Stop Basking in the “I would have done things differently and we’d all be better off now” COVID-19 Delusion

I have found a variation of the “Hanlon’s razor” aphorism helpful in calming my inner cynic these last months: “Never attribute to conspiracy that which can be explained by incompetence.” We’ve all been living in the unknown and there are still no COVID-19 experts, there are only people gaining expertise. That means we are all various shades of incompetent in dealing with COVID-19.

Nobody knows FOR SURE what does/doesn’t work or what will/won’t work. I’m willing to follow the lead of our leaders so long as mandates and bylaws are equitably applied. I am encouraged by the attentiveness, responsiveness, and desire to get back to “normal” that I’ve seen to this point and I am confident that will continue (here in Ontario anyway).

Here are some thoughts on an article you can find here:

Making face masks mandatory is not backed by science or law

There is some good, solid thinking here… and some oddly cynical/paranoid musings.

Quote 1 – good question
“The curve is flat, and has been for months. COVID-19 deaths peaked in March or April (depending on which jurisdiction) and now continue to decline, even while increased testing exposes more “cases.” If masks were not required to flatten the curve, why should they be required now?”

Quote 2 – good point
“Masks impair communication, harshly impacting vulnerable people with mental-health disorders and developmental disabilities; the deaf and hard of hearing; those with cognitive impairments; and children. Dangerous miscommunications can result when those who suffer from hearing loss are not able to hear someone who is wearing a mask. These risks are even greater in multicultural settings, where a person often needs to see the speaker’s mouth and face to fully understand what is being said.”

Quote 3 – excellent point
“In Alberta and other jurisdictions, the average age of death from COVID is higher than the average life expectancy; COVID has little if any impact on life expectancy.”

Quote 4 – encouragement for those who are paranoid?
“What is “unprecedented” in 2020 is not COVID but a new social and political experiment of locking up an entire population of millions of healthy people…”

I do not understand the impulse of so many who are convinced that their government is conspiring against them. If that’s you, you need to put yourself in their shoes for the last 5 months. Imagine yourself making life-and-death decisions for millions of people with no playbook to consult. Leaders were, for the most part, working with the same partial and conflicting information the rest of us were.

It’s wonderful for those who are not leading to bask in the “I would have done things differently and we’d all be better off now” delusion while comfortably seated in the peanut gallery.

Every election cycle there are many opportunities to get involved by volunteering or running for office if you think you know better than our current elected officials. And I’m not saying that you don’t know better – so go for it!

Photo Highlights (2020-06-08)

This week’s highlights. Prints of various sizes available. Leave a comment here or email michael.krahn@gmail.com for sizes and pricing. If you are a restaurant or business owner, contact me about a display.

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Put Away Selfie-Centredness

Pride is putting yourself instead of God at the centre of the universe. Taking a selfie is putting yourself at the centre of the frame, of the picture, of the story. And if you do this often enough you’ll find that you cannot love God and others when all your attention is spent on yourself. That is what pride is: loving yourself with all your love and having no love left for anyone else.

In the mid-1960s Canadian intellectual and media theorist Marshall McLuhan wrote a book called “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” where he explained that every tool and form of media was an extension or enhancement of a natural human ability. A microphone and speaker, for example, amplifies and extends the human voice. By way of these tools, a person can speak to and be heard by many more people than without. A fork is the extension of the human hand. With a fork you can pierce food and pick it up in a way you can’t with just your fingers. 

The camera came along, and it served as an extension of the eye. People began taking pictures of what they saw. Lenses were developed through which people could see much farther than they could with the naked eye. The reach of the human eye was extended by these developments in technology. 

Turning It Back on Ourselves

But think about what has happened with this particular technology over the last 10-15 years. We have camera lenses embedded in our phones. Lenses – plural – because unless you have a very old phone you have at least one camera pointed at your face. 

All of these new technologies have extended our reach. With camera technology, we’ve extended the reach of the eye, but we’ve used that extension to turn the camera back around at ourselves. Tools and technology generally allow us to reach out from ourselves to beyond ourselves, but we’ve leveraged camera technology to make it easier for us to look at ourselves. And so on some phones the camera isn’t used to capture images of the world, but images of self – selfies.

