C.S. Lewis “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) – Living with Covid-19

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“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors-anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.”

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things-praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts-not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

So, let me add that in 2020 we have already added to C.S. Lewis list Malaria, Dengue fever, Ebola, and AIDS. To this list we now add Covid-19. In 2016, 445,000 people died of Malaria. Each year approximately 400 million people get Dengue fever and about 22,000 each year die from it. From 2014-2016 11,300 people died from Ebola, which is now in a controlled state. In 2019, 690,000 died from AIDS, that number was 1.1 million deaths in 2010, these are annual numbers. This year, 712,000 people have died from Covid. But then, every year 56 million babies are killed in the womb of their mothers. 1 in 4 conceived children are aborted. But then, 3 million people every year die from some sort of alcohol related event. Oh yes, more than 8 million people die every year from tobacco related illnesses. Almost half of all tobacco users face some type of tobacco related death. Nearly 1.25 million people are killed in car accidents each year. That means, on average, auto accidents cause 3,287 deaths per day. An additional 20-50 million people are injured or disabled in car accidents. These do not include any of the wars or government directed terrorism or genocide that goes on every year.

So, getting back to C.S. Lewis, how should we live in a Covid-19 world? Just like we lived in a world already affected by other diseases both natural and man caused.   Let us get back to doing sensible things – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts – not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about Covid germs.
Which of by thought can extend our lives by one day? If God already knows our birth date and our death date, then that is already set. Those who died from Covid are like those who die from cancer and from old age, it was God’s time for them.Matthew 6:25-27 (NIV)  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Yes, we practice caution; as a pastor, I have washed my hands often and always put on protective clothes when directed by nurses and doctors. But I still needed to care for the sick and God has always kept me, and my father, and my sons, from getting any disease from the sick.

In the Covid age, as in the nuclear age, we will continue to live, continue to work, continue to love and continue to worship the Lord God. We will continue to pray, to trust and to know that God’s steadfast love and everlasting mercy is in full control of our lives just as much as He was six months ago. We will read God’s word a bit different as we live with more suffering and with more sorrow and more death. We will walk by faith as our forefathers did and as our children and grandchildren will.

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God is not sitting in heaven wringing His omnipotent hands in frustration. We are seeing the omnipotent hand of God at work doing His bidding as He both mercifully and powerfully draws people to Himself.

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