A Phenomenological Approach to COVID

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What do we see? I see my house. You see your screen. There’s a finite limit to what we see. Rationalism suggests that if we touch a hot stove for a minute, it seems like an hour, yet, if we sit with a person who we fine incredibly attractive for an hour, it seems like a minute. That’s a bit like Einstein’s relativity.

With the coronavirus, we find a mix of rationalism and phenomenology. There’s the science and what feels best to us. First, the science: a consensus among scientists and epidemiologists recommend getting vaccinated, wearing masks, and obtaining a booster shot. This seems airtight and doesn’t appear debatable. 

Second, the anti-vax movement and disinformation campaigns undermine keeping people safe. Yet, if we acknowledge human freedom, that must include the opportunity to do oneself harm. Therefore, we should not judge (James 4.12). Let people make their own decisions about vaccines and masks. 

In phenomenology, the question is about what we can see. Some hospitals are overrun. Others are not. Some people (who have received a vaccine) catch a breakthrough coronavirus and experience very little symptoms. Others are not so lucky. What do we see? In my case, in Charlottesville, the impact is minimal. So, what am I supposed to do? Do I run in fear of what may come? Or, should I encourage people to gather? 

So far, I have not seen the evidence to suggest things like closing the church or laying off employees. Up to this point, we have depended on the CDC, WHO, and Blue Ridge Health Department to let us know what is appropriate. If they change their guidelines, then we will follow them. 

My phenomenological concern is about the church. We should be known for what we embrace instead of what we are against. We need to do a better job of fostering a community of biblically and theologically literate people. We should embrace our problems and see them as opportunities. Local and national news are important, but they shouldn’t undermine the love of Jesus. 

Grace can be seen. Love can be lived. Inclusion is part of the church identity. Mercy extends beyond the rhetorical and pervades every committee, team, and task force in the institution called “church.” Christendom died years ago. Cultural Christianity makes no sense. We are part of the transformed body of believers. 

Christ died so we could live. 

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