The Origins of Selfie-ism 

Are you aware of the origin of the term “selfie”? Here it is, and I quote: “On 13 September 2002, the first known use of the word selfie in any paper or electronic medium appeared in an Australian internet forum… in a [picture] post by Nathan Hope… he wrote the following: ‘Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.’” A fitting start to the selfie phenomenon – a drunk guy showing the world how he injured himself. 

And 18 years later, here we are. Today, if you search for the hashtag “selfie” on instagram you will be presented with over 412,000,000 posts. Apparently we really want to look at ourselves. It’s not enough to look in the mirror; we want to capture the mirror image and then look at it AND send it to other people all over the world. Taking pictures of ourselves, admiring pictures of ourselves, inviting others to admire pictures of us. 

The Selfie in Itself is Not the Problem

Now, I love cameras; I love taking pictures. I saved up all of last year to buy myself a good camera so I could take better pictures. There’s nothing wrong with taking pictures, and obviously there is no commandment against taking a picture of yourself, but what if selfies are almost the only kind of picture you take? What does that mean? Take a look at your instagram account. Is it filled with pictures of yourself? Do you think that might be an indication of a problem, of self-centredness, of narcissism?

This kind of narcissistic self-obsession is a problem for those who call themselves followers of Jesus. Of course there are many other ways to be narcissistically self-obsessed, but selfies seem to capture this phenomenon perfectly. Jesus taught us to love God and love others. Paul speaks of thinking of others more highly than yourself. 

Pride is putting yourself rather than God at the centre of the universe. What else is a selfie than putting yourself at the centre of the frame, of the picture, of the story? And if you do this often enough you’ll find that you cannot love God and others when all your attention is spent on yourself. That is what pride is, loving yourself with all your love and having no love left for anyone else.

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Points of Interest (2020-06-17)

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George Floyd and Me / Privilege Matters, Part 1 / Stop Preparing For The Last Disaster / Defund the Thought Police / Invisible insulation

Shai Linne – George Floyd and Me (The Gospel Coalition)

“So when I watch a video like George Floyd’s, it represents for me the fresh reopening of a deep wound and the reliving of layers of trauma that get exponentially compounded each time a well-meaning white friend says, ‘All lives matter.’ Of course they do, but in this country, black lives have been treated like they don’t matter for centuries and present inequities in criminal justice, income, housing, health care, education, etc. show that all lives don’t actually matter like they should.”

“For me, ‘life as usual’ means recognizing some people perceive me as a threat based solely on the color of my skin. For me, ‘life as usual’ means preparing my sons for the coming time when they’re no longer perceived as cute little boys, but teenage ‘thugs.’ Long after George Floyd disappears from the headlines, I will still be a black man in America.”

Rut Etheridge III – Privilege Matters, Part 1 (Gentle Reformation)

“’Black lives matter!’ is, in itself, not only an innocuous claim but a statement of absolute, ontological, moral truth. It is a claim implicitly made on page one – page one! – of God’s holy word (Genesis 1:26-27). The foundation upon which this value claim properly rests and rises, that every human being bears God’s image, is stressed throughout Scripture (Genesis 9, Exodus 20, James 2 and 3). So what does it tell us when, as Bible believers, our first or strongest response to the statement is defensiveness, reacting as if we or other kinds of people have been insulted or excluded?”

Stop Preparing For The Last Disaster (Farnam Street)

“After a particularly trying event, most people prepare for a repeat of whatever challenge they just faced. From the micro level to the macro level, we succumb to the availability bias and get ready to fight a war we’ve already fought. We learn that one lesson, but we don’t generalize that knowledge or expand it to other areas. Nor do we necessarily let the fact that a disaster happened teach us that disasters do, as a rule, tend to happen. Because we focus on the particulars, we don’t extrapolate what we learn to identifying what we can better do to prepare for adversity in general.”

“In the aftermath of a disaster, we want to be reassured of future safety. We lived through it, and we don’t want to do so again. By focusing on the particulars of a single event, however, we miss identifying the changes that will improve our chances of better outcomes next time. Yes, we don’t want any more planes to fly into buildings. But preparing for the last disaster leaves us just as underprepared for the next one.”

