Math Quiz: What Do You Get When You Multiply a Crisis by a Crisis?
In 1996, a favorite author of mine, Donald E. Westlake, authored a book called What’s the Worst That Could Happen? It’s a very funny story about the exponential bad luck of a cat burglar. The story was made into a movie in 2001 starring Martin Lawrence and Danny DiVito.
Twenty-six years later we find ourselves seeing and experiencing the answer to Westlake’s question: What IS the worst that could happen, and how bad can things get? But beyond the daily Sack cartoons in the Minneapolis Tribune depicting the reflex responses of our nation’s leader, there is absolutely nothing funny about it.
In this week’s New Yorker magazine, Jelani Cobb writes, “Before the furious conflagrations erupted in Minneapolis, the final weeks of May had already seemed like the answer to a grim math problem: What is the product of a crisis multiplied by a crisis?”
Cobb’s first crisis is of course the COVID 19 pandemic and its questionable handling by our federal government, and the second crisis is the horrific May 25 death of a black man named George Floyd while handcuffed and in police custody. But you already know these things and you will never forget them.
So, what is the product of these two crises when multiplied? Could it be the call for a vast law enforcement housecleaning, or the countrywide outbreak of subsequent demonstrations-turned-violent, or the increased likelihood of a new COVID outbreak, or the shame of this country’s 400-year lackadaisical attitude about racism and white privilege, or “all the above”?
Cobb goes on to say that “these seemingly disparate American trials are not unrelated; they’re bound by their predictability and by the ways in which the administration has exacerbated them since they began.”
I will not detail the allegations Cobb goes on to make; you can read them here if you like – https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/08/minneapolis-the-coronavirus-and-trumps-failure-to-see-a-crisis-coming – but he tells us that our response to both the current pandemic and the Floyd aftermath are studies “in the importance of foresight and planning, and an example of what happens when neither of those things occurs.”
Cobb concludes by saying that these catastrophic problems are “the result of a failure to make good use of what is known already…leaders cannot predict the future, but they can be cognizant of the immediate past, and the possible dangers it suggests. They cannot be clairvoyant. They need only be intelligent.”
It saddens me that we are currently unable to gather in person to discuss these timely and enduring threats of pandemic and unchecked racism. But as followers of Jesus, I urge you to participate in one or both of the following upcoming hands-on events –
N. T. Wright COVID 19 2-Week Study Group
Beginning Sunday, June 14 at 9 am as a Zoom Meeting, I will facilitate a two-week study group focusing on the Biblical response to the COVID 19 virus. We will use a concise new book by renowned Biblical scholar N. T. Wright titled God and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and Its Aftermath. Just published this week, in 87 pages Wright tells how a careful reading of both the Old and New Testaments, prayer and teachings from Jesus’ life can offer simple yet profound answers to our COVID questions, including:
- What should be the Christian response?
- How should we think about God?
- How do we live in the present?
- Why should we lament?
- How do we recover?
Please do join us as we examine this event through the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection!
The book is available as an e-book on Amazon.com and elsewhere for $6.99. (It is unavailable in paper until July 7.) Simply get the e-book and let me know by Friday June 12 that you will be joining us on June 14 & 21, and I will email the invitation links for both Zoom sessions to you!
Jim Wallis White Privilege and Racial Reconciliation Study Group
On Sunday, June 28, take a summertime deep dive into the Church’s social justice pool when members of our Mission Ministry Team and I host a ten-week Zoom study of a timely and relevant best-selling book by author, activist, preacher, teacher and Sojourners founder Jim Wallis, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America.
How can we put our faith into action for social justice? How can we keep the positive outcomes of George Floyd’s death alive? How do we reckon with ‘white privilege’?
Be a part of this candid Zoom gathering as we spend our summer Sundays learning how to face the truth, speak the truth, and then live the truth.
Is it possible to achieve a more perfect union AND a more vibrant faith? Absolutely. And we need to go there together.
9am Sundays, starting June 28.
Buy the book (around $11 in paperback, $10 e-book, available everywhere), then let me know you will be attending, and I will email the first Zoom meeting link to you.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Have a Blessed Week!