Our society has been living on a knife’s edge. COVID-19 is making that arrangement untenable.
The great recession of 2007 was an opportunity for many of us to recognize–perhaps for the first time in a generation–that our economic way of life is precarious at best. In that moment, the bursting of the mortgage-backed securities bubble threatened to wipe out the economy. Unemployment soared. Government printed money and threw it at industries in an effort to keep the lights on and the show going.
We recovered. We didn’t learn.
Now we face a plague that has rocked our nation. It has caused the economy to slow and unemployment to reach a level rivalled only by that of the Great Depression.
More than one hundred thousand Americans (132,000) have died. There have been close to three million diagnosed cases in the United States and more than 11 million worldwide.
My state, Illinois, has only recently emerged from lockdown and now permits gatherings of fewer than fifty with social-distancing observed. States further south have been pretty much wide open. Infection rates are increasing there.
This poses the very real possibility of moving back into greater lockdown. Unemployment will rise again. Churches will remain empty of worshippers. Office buildings will be replaced by living rooms and dining room tables.
In the midst of this, parents will be attempting to care for their children while also holding down full-time jobs. Employers will pat themselves on the back for allowing distance work while employees will struggle with the heavy load of working, keeping house, teaching school, and practicing their faith in 1,500 square feet.
This is our indefinite future. And this in the middle of the apparent breakdown of any cohesive narrative of national identity and the fragmentation of religious belief from practice.
These are dark times. And the future remains uncertain.