God Save Us From What Plagues Us

Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.

Amanda McMillen / 2.10.22

Last Wednesday, the Daily interviewed David Leonhardt of the New York Times, who had polled Americans around the country, from a variety of demographics, to determine how they are feeling about the pandemic right now. Covid in the present and Covid in the future — how are YOU feeling? Hope? Despair? Worry? Resignation? Fear? Anger? All of the above?

Leonhardt found an interesting slew of human irrationality. Those who were most worried about contracting Covid were the oldest demographic (over 65) and the youngest (18-34). The reasons for the older demographic might be easier to imagine than those of the youngest, but regardless, this is true for every single racial, socioeconomic, and gender demographic. The oldest and the youngest are those who have the greatest fears about getting sick with Covid.

When examined more closely, the demographics begin to diverge with political affiliations. According to this poll of thousands of people, Republicans are significantly less worried about contracting Covid than Democrats. This is probably not surprising to you. (It was not surprising to me.) Perhaps more surprising-not-surprising is that those who are most protected from Covid are also most worried. Those who have had three doses of the vaccine are the most concerned about contracting Covid — more so than those who have two doses and even more than those who have none. In a way, this makes sense. Those who are the most worried would be the most motivated to get vaccinated. But even after vaccination, after boosting, their fears persisted and little changed about their behavior. This, despite claiming to “believe in the science” that finds the vaccine to be safe and effective.

Leonhardt interpreted the data thus: political affiliation affects us, sometimes more than rationality does. As an American, this worries me (maybe more than Covid does), but as a Christian it does not surprise me. It turns out that we are not as rational as we believe ourselves to be. Even when we have an abundance of scientific research, we believe what we believe because of the ways we grew up, the people we break bread with, and where we receive our information. Myself very much included!

We are shaped by things other than rationality. Our emotional inner lives are often outside the bounds of even our own understanding. This irrationality goes beyond our political identities — think about how you pick something off the menu at a new restaurant, who you decide to ask on a date, or where you went to college. Whether it be large or small scale decisions, we are bound to bodies that lead with emotion. Logic is preceded by fear, excitement, shame, or annoyance. Our daily “decisions” are based on so much more than a thorough pro-con list!

This is why the psalmist wrote: Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. (Ps 28:26) We all fall into the category of fool in one way or another, no matter our beloved political identities. Thankfully, God reaches us in our humanity — right in the middle of our emotional, irrational, foolish inner lives. It is precisely here, in our actual human selves, where the Holy Spirit brings the fruits that make up the beautiful result of our emotional irrationality — the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those fruits in our lives that we can’t quite pin down or conjure at will. These come as pure gift when we reach the end of our rational selves.

God, allow us to admit our foolishness with joyful surrender. And more than anything, save us from what plagues us — body, mind and spirit.

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