The pandemic has called up a variety of responses, some of them more helpful than others. “Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands” is sound advice. But is there a deeper message we might speak to this time of fear, danger, uncertainty, and death?
Actress Gal Gadot got together with a number of other celebrities, producing a little video that was promoted by major media channels. The idea of serenading the world in a time of crisis was a kind sentiment, and good for morale; the content of this particular serenade was awful. Gadot says that the time of isolation has got her feeling philosophical, and says that she heard of another serenade she heard, of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Gadot then begins the song, which is picked up by numerous celebrities as described here. The song is a naïve humanist fantasy, imagining a world where the elimination of nations, private property, and religion leads to perfect unity and peace. The hypocrisy of a group of celebrities singing a song that contains the line “Imagine no possessions” is staggering, but not nearly so troubling as the rest of the vision for mankind they exhort us to imagine.
“Imagine there’s no heaven…No hell below us,” the song suggests, as though the loss of a sense of eternal destiny will encourage generosity and the brotherhood of man. “And no religion too” it later adds, as though the loss of transcendent morality and meaning will contribute to world peace. The song’s diagnosis of the human condition is profoundly flawed.
But, more importantly, it is a delusion. We are being asked to imagine a world that simply does not and cannot exist–a world without God and without hope. It is a comfort to know that Lennon’s vision can never be realized; even a global atheistic socialist state could do nothing about the fact that there is a heaven, there is a hell, and there is a God whether humans acknowledge Him or not.
In a time of crisis, we need to be reminded of the profound truths that define our existence in this life and in the life to come. That is what has been lacking in so much of our society’s response to the pandemic, and it is the opposite message of “Imagine.” On the contrary, this is not a time to daydream, but a time to wake up.
Memento Mori, says the ancient Christian tradition–remember that you have to die. A pandemic should serve to remind us that life is finite, and all too often short. Life is serious, and meaningful; but it is serious and meaningful because there is a life to come. There is a God above, there is a heaven and there is a hell.
We have had national calls to prayer, and that is very good; but they ought to be accompanied by national calls to repentance. It would be a tragedy if concern about the pandemic moves us to wash our hands, but not our hearts. It would be a travesty to pray one moment for God’s deliverance, and the next moment to sing “Imagine there’s no heaven…and no religion too.”
I am not a prophet, to claim that COVID-19 is God’s judgment on us for x sin. But every disease is a consequence of the fall, and a reminder that we live in a fallen world. And every such reminder urges us to wake up and look to the wellbeing of our souls and of the souls of others. God sent His Son to bear the sins of the world, to take away the curse and bring us the offer of eternal life by faith in Him. And God offers, to all who will receive the gift of life in Jesus Christ, a future more wonderful than we can possibly imagine.