This morning, I had a vision of an elegant cruise ship floating on a glassy sea.
I have been working on my sermon for this Sunday and the main topic is from Matthew 25:14–30
Where is your treasure stored? What have you done with your talents?
In January of 2020, the fragility of what man has built came to the surface in less than a month. It seems like a hundred years ago when all of the chaos started but in fact, it is only November of the same year. In January, I was in Seattle Washington when the first signs of trouble started to emerge. I was there for the official inactivation of the USS Pittsburgh and had just enjoyed a weekend of pageantry and brotherhood.
By Sunday morning, January 19, news of a new and very virulent disease was starting to leak out from China.
From the Wall Street Journal
“BEIJING—Chinese health authorities have identified 17 new cases of a pneumonia-like virus that has killed two people, raising concerns the disease could spread during the coming Lunar New Year holiday—the busiest travel week of the year in China.
On Sunday, the health commission in Wuhan, the densely-populated central Chinese city where the virus was first discovered, described three of the new cases as severe. Wuhan authorities didn’t say how the new patients, 12 of whom are men, might have been infected.”
The WHO was still calling it containable at this point, but already rumblings of something catastrophic were emerging. Pictures from China that had been smuggled out before the Party locked down the airwaves showed men in hazmat suits breaking down people doors and hauling them into vans with no windows. A few glimmers of information from Chinese scientists appeared and then disappeared just as quickly.
I found myself that morning in Seattle riding a ferry boat from Bremerton.
People were huddled together on the front deck looking at the city grow bigger in the rare sun filled day. Mt. Rainier was gleaming off in the distance and my pictures are testimony to the glorious majesty that ancient volcano represents. I even let some stranger hold my phone to take a picture of me with the view behind me.
When I got to the city, my mission was to have a seafood feast. I know. Pretty selfish. But it was something that I really craved after not being in Seattle for a number of years. In the waterfront restaurant, I was surrounded by Chinese nationals. Some appeared to be students, some were obviously business people. The restaurant was very crowded. So was the sidewalk afterwards as people mingled together enjoying the sunshine and frivolity.
It was a perfect day.
But the news was catching up with us quickly. Something was amiss with this whole virus event. By the next morning, early warnings were already being sounded that places as far away as Italy were seeing a rapid spike in cases and the most unimaginable deaths were being reported in large numbers.
The plane ride back to Pittsburgh was supposed to be my catch up time for resting. But sitting right across the aisle from me was a Chinese gentleman. He coughed a few times. I normally pray when the plane takes off. This time I prayed a little harder.
On January 31, the WHO published the following: “Virus can be contained
“The Committee believes that it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk.”
Mr. Tedros tweeted following the meeting: “We must remember that these are people, not numbers. More important than the declaration of a public health emergency are the committee’s recommendations for preventing the spread…and ensuring a measured and evidence-based response.”
Travel and trade should continue
He said there was there was “no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade. We call on all countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent. WHO stands ready to provide advice to any country that is considering what measures to take.”
The Committee said evidence has shown that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies “may be ineffective and may divert resources from other interventions.
“Further, restrictions may interrupt needed aid and technical support, may disrupt businesses and may have negative effects” on the economies of those countries affected.”
The disease spread quickly around the globe. Air traffic was shut down between the US and China at the end of January. Europe followed. But it was too late. Someday epidemiologists will write volumes on the patterns of the spread and the resurgences. Everyone else will write books and reports about the physical impacts and economic impacts. I am not that gifted. I just get flashes of visions from time to time.
This vision I had today was a cruise ship.
Modern cruise ships are the hallmark of the financial success part of the world has enjoyed. If you have enough money, you can ride them to exotic ports while you are cradled in the most luxurious accommodations imaginable. You can dine on the most exquisite cuisine imaginable prepared by world class chefs and served to your table by smiling and happy seeming workers. Nothing is spared for your comfort. The big ships even have stabilizers so that in rougher seas, you are barely bothered by the ocean’s impetuousness. You really are treated as a King and Queen in this fantasy bubble.
But not long after the Covid was unleashed, it reached the cruise lines. Whether by passengers who ignored the early warnings or by crew members being shuttled in from some of the hot spots. The reality for many cruise ships was that no one wanted to take them into their ports. These ships became sailing ghost ships where sick people quickly overcame the meager health care facilities and food and water became critical issues. Countries refused them ports of entry out of fear of further spreading of the disease and this former floating paradise became a floating hell.
