I want to thank all of you who respond occasionally to my posts either by commenting directly on my blog site, leaving a comment on Twitter or Facebook, emailing me directly, sending a text, or even giving me a phone call. I take your comments seriously and try to learn from your evaluations and comments.
Yesterday's post generated a few more comments than usual. All of the comments were positive and appreciative of my post except for one. So let's focus on that one. (Why do we do that?)
I was called out on Twitter by Rebecca.
"This reads like a Republican Party ad? Most of the time I read what you write to gain inspiration and comfort and to be inspired to live my life in a good Christian way. Wch is the bigger threat? A hard time by people suffering through life or potential death due to virus?"
I went back and read my post probably five times throughout the course of the evening looking for the political overtone. I don't see it. I have watched no TV in two months. Maybe something is going on in the political theater of which I am unaware.
The point I was trying to make had nothing to do with politics. I am concerned about the mental health of our society. In addition to my pastoral and theological studies, I have nearly 90 semester credits of study in the social and behavioral sciences. If a person looks at sociological data through the lens of social isolation, certain behaviors are almost sure to appear on a regular basis. The way we address the virus (masks, social isolation, etc.) needs to take into consideration the ripple effects of these decisions.
How did closing down churches and other social service institutions impact the vulnerable individuals? Did churches and social service agencies attempt to make more mental health counselors available for those who were struggling? How could the spiritual and emotional needs of people in hospitals and nursing homes be met when restrictions were so tight that family members nor clergy were allowed to enter? What responsibility did the local, state, and national government have in addressing these subsequent issues emanating from the virus mandates put in place by these same leaders? What is their responsibility yet today?
The commenter on Twitter asked me, "Which is the bigger threat? A hard time by people suffering through life or potential death due to virus?" The threat is real on both issues. A person that dies by suicide is just as deceased as a person who actually dies from the virus. There are treatments available for the virus. I am simply asking for treatments to be made more readily available for those addressing mental health issues as well. It is my opinion that we have not focused as much attention on this aspect of dealing with the virus.
Let me ask you this. How long can we keep senior citizens isolated in nursing homes without it being considered elder abuse? Speaking of elder abuse, how much has actual physical abuse and/or neglect increased in nursing homes since family members can't get in to check on their loved ones? Thankfully, I have only seen a couple of horrendous videos depicting staff beating and punching the residents. I truly hope those were isolated incidents.
Overall, how do we protect ourselves from the virus while not jeopardizing other aspects of our health--physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
It is my intent to use this forum to articulate hope. I want to inspire and comfort you. I want to offer encouragement to you and challenge you to deepen your faith. However, I feel that all of this must be done in the context of our lived reality. What is that lived reality? We are living in tumultuous times with a level of societal dysfunction that is difficult to comprehend.
What are my words of encouragement for today? "Put on the full armor of God." (See Ephesians 6: 10-18) It is going to be a bumpy ride. How do we know this? Jesus told us, "Take up your cross daily, and follow me." (See Luke 9:23) Are we ready for the pilgrimage?