More than just surviving
Maybe covid helps us live more deeply into the transition from Good Friday to Easter this year.
Does anyone recall “Build Back Better”? It became a popular rallying cry midway through covid. After the first lockdown, we saw that collective action could develop vaccines faster than ever and provide support to keep poor households afloat. Covid exposed vulnerable spots, such as old age homes, but there was also optimism that we could fix the problems and recover with a more resilient society, better able to deal with other challenges.
But then more rounds of covid, the exposure of racism and police brutality after the murder of George Floyd, the discovery of unmarked graves near residential schools and the awareness that some were growing rich at the expense of others drowned out the choruses of “we’re in this together.” By March 2023, Forbes magazine labelled Biden’s Build Back Better Plan “an ambitious memory.” In Canada, proposals for a “Just Transition” from the old to a new economy have become a much-reduced Sustainable Jobs Plan that may remain on paper.
Pick Up the Pieces
As covid dragged on and on, “Back to Normal” or “New Normal” captured society’s reduced expectations and a shift from collective action to survival for me and mine.
Meanwhile, war in Ukraine shifted our perceptions of the world to threat instead of trading opportunity. Supply chain disruptions entered our daily vocabulary instead of quick delivery. We build army tanks again, not solar panels. Deadly storms in unlikely places at unexpected times turned climate change from an abstract concept to real-life danger. Are we surprised that young people are reporting high anxiety about their futures?
Add inflation, housing shortages and budget constraints to never-ending covid, and we find ourselves fighting to preserve pieces of our treasured health care system. Gone are the aspirations for social improvements. Not long ago I mentioned “flourishing” and “shalom” as our Biblical hope in a speech; it was met with blank stares. “Maybe survival?” said someone in the back row. Lower expectations turned my New Year’s greeting into a hope that 2023 would just be better than 2022.
Popular writers, such as Gabor Mate in The Myth of Normal, describe a traumatized society in need of healing. Some thinkers now propose an “anti-fragile” society to avoid chaos. Others support totalitarian rulers instead of democracy out of fear of losing control. The Four Horseman of Revelation – Conquest, War, Famine and Death – seem more real this year.
From Hell to Hope
It is a stretch to compare three years of Covid to the three days in hell between Good Friday and Easter. Or Jonah’s three days in the belly of the whale. The number three in Bible studies is thought to be a symbol of harmony, wholeness and completion. Maybe covid helps us live more deeply into the transition from Good Friday to Easter this year.
Dare I engage in Easter thinking in 2023? Resurrection. New life. Restoration of God-human relationships. New possibilities. For 2023 we need the promise of a Revelation city that works – with trees, a clean river and gifts from all nations.
This article first appeared in our April 2023 issue under the title “Easter Thinking in 2023.” If you like that title better, you might also enjoy a print subscription!