If you tuned into last night’s debate or have spent any amount of time following this year’s race, you know blame is now the name of the game in the 2020 presidential election.
Every affliction must be assigned a villain.
It wasn’t always so. Let me describe a true-life scene for you.
Record deaths from the virus were mounting, taxing hospitals beyond their capacity. On one day alone, over 60 desperate calls for medical help in New York City go unaided.
Meanwhile, a blizzard in North Dakota killed 34 people and a deadly tornado outbreak was sweeping through the South, killing dozens in its path. On Palm Sunday, twisters claimed the lives of 380 people throughout the Midwest and South. Days later, seven violent F4 tornadoes devastate Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.
Compounding the gathering woes was a deadly, category 2 hurricane in Louisiana, swamping low-lying properties and washing out roads and railroad tracks.
There was more.
In a single day, 5 wildfires ravage the dried-out Adirondacks.
In Chicago and Independence, Kansas, race riots with police rage, while another wicked feud is averted in Arkansas.
Our current life in 2020, the apocalyptic consequences of gross presidential mismanagement and/or the reckless ignoring of cataclysmic climate change?
Rather, a snapshot of President Woodrow Wilson’s America one-hundred years ago in 1920, just as the death toll for the Spanish flu pandemic approached 675,000 in the United States and 5 million across the globe.
By 1920, Wilson was in his second term, hampered by a stroke suffered a year earlier, but still riding high from being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping negotiate the peace treaty to end World War I.
Yet, despite the escalating death toll attributable to the influenza, Wilson made no public statements about it throughout the multiple-year pandemic.
No daily press briefings. No big speeches.
Not a single word.
Historians have long suggested Wilson was singularly focused on World War I, but by the end of 1920, hostilities in Europe had been over for two years.
I suspect he didn’t say anything about it because nobody was blaming him for it.
Once upon a time, Americans didn’t expect their president or their government to solve every problem. They understood that some things were outside not only a politician’s control, but also mankind’s.
They recognized that government can try to minimize and mitigate catastrophes, but in an open society, bad things happen. It’s inevitable. It’s the story of humanity.
It’s a doctor’s job to alleviate suffering, but it’s God’s to cure.
In other words, men and women can help – but only God can heal. As government takes a more active role in people’s lives, that’s become something of a foreign concept.
In fact, many now rely on government far more than God.
Tragically, tens of millions of deaths have been attributable to disease and natural disasters over the centuries. Perhaps some plagues and pandemics could have been avoided or reduced if people knew then what we know now – but hindsight is always 20/20.
Countless natural disasters struck the world long before the proliferation of fossil fuels and charges of carbon and ozone pollution. From floods to fires, catastrophes preceded cars and factory chimneys.
Despite presiding as president in the midst of the explosion of a global pandemic, Democrat Woodrow Wilson was lionized, with The New York Times lauding him for his “unflagging zeal and devotion.”
As a Christian, I try to look inward before casting stones outward. I also recognize there are so many difficult things happening in this world that are outside of my control, like disease and natural disasters. Why God allows suffering like COVID-19 is the type of question people have been asking for ages, but I do know He uses everything to accomplish His purposes.
“The problem with the world is it blames problems on things besides sin and identifies salvation on things outside God,” says my friend, pastor Dr. Tim Keller.
I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for sin to catch the blame for our current challenges – but in the “blame game,” that’s the hands-down winner.
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