PRAYER PLEDGE: VP Pence is right. We need prayer to fight coronavirus, not political antics! Sign the petition here.
March 4, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – When the Spanish Flu pandemic struck in 1918, many churches responded by appointing special days of prayer, calling upon their congregants to beg God for assistance in the face of a spreading disease that was felling millions. In some instances, people called on national leaders to urge citizens to their knees (the prime minister of Australia received one letter asking for an entire week of “Humiliation and Prayer to stay the ravages of the Pneumonic-Influenza Plague”). It was understood, if not accepted, that God was in control of all things, and thus that begging Him for a reprieve was essential.
A century later, and the response of our elites to the potential of a new pandemic is highlighting just how post-Christian our culture has really become. A February 26 photograph of Vice President Mike Pence praying at the White House with the coronavirus task force went viral earlier this week, with many bitterly mocking the fact that Pence and his team would seek God’s guidance in dealing with the potential pandemic. “I have yet to attend a scientific meeting that begins with a Christian prayer,” sneered Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, on Twitter.
Much of the reaction to the photo on social media was in the same vein. Thomas Chatterton Williams, a writer for New York Magazine and Harper’s Magazine tweeted out the photo with the caption: “Mike Pence and his coronavirus team praying for a solution. We are so screwed.” His tweet received 4,300 retweets. Rasmussen and Williams seemed unaware of the fact that most of the great titans of science were profoundly religious and praying men themselves—or, as writer Jonathan Merrit noted, that 79% of Americans reportedly prayed in the last three months.
And then there was the reaction of the comedians, who seem to find the apocalyptic nature of a possible pandemic to be a source of humor. I will admit that I felt a slight shiver run up my spine when late night host Stephen Colbert, who identifies as Catholic, decided to take the opportunity to mock Christians by walking across the stage clanging a large bell and shouting: “Plague! Plague! A righteous cleansing to punish man for his lust and vanity! Oh, swing your scythe oh angry God! Repent! Repent! Repent!” This routine was greeted with roars of laughter.
It may seem overly somber to point to a late-night routine as something scary, but think about it for a moment: Colbert was mocking the concept that a virus or “plague” could be a judgement from God, and the idea that we should repent of our sins in the face of such a terror was the punchline. This sort of thing can only be considered even remotely funny if you do in fact believe that there is no God, that we have not become wicked nations, and viruses—or “plagues” as Colbert put it—cannot be considered judgements or calls to repentance. But if you do believe those things, Colbert’s jokes seem awfully like taunting—and the heavens are not empty.
There are some of us who feel genuinely grateful that there are still those in authority who do not treat repentance like a joke or a punchline, but instead bow their knees and beg God for the wisdom that we desperately need. It is not the prayers of those who are working to confront this virus that make me afraid—but the mocking of those who think prayer has no place and that God’s judgements are a laughing matter. Mike Pence has the right idea, and we should all follow his lead.
Jonathon’s new podcast, The Van Maren Show, is dedicated to telling the stories of the pro-life and pro-family movement. In his latest episode, he and author Mary Eberstadt discuss the decline in religious belief in western civilization. Did the secularization of society lead to the death of the family, or did the death of the family lead to the secularization of society?
You can subscribe here and listen to the episode below: