By Dr. Kevin Daniels
With currently over 1.36 million confirmed cases in the United States and over 4.1 million around the world, the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 has caused over 80,562 deaths in the U.S. and 282K around the world. In Maryland, 32,587 confirmed and 1,538 deaths; Baltimore City 3,317 confirmed cases and 161 deaths, testing is ongoing. The Labor Department recently said that the economy shed more than 20.5 million jobs in April (over 30 million total), sending the unemployment rate to 14.7 percent – a devastation not seen since the Great Depression. While many state and local governments are scrambling for resources, most Americans continue to be cynical and skeptical of national leadership providing a moral and trusted path forward – even the stimulus (CARES Act) designed to mitigate the economic impact of the virus is being morally questioned as to its oversight and fairness.
While the current White House administration is continuing its political feud with the CDC’s public health scientific methods and guidelines for the nation, many people are in an existential crisis. An existential crisis is when individuals question their own worldview, identity, whether their lives have meaning, purpose, or value, and question who is really concerned – it is the moment when people normally grapple with and ask the moral question, “Where is God?”
According to a recent poll, 56 percent of those attending historically Black churches said their faith has grown stronger as a result of the coronavirus pandemic (women were more likely than men and older adults more than younger people) – while others are still grappling with the moral question of God. Historically, African Americans have always intentionally leaned on faith as a panacea during very segregated, unequal, and unfair trying times in this country, as a matter of fact, faith has also been a part of the indigenous framework of African people from its origins well beyond this country. For many, faith is more than just what some call a “mythical and magical” belief in something or someone – faith is substantive and in action. Faith is a belief in something and someone you have reliable and valid reasons to believe exists, and faith is not in an argument with science but compatible – science is a part of the creator’s creation to be explored.
For many, during this COVID-19 crisis, faith in God is the embodiment of the Immanuel Concept (above us, in us, with us, and for us). In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, God is seen in action working with us and for us through doctors, teachers, nurses, social workers, psychologists, public health scientists, lawyers, activists, community and faith leaders in the giving of food, care, uplift, and providing necessary resources. As a matter of fact, the very word for “work” comes from portions of the translated word for “worship.”
To that end, as many states begin reopening the country, this crisis, as with other similar historical moments of this kind, provides us with a moral opportunity to decide what kind of humanity we want to be as an American country. It provides us with a moral opportunity to reevaluate not only our value system, but also the policies of our democracy and rule of law, infrastructure, health governance, income and wealth equality, food insecurities, education and worker safety. We must deeply reflect on the faith statement in “The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States” that states we are “One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Dr. Kevin Daniels is an associate professor at Morgan State University’s School of Social Work, chair of the Civic Action Committee for Minister’s Conference of Baltimore & Vicinity and a pastor at St. Martin Church.
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