begin another Jubilee movement calling on a moratorium of national debt?
Yohan Abeynaike, GS FOCUS Sri Lanka