Within months, the entire industry was on its knees. Along with the ships, others followed. Disney Kingdoms became hollowed out shells with no guests and no workers. The others all followed. Sports, community activities, festivals, schools, shopping in person, everything, The airlines were brought to a standstill.
Maybe why that is why it seems like a hundred years instead of eleven months.
For no particular reason, people began to hoard toilet paper.
Not just TP but all manner of items that you might associate with a hurricane coming or a really wicked snow storm. What stores had supplies rationed them and no amount of persuasion from the government slowed down this mass psychosis. To this day, I still can’t figure out the whole toilet paper thing. Except that people were afraid of the unknown.
Before the world knew about Covid, the world was actually pretty divided already.
In America, our financial prosperity was off the charts for many people. The reason so many cruise ships were in operation was that the fortunate people who could afford them were focused on those personal dreams of achievements. In our country, possessions, homes, lavish weddings, expensive trips and all manner of toys had become almost an expectation. Look at all the cable TV shows dedicated to celebrating the excesses we had grown used to. How many billions of dollars went into parties for weddings that kept growing bigger and more expensive?
Look at the focus on bigger and more lavish homes that only housed one family. Designer dogs and cats, wardrobes filled with overpriced garments and entertainment centers once only found in elite billionaires estates.
At the very same time, we had people living in the streets and scrounging for morsels of food. Families desperately clinging onto the homes and some failing badly in the attempt. Seniors scrimping on their savings and cutting back on their medicines. Children of poor families that had little to no access to computers and often even to books that were relevant.
Drugs and gangs were prominent in the underbelly of society as well. The shootings in places like Chicago were present long before the Covid crisis began.
But the cruise ships sailed on in abandon.
Churches sat empty long before the Covid forced them to shut down. Empty churches and full entertainment and sporting venues. Kids couldn’t come because that was when soccer and other sports reigned. Mom and Dad work several jobs to pay for the material stuff and the kids are being raised by the electronic maze that someone else contains. The parents are too tired to monitor them. The puppet masters have boundless energy to create a generation of influenced and brain dead robotrons.
Until Covid. The great equalizer.
In my belief system, God created the world. God created man in his own image. Man rebelled against God and has been paying for the sin ever since. Covid is just one more manifestation of that sin. The life form that it represents probably existed in nature but it was apparently man’s manipulation that caused it to get out of control.
I know I just lost a bunch of readers. Sorry about that.
If you are still here, I would say that it is a frightening thing to become a Jeremiah. The prophet was sent to warn Israel that they were out of control and God was going to bring them to their knees. They had broken his laws and were challenging God to do something about it.
Were we? Did we allow the glitter and gold of our success to make us lose sight of the poor and impoverished? Did we stop giving God his share of the bounty and he has responded by letting us be who we are in creating something so virulent that we lost the ability to control it?
At this point, Jeremiah would be screaming at you to repent. I won’t. That is your choice. Your belief structure will dictate how you respond. We are so far down the road now, I can’t imagine anything I could say that would convince you that this is bigger than a virus that escaped from a lab in China.
I do believe that we are coming face to face with the decisions we all have made. I do not believe this is over. And I do believe that we will all physically die since all of our bodies start the death march from the moment we are born.
But what about your soul? What if those crazy Christ worshippers were right all along? What if there really are choices that need to be made long before the day your body ceases to function?
The answer will come the day your cruise ship sails into port. If things work out, you will find a welcome home. If things don’t … this was from an article about one of the cruise ships in March of this year.
“It was meant to be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure cruising around the coast of South America.
Instead, it became a living hell.”
One Postscript… also from an article printed on January 31 2020
If the virus spreads throughout the world, the number of deaths could be substantial. The current death rate of 2–3% — while not as high as for SARS — is still quite high for an infectious disease, says Adam Kamradt-Scott, a global health-security specialist at the University of Sydney, Australia. The 1918 influenza outbreak, known as the Spanish flu, infected around half a billion people, one-third of the world’s population at the time, and killed more than 2.5% of those infected; some have estimated that as many as 50 million people died.
The China coronavirus probably won’t trigger such an apocalyptic scenario, because it isn’t typically infecting or killing young, healthy people, says Kamradt-Scott.
I am thinking they might have underestimated a bit.