Doug Wilson – Defund the Thought Police (Blog & Mablog)

“And so it is not whether we will have police, but rather which police we will have. Not whether certain actions and words will be policed, but rather which actions and words will be policed. The choice is between a police that is generally accountable to elected leaders, who in turn are accountable to voters, or a police force who are accountable to no one except themselves and their own disordered ideology.”

Seth Godin – Invisible insulation

“It’s almost impossible to make a list of all the things I didn’t have to worry about yesterday. We need to work overtime to make that true for more people.”

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Points of Interest (2020-06-10)

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Unmasking Racism, Starting with Me / Is physical distancing over? It sure seems to be / The Treason of Epidemiologists

Gene Joo – Unmasking Racism, Starting with Me (The Gospel Coalition)

“We’ve learned in the past few months that COVID-19 is such a formidable threat precisely because it so efficiently spread through asymptomatic hosts. Similarly, racism, under the cover of plausible deniability, makes it that much more difficult to definitively identify and eradicate. What does it take for any person to admit that he’s a racist, when he compares himself to the obvious culprits from the antebellum South or Jim Crow America? How many people today will honestly see themselves as perpetrators of racial injustice?”

Rex Murphy – Is physical distancing over? It sure seems to be (National Post)

“The paradox here is not without poignancy. Civil authorities have kept people from their closest loved ones in times of the greatest emotional stress. You cannot visit. There are limits placed on funeral visitations. Daughter has not been able to visit mother, and forced to lip-speak through a window — and even that pathetic gesture has been frowned upon (Ottawa briefly banned it altogether). All in the name, I note again, of a greater good. We must not spread the virus, and if that means real pain for individual people, we’re sorry for it, but it must be the case. But protest marches fall outside these rigours?”

“This is certainly no condemnation of protests, but the logic behind the authorities who blithely and silently simply dumped or ignored their own rules. If they have a reason for doing so, let us hear it. Explain the different treatment. Justify the departure from the rules…. Is the pandemic over? Or, does its rage stop when people gather for a noble cause?”

Jonah Goldberg – The Treason of Epidemiologists (The Dispatch)

“We spent the last couple of months being hectored by public health experts and earnestly righteous media personalities who insisted that easing lockdown policies was immoral, that refusing to social distance or wear masks was nigh upon murderous. They even suggested that protests were somehow profane. But now that the George Floyd protests are serving as some kind of Great Awokening, many of the same are saying “never mind” about all of that. Protests aren’t profane, they’re glorious and essential—if they agree with what you’re protesting about.”

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Photo Highlights (2020-06-08)

This week’s highlights. Prints of various sizes available. Leave a comment here or email michael.krahn@gmail.com for sizes and pricing. If you are a restaurant or business owner, contact me about a display.

Please contact me using the form below if you are interested in purchasing any of the above pieces for your home, office or place of business:

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George Floyd, Lament and Racism in Our Churches

When a person is murdered by someone in authority who has sworn to protect them, we should be filled with grief and anger and we should take time to lament. If your first response to recent events is not to lament but to figure out “which side” you’re on, your priorities have been shaped not by the wisdom of God’s word but by the rantings of – take your pick – CNN or Fox News reporters.

One who promised to serve and protect instead did fatal harm. This is injustice, it deserves our attention, and it demands that we become more attentive generally to violence and abuse of authority in our society, and specifically that we seek to understand and eradicate violence that is racially motivated.

Lawlessness of All Kinds

This act of cowardly and cruel lawlessness has ignited riots and looting that must also be described as lawlessness. Some looters may admit to simply taking advantage, but most seem to have deeper and more complicated motives. We respond to the unlawful violence of a police officer abusing his authority with outright condemnation. How should we respond to the violent acts committed in response? Clearly, unlawful violence can never be condoned or justified, but we should make a fervent attempt to understand why it is happening. 

From years of talking to people as a pastor, I can tell you that people behave in unconscionable ways every day. But in order to love such people well it is important to both call out sin and at the same time seek to understand what cultivated and ignited such behaviour. The rioters and looters are sinning in stealing and destroying property and, in some cases, brutalizing bystanders and store owners. We can call all of that sin and at the same time look behind the sin and try to address whatever that pursuit of knowledge reveals. The first thing we see when we look closely at what is happening is a lot of anger.

