Flatten the Curve

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s what people put their faith in.

I’ll admit to being fearful in the beginning. I don’t do well with the unknown, and the virus was a worldwide unknown. I actively touched nothing on the train. I wore gloves to shop that I immediately threw away. Whenever I went outside, I’d anxiously wait two weeks to see if I had symptoms. We didn’t know what to expect.

Over time, I went outside. I saw other people. I ate at restaurants and crossed state lines. “Flatten the curve!” they cried, and joyously watched the numbers go down. But people were still getting tested every time they stepped outside. More and more companies were producing masks. “Flatten the curve” became “not until a vaccine.” That’s when I realized that none of this would ever be good enough. It’s not enough for numbers to go down. It had to be eradicated, and then the world would be safe. Then, there would be faith.

There’s faith in a mask, which prevents the spread.
There’s faith in COVID tests, to ensure they haven’t caught it (often multiple times).
There’s faith in politicians, who preach promises of health and safety.
There’s faith in a vaccine, which makes the virus go away.

None of these are completely trustworthy. And what happens when there is a vaccine, but there aren’t enough to go around? Or when people can’t/won’t get the shot?

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in man.”
—Psalm 118:8

I have no faith that a mask protects me from anything. I haven’t received a COVID test, because I never showed symptoms. (“What if you’re asymptomatic??!” Who cares?) I don’t listen to the news, and I won’t get a vaccine. I don’t have faith in any of this. I have even less faith in the people in charge, who reopen the country step-by-step like that’s supposed to protect us. They’re not protecting us. Staying cooped up indoors and wrapping your face in fabric is detrimental to your physical and mental health. I don’t need a doctor/scientist/”expert” to tell me that.

I have faith in God. He is the only constant, unchanging, compassionate One. Not to belittle Him, but it’s also easier. Life is full of scary unknowns. This isn’t the first time I’ve sat at home by myself, wondering what’s going to happen. It’s scary to move to a new town, cope with an ailing relative, or convert to Catholicism. But life doesn’t stop because I’m afraid. I lean on His wisdom and guidance to keep going. I won’t say I’m never fearful, because sometimes I am. But you can’t shut everything down.

But that’s what we’re doing. We’re shutting everything down to be careful. We’re past being careful. We’re steeped in this endless fear, because there will always be something else that needs to be done to feel safe. That’s no way to live. Don’t put your faith in manmade materials or ever-changing rules and regulations. Everything’s not going to be okay once a vaccine exists, just like everything wasn’t okay when we flattened the curve. These aren’t the things we’re meant to put our faith in.

Mashiach ben David

I’ve been reading this very informative (and often humorous) Q&A about Judaism, Jew Got Questions. It’s like sitting down with a rabbi and asking all the questions, from the purpose of keeping kosher to if it’s okay to get a tattoo (short answer, no). But I braced myself when I got to the chapter on the Messiah.

It’s interesting to learn who exactly the Jews are waiting for. Mashiach ben David, a.k.a. “the Anointed One, the descendent of King David.” Who apparently is not Jesus, because he must be born of human parents. And be something of royalty. And rebuild the Temple. It all just made me sad, but then I got to the part where they actively debate Jesus. Then I got mad over misinformation.

Let’s review!

1. Jesus was not a prophet
“prophecy ended upon the death of the last prophets—Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Jesus appeared on the scene approximately 350 years after prophecy had ended.”
Who says? Besides, if the Messiah is supposed to be a prophet, and prophecy is supposedly dead, then this argument is invalid.

2. Jesus was not a descendent of King David
Well, Joseph was a descendent of King David. Since Mary married into his family, this is a valid royal line. There are several woman present in Jewish genealogy for various reasons, so there’s no reason why this one wouldn’t count.

3. Jesus was not Torah observant
“Throughout the New Testament, Jesus contradicts the Torah and states that its commandments are no longer applicable.”
Quite the opposite! Jesus frequently urges the importance of the Commandments, and challenges people to not just follow the Law, but to follow it wholeheartedly. “I have come not to abolish [the Law] but to fulfill [it].” (Matthew 5:17)

4. Mistranslation of virgin birth

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
—Isaiah 7:14

The claim is “virgin” here really means “young woman,” rather than one who hasn’t had sex. I don’t argue that. But many prophecies have a double meaning, so both interpretations are correct. The unnamed young woman bears a child (there are many interpretations as to who this is), but its other meaning is literally a virgin—i.e., Mary.

5. God as Three
I admit that the Trinity is hard to grasp for non-Christians. But it’s not polytheism.

6. Man as God
“God is incorporeal… He assumes no physical form. God is Eternal, above time. He is Infinite, beyond space. He cannot be born and cannot die.”
This is all true. This point also argues that the Messiah will not be a demi-god, of which Jesus is not. He’s fully God, even in human form. He is eternal, for he’s still alive. If God is Eternal and Infinite, and He’s in everything, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest He can infiltrate humanity, His greatest creation.

There are other examples, but I spent this chapter saying to myself, “No, no, and… nope.” It truly makes me sad. It’s a very literal interpretation of prophecy, one that doesn’t allow for any leeway in what God may have said. This is the same God who demonstrated to Abram that human sacrifice isn’t necessary; He guided Moses into the unknown; He chose a scrawny shepherd to be Israel’s greatest king. Why not come to Earth as a human being? Why can’t there still be prophecy and miracles, when the whole of Israel’s faith is based on just that?

In this, I see how the Sanhedrin opposed Jesus. They were so dependent on their own knowledge that they allowed little room for faith.

Confessions of a Mega Church Pastor

I haven’t read a conversion story in a while, and this reminds me how much I like reading them. Even though we came from different backgrounds, the story feels familiar—Allen Hunt experienced that sense of “coming home” to the Church, much like I had, and this book explains how.

“As a Protestant, I had no idea what I was protesting.”

It takes a journey through a metaphorical house, describing what he found in the Church through its different rooms. I suppose it’s similar to Interior Castle in that sense, but more a basic introduction to the faith than growing deeper in it. Each room has its own theme: the dining room represents the Eucharist; the family cemetery is a reminder of the saints. “This house will take care of you,” he says, a reference to both his family home and the Church itself.

Though Dr. Hunt left the church he’d been pastoring—and the denomination all together—he remains respectful to his Protestant roots. He’ll gently call out when its teachings are wrong, but also offer the Catholic truth beside it. He often stresses the unity of the Church, that we’re to be “one holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”

“When your churches divide and split and find new ways to disagree on a daily basis, you become accustomed to a model based on group pride, epitomized by conflict, and then followed by division… You can always just find other Christians who believe like you do and begin your own congregation.”

I wish it had delved more into this division and his experience as a pastor. He doesn’t talk much about what it was like to leave, which I’d hoped for when picking it up. How does a mega-church pastor leave everything behind and become Catholic?

There are “real life helps” at the end, things you can do yourself to strengthen your own faith. This is where I learned about Dali’s Sacrament of the Last Supper (which I may prefer to Da Vinci’s now), and was inspired to read the Catechism cover-to-cover (one day!). They vary from small things you can do at home to pilgrimages overseas, but all things that can inspire a deeper connection to God—especially for a new Catholic.