The last book of the Bible is the Revelation of John. The first word in the book of Revelation transliterated from the Greek is apokalypsis. It means “revelation” or “revelatory unveiling.” The Revelation of John and other similar writings often portray end times events with all manner of symbolism and are often filled with great battles between forces of good and evil. Because of these characteristics, the word “apocalypse” in popular culture is often used to describe surreal stories of humanity’s self-destruction. In recent days, the coronavirus, a small bit of genetic material in a capsid (a protein shell), has given rise to a “great battle,” or more accurately, to a global, panic-filled, media, governmental, and corporate explosion. This unprecedented response to the “novel” corona virus dwarves humanity’s previous reactions to MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), and Ebola, which are much more dangerous. In the blink of an eye, the world has gone coronavirus crazy.

Contributing to or perhaps even driving the hysteria and panic surrounding this novel coronavirus are the media, as the following contrasts detail. As of 16 March 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA estimates “that so far this season there have been at least 36 million flu illnesses, 370,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths from flu.” Meanwhile, the novel coronavirus, called COVID-19, has only 3,487 total cases with 68 deaths. So, why were the media not going hysterical for most of the flu season? Where was the panic shopping and hoarding when the general population was faced with the flu? While the flu was spreading, why were schools, bars, and nearly all other social activities and gatherings not closed or curtailed? When thousands were dying of the flu, where were the politicians with their draconian declarations and partisan in-fighting? Plainly, a lethal flu cannot compete with the 2020 political primaries.

Speculation says that COVID-19 may have a three percent (3%) mortality rate. According to the CDC figures above, that rate is only 2.0% at the moment. So, the recovery rate for contracting COVID-19 is over 97%. If you were guaranteed to receive over 97% on every exam which you would ever take in life, would you panic and quite school? If you knew that 97% of all your lottery tickets were “winners,” would you go to work any longer? Despite having an estimated 97% recovery rate, it seems as if the coronavirus has caused 97% of the world to shut down.

Instead of remaining reasonable and rational, the media, ever in search of another sensational story to sell, has gone mad. Furthermore, politicians, needing to attend to their political aspirations, want to be seen to be “doing something.” So, the rest of the population is now discouraged from doing anything. Caught between the media’s madness and the politicians’ politicking, the defenseless, general populace has resorted to panic shopping. Furthermore, to restrict people from congregating, schools are closed. Colleges have moved classes online. Bars are barred from opening, and restaurants are running on zero occupancy. Nonetheless, thousands of fearful customers can still overrun retail outlets unrestricted in search of any- and everything available on the shelves whether such things are actually needed or not.

So, what are people hoarding? Think about this for a moment. Some stores are completely sold out of just about everything, including items like mustard. How often do you use mustard? Take a moment to check any or all the mustard containers in your refrigerator. Is your mustard even in date? Whatever the case, what is the likelihood that your mustard consumption will increase so dramatically over the next few weeks that you will need to hoard it? While people are hoarding mustard, are they also hoarding corresponding amounts of hotdogs and hamburgers? Think about it for a moment; somebody, please!

Seeking to rival the media’s madness, retailers have overwhelmed customers with email, especially online retailers, informing customers about their extra efforts at increased sanitation to assure their customers of their concern for their customers’ health and well-being. I am glad to hear that retailers are wiping their various surfaces more diligently, but why are online retailers telling me about such efforts when I only deal with them electronically? Meanwhile, not a single oil company nor a single petrol station has informed me that their employees are wiping clean any of the handles on their fuel pumps. Maybe, under the guise of reduced demand, the oil companies are sublimely fueling the spread of the coronavirus, although no one is quite sure if even they have a handle on the situation.

Perhaps the most baffling of all the hoarded commodities is toilet paper (TP). For completely unknown and irrational reasons, it seems that toilet paper was one of the first items to tantalize the eye of panic shoppers, like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. People started queuing for hours, overcrowding themselves into shops, exposing themselves and their families to coronaviral infection to buy more TP than one family could use for a month of food poisoning; never mind that COVID-19 causes a respiratory condition. What has caused this compelling need to stock up on TP? Whatever the reason, it is nigh on impossible to square it with plain reason.

So, what is happening to humanity? What are we really witnessing? Through a confluence of epidemiological, social, commercial, and interpersonal dynamics, a single virus has brought humanity’s vulnerability, fragility, and mortality clearly and globally into focus. Although death could come for any of us at any moment, through the coronavirus we are witnessing the global reaction of a world without God, a world with no promise of eternal life, desperately clinging to things like hoarded toilet paper, in hope of being “saved.”

This reaction is compounded by the fact that almost all the societal distractions which we use to distract ourselves from our human fragility and mortality are now being closed or shut down by powerless politicians and corporate concerns about a potential pandemic of post-coronaviral litigation. As a result, we sit and wait in anxious apprehension for the coronavirus apocalypse to unfold. Wretched human beings that we are, who will save us from these bodies of death (see Romans 7:24).

St. Paul writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:3-11 – ESV).

Through baptism, Christians have already died and are already raised from the dead. Through the promises of God given to us in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven. We are promised the gift of eternal life. Through baptism, we lead a diametrically opposed, new, dual existence. Whereas our mortal bodies are vulnerable and fragile, we live each day not only in newness of life but also boldly in defiance of death! In that spirit, we love in when faced with fear. We give when surrounded by hoarding. We open our hearts when all else is closing. We pray and give thanks to God when our world is overwhelmed with uncertainty and despair.

Most importantly, we love and pray for non-believers. To whom or to what does their heart cling to save them from the ever present reality of death, whenever and however it comes? We pray that one day and forever it will be Jesus, the crucified and resurrected Christ, the son of the living God.