Righteous and Unrighteous Anger Leads to Lawful and Unlawful Violence

Both peaceful demonstrators and violent rioters are consumed with a hot anger that has accumulated over time as images of one killing after another come to our attention. Within that hot anger is a mixture of righteous and unrighteousness anger. How can you tell the difference? Righteous anger rarely leads to violence, but when it does it can be lawful violence. When righteous anger leads to lawful violence, it is always a restrained violence – so restrained, in fact, that it barely passes as violence. In John 2:15 we read this about Jesus: “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” Jesus took physical, some would say even violent action in the name of restoring the honour of God’s house. 

Could this type of action have saved George Floyd’s life? What if a bystander, filled with righteous anger, had attempted to intervene in the name of preserving the dignity of a human being created in the image of God? Could that subsequently have led to the death of the one trying to intervene? Yes, but “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Would I be willing to lay my life down in such a situation so that George Floyd’s life could be spared? I’d like to believe that I would but, honestly and sadly, I would probably reason my way out of that opportunity.

Righteous anger can lead to a lawful and justified, but restrained and purposeful violence. Unrighteous anger, on the other hand, often results in unlawful violence, violence that has nothing to do with restoring the honour of God’s name or protecting the dignity of those made in his image. Derek Chauvin used unlawful violence; now rioters and looters are doing the same. In both cases we must condemn the violence while seeking to love well the violent offenders.

A Distorted View of Lawful Violence 

It’s worth noting that the violence that’s happening in American streets right now all fits perfectly within the ethos we’ve trained ourselves to believe by watching innumerable Hollywood movies. Many have come to believe that all that’s needed to justify violence is violence done to you or one of your loved ones by someone deemed inherently and irredeemable evil (I’m looking at you, John Wick… also, almost every movie Liam Neeson has done in the last decade). This is not a biblical view but it is commonly accepted as true, and this is what is playing out in the streets. 

We passively absorb this philosophy and while it may not automatically make us into violent people, it seeps into our our foundational beliefs and distorts our understanding of justice, blurring the distinction between lawful and unlawful violence. We cannot condone or approve of any unlawful violence – not the unlawful violence a police officer placing his knee on the back of a man’s neck, nor the unlawful violence of angry rioters destroying, burning, and looting in response. 

We can, however, join with and support peaceful demonstrators in concrete ways. Let me emphasize – IN CONCRETE WAYS. The last thing we need is the faint commitment of virtue signalling, which is merely a promise written with disappearing ink. Such easily issued words are just as easily forgotten.

Let’s Talk About This

As a church leader, what concrete actions can I take? Speaking out is only a first step. We need to have this conversation in the church, but how? It is said that Sunday mornings are the most segregated times of the week. That observation, which doubles as a condemnation, is a valid one where there is racial diversity in the community but racial uniformity in the churches. Specific to my context – and maybe yours too – living in a town with almost no racial diversity, how do we show by word and action that we believe racism is unbiblical and therefore evil?

Please chime in either in the comments below, by email, in the Facebook comments or any other avenue you might want to use.

This Will All End

This all has me longing for the fulfillment of the promises of Revelation 21:3-5:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

We will someday stand together with people of all races and nations in the presence of God and there will be no anger, no violence, no rioting or protesting. There will be no need for the mediation of law enforcement. Strife will have ended and unity will be the law of the land. Until then, we must continue to seek God’s kingdom in this life as we bring as much of it into this world as we can – by word and by action.

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Points of Interest (2020-06-03)

My Expert Opinion / The Law of Unintended Consequences: Shakespeare, Cobra Breeding, and a Tower in Pisa / What Are God’s Purposes in a Recession? / Preaching under the smile and the smiting rod / Coming undone: What COVID-19 pandemic policies have done to our psyche

Alan Jacobs – My Expert Opinion (Snakes and Ladders)

“Americans have never more desperately needed reliable knowledge than we do now; also, Americans have never been less inclined to trust experts, who are by definition the people supposed to possess the reliable knowledge.”

