A proud tower crumbles

Like Babel, COVID-19 scatters and confuses

Jul 13, 2020 by

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It was one thing when the United States closed its borders to travelers from the ­European Union in March. It was another when the EU chastised lax American responses to COVID-19 and turned the tables, lifting bans June 30 on some travelers but not those from the U.S. Then individual U.S. states began mandating quarantines for people coming from locations with climbing case rates.

The world’s richest and most mobile citizens had gotten so used to their “right” to travel, the sudden switch may have come as a shock. It could have happened as quickly as God confusing the languages and scattering the builders of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1–9).

The Old Testament describes the tower project as a rebellion against God by man, who after the great flood lost humility and focused on human greatness.

While one tragedy of COVID-19 is its dis­proportionately high infection rate among low-income people of color who must often work in close conditions to make a living, the virus prospers and spreads when a community of people is defined by its pride, individual liberty and exceptionalism. That is why densely clustered communitarian nations such as Japan and South Korea have been able to control the pandemic’s spread, while many people in the more individualistic U.S. bristle at the mere suggestion their life­styles should adapt for the greater good.

Exponentially rising cases in states that “reopened” earliest are the clearest examples, but exceptionalism is at play in other locations as well. In the last month, COVID-19 has spiked in several counties known for large Amish concentrations, including Lancaster County, Pa., Holmes and Ashland counties in Ohio, and Northern Indiana. Separation from the world just isn’t what it used to be.

It is unfortunate that politics has polarized the wearing of masks to limit the spread of COVID-19. As people ignore restrictions, the virus will continue to spread, and restrictions will continue to grow.

Drop the exceptionalism, take precautions and truly love your neighbor as yourself. Put your faith in both God and science. The alternative is to grow even more scattered and confused.


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