With every other headline being about the Coronavirus (“Coronavirus,” “Harvey Weinstein,” “Coronavirus,” “Bernie Sanders,” “Coronavirus,” “Donald Trump,” “Donald Trump tweeted about the Coronavirus,” and so on and so forth), I figured, “Hey, why not post about the Coronavirus… again!” This time, I’ll be excerpting from the amazing Nadia Bolz-Weber:
A special reading from Leviticus, especially for COVID19 season.
The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” he shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.
Recently I had the chills and my neck ached and I mistakenly thought I was coming down with the plague. And as soon as I thought I may be sick I immediately wondered what I had done wrong. Like, it was clearly a spiritual failing.
The Levitical codes were, in a way, a public health manual that was developed so that the Hebrew people would not only be safe but also remain distinguishable from the other nations. Our world has always contained contaminates that pose real health risks, and it wasn’t uncommon for societies to deem these same elements religiously “unclean”.
And one way to protect the community is to have the sick and unclean live outside the camp. I can see this from a public health standpoint. Quarantine protocols make sense in terms of protecting folks.
But I wonder if there is also more to it than just that. I wonder if there can also be something metaphorical about wanting lepers to live outside the camp so to speak, maybe it serves another purpose as well, an unspoken, less noble purpose.
I mean, maybe folks in Jesus’ day didn’t really want lepers around, not just because of public health but also because lepers make human frailty and brokenness so disturbingly visible; their bodies a reminder of what could happen to any of us.
Unlike so many other ways of being un-well, you can’t pretend not to have leprosy.
Of course if someone has an illness that is contagious we want to keep our distance. Totally reasonable. But, maybe it is also true that we prefer to not be in close proximity to those who remind us too much of things we don’t want to think about.
I was at an event recently in which someone referred to a girlfriend of theirs who, at the age of 50 is pregnant with their first child. 50. I had such a strong reaction to this. I literally couldn’t hear anything they said after that, I even started to back away.
I do not want to be reminded that I could still get pregnant at my age. I do not want to be reminded that I could be a day away from a cancer diagnosis and a cancer diagnosis away from being homeless. I am more comfortable believing that I am following a formula that is working. I want to believe that the reason I don’t have leprosy (or Coronavirus) and someone else does, is because I lead a moral life, or the reason I don’t have cancer and my friend Kate does is because I don’t eat processed foods. There’s plenty of religion and spirituality out there that will happily sell you the formula for how to control life, how to release miracles – books and seminars from both New Age and Christian Sources that will tell you The Secret (so to speak) to “manifesting” health, wealth, and happiness. But it just doesn’t work like that.
10 years ago I wrote a profoundly unimportant book about bad Christian television which required me to watch 24 consecutive hours of so-called prosperity gospel preachers on Trinity Broadcasting network. There was an ad that came on while I was watching – complete with images of televangelist John Hagee laying hands on the heads of various folks: While a voice over said Miracles happen everyday for those who know how to release the healing power of God. Pastor Hagee wants you to meet God’s conditions for a miracle and he has prepared a special healing package. Package includes a Book and CD for$25.
I realized off the top of my head I could think of the following conditions for healing in the New Testament: 1. You have faith (like the woman with hemorrhages who touched Jesus’ garment), 2. You may or may not have faith but your friends do (like the guy who was lowered through the roof to Jesus) and 3. you not only have no faith, but you don’t even know the name of Jesus (like the lame man at the Bethesda pool who, when asked who healed him, was like, “I don’t know, some guy.”) So when it comes down to it, the only condition for healing is that… you are sick.
Please do read the rest of the post here. Then go read something non-Coronavirus related. I’m sure the President has tweeted something new by now.