“My suggestion to journalists, then, is simple: Never use the word ‘expert.’ If you are tempted to say ‘We talked to an expert,’ say instead that you talked to an immunologist, or an epidemiologist — and then take a moment to explain what an immunologist or epidemiologist actually is.”

The Law of Unintended Consequences: Shakespeare, Cobra Breeding, and a Tower in Pisa (Farnam Street Blog)

“Many people who experience a rodent infestation will stop feeding their cats, assuming that this will encourage them to hunt more. The opposite occurs: well-fed cats are better hunters than hungry ones. When the British government offered financial rewards for people who killed and turned in cobras in India, people, reacting to incentives, began breeding the snakes. Once the reward program was scrapped, the population of cobras in India rose as people released the ones they had raised. The same thing occurred in Vietnam with rats…”

John Piper – What Are God’s Purposes in a Recession? (Desiring God)

“God is sovereign, which is why you can speak in terms of purposes. God is sovereign over these things. He foresees them all. He causes or permits them all. And when he foresees and he causes or permits, it is always by design. So, whatever comes to pass comes to pass by God’s design, however it comes to pass.”

Andrew Roycroft – Preaching under the smile and the smiting rod (Thinking Pastorally)

“Have we forfeited the opportunity of silence in our pulpits by becoming new heroes of the story in an online realm? Ought we not to have cried out to God to show us what he would have us do in our souls, before we called in technology to show us how to run our services? Have we rushed to solutions when our first note ought to have been sorrow?… Shall we leave lockdown more technically competent, and no more spiritually sensitive?”

Sharon Kirkey – Coming undone: What COVID-19 pandemic policies have done to our psyche (National Post)

“According to the survey, one-quarter of Canadians are experiencing moderate to severe levels of anxiety. A similar proportion felt lonely occasionally, or most of the time, in the past week; 20 per cent reported feeling depressed. Women, parents with children at home and younger adults, the 18- to 39-year-olds, are faring worse than others. Nearly one-quarter of the 1,005 people surveyed between May 8 and 12 reported binge-drinking in the past week. Significant numbers reported feeling nervous and edgy, or having trouble relaxing. We’re feeling easily annoyed and irritable, the survey tells us. We’ve spent an unhealthy number of days over the past two weeks worrying ‘something awful might happen.’”

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Photo Highlights (2020-06-01)

This week’s highlights. Prints of various sizes available. Leave a comment here or email michael.krahn@gmail.com for sizes and pricing. If you are a restaurant or business owner, contact me about a display.

Please contact me using the form below if you are interested in purchasing any of the above pieces for your home, office or place of business:

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Points of Interest (2020-05-27)

The Coming Pastoral Crash / Leaders Who Live to be Admired / Atheists in Praise of Christianity? / Fingerprints

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John Dobbs – The Coming Pastoral Crash – (Out Here Hope Remains)

“All of this leads me to conclude that there is a coming pastoral crash. And I don’t think we can stop it. Our pastoral care providers are maxed out. While some church members might think their preacher’s duties are relaxed, but it is actually the opposite. As we head into the coming months I believe we are going to see the affects of this pandemic on the ministers in all denominations.”

D.A. Carson – Leaders Who Live to be Admired – (Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians)

“There are many different styles of leadership. Some leaders live to be admired, to be praised. Without ever being so crass as to say so, they give the impression that the church exists and flourishes primarily because of their gifts, and the least the church can do in return is offer constant adulation.”

Jonathon Van Maren – Atheists in Praise of Christianity? (The Stream)

“Historian Tom Holland is known primarily as a storyteller of the ancient world. Thus, his newest book Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, came as something of a surprise for several reasons. First, Tom Holland is not a Christian. Second, Holland’s book is one of the most ambitious historical defenses of Christianity in a very long time.”

Lee Eclov – Fingerprints – (Preaching Today)

A good article here, but the highlight quote is this, by Dallas Willard: “Pastors need to redefine success. The popular model of success involves the ABCs—attendance, buildings, and cash. Instead of counting Christians, we need to weigh them. We weigh them by focusing on the most important kind of growth … fruit in keeping with the gospel and the kingdom.”

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