Christ, COVID, and the Spirit of Fear

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord (Luke 2:8-11).

It’s Christmas. 

The Lord’s angel who announced the good news of the world’s Savior and commanded the shepherds to be not afraid spoke not only to them but to us as well. The advent of Christ, the logos (word, reason) of God made flesh, doesn’t just render fear superfluous. The incarnation of the second person of the Blessed Trinity unequivocally forbids indulgence of, as