Depending on which scamvangelical you listen to, COVID-19 is a punishment from God for gay marriage, homosexuality, abortion, adultery, or whatever they happen to be raising funds to fight this week. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Looking back in history, today’s pandemic has eerie parallels.

In the 1300s, bubonic plague spread to Christian Europe. In response, the Roman Catholic church explained the plague as God’s punishment and called people to prayer and religious marches. Repentance and pleading with God were the order of the day. Here is our first parallel; leaders in the Church declare a pandemic to be God’s punishment.

In 1348, a conspiracy theory spread claiming Jews were responsible for spreading the plague so they could kill Christians and dominate the world. Since those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it, Rick Wiles, anti-Semite supreme, blames the Jews. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Rick Wiles, the Florida pastor who claimed that the effort to impeach President Trump was a ‘Jew coup,’ said the spread of coronavirus in synagogues is a punishment of the Jewish people for opposing Jesus.” Welcome to parallel number two.

So, what’s next? In the 1300’s it was the flagellants. According to website, “The Flagellants were religious zealots of the Middle Ages in Europe who demonstrated their religious fervor and sought atonement for their sins by vigorously whipping themselves in public displays of penance. This approach to achieving redemption was most popular during times of crisis. Prolonged plague, hunger, drought, and other natural maladies would motivate thousands to resort to this extreme method of seeking relief. Despite condemnation by the Catholic Church, the movement gained strength and reached its greatest popularity during the onslaught of the Black Death that ravaged Europe in the mid-fourteenth century. Wearing white robes, large groups of the sect (many numbering in the thousands) roamed the countryside dragging crosses while whipping themselves into a religious frenzy.”

I’m expecting religious nuts to start round the clock prayer rallies, long-term fasting, and other extreme forms of pietism and asceticism that draws a crowd. It won’t be people like Falwell Jr., or Franklin Graham; it will be obscure religious leaders who rise to prominence with showy acts of “repentance.” I’m just guessing, of course, but if history repeats, that should be the pattern.

By the way, there were some other interesting effects of bubonic plague in Europe. Feudal Lords lost their power. When the people who actually did all the work (serfs) died off, the common laborer was able to demand more freedom and wages. Perhaps we will see our “essential workers” like grocery store employees get a living wage. The Catholic Church lost some of its authority. The all-knowing Church didn’t know how to stop the plague. The loss of authority helped pave the way to the protestant Reformation. Perhaps we shall see Fundagelicals lose their stranglehold on American religion and politics and a new Reformation begin. Finally, medicine improved. Science, observation, and evidence became the guiding force for medicine instead of superstition. I can only hope that this COVID-19 pandemic does away with “claiming the promises of Bible verses” as medical treatment.

Repentance won’t cure this pandemic. Yes, we should repent. We need repentance. We don’t need to repent to advert the anger of a hostile God. God isn’t punishing us. That false teaching is a distraction. We have created our own disaster. We have created a worldwide culture of greed and oppression, where the rich oppress the poor. We have created inequity in medical care, sanitary conditions, and nutrition. Disease is a natural consequence of greed over generosity. This pandemic is caused by injustice and oppression. This terrible disease and the effect are because we have failed to follow the “Golden Rule” and love our neighbor.

Repent of that. Make it true repentance by changing this global culture of greed and oppression. Stop listening to the false prophets who proclaim that God especially blesses billionaires. Those billions of dollars came at the price of other peoples’ wellbeing.

Progressive Christians, who preached a “Social Gospel” built hospitals, the YMCA, soup kitchens, and Sunday Schools to provide clean, safe places for the impoverished to practice good hygiene, get nutritious meals, and become educated. By combating the oppression of the poor, they averted more epidemics. It was their kind of repentance that changed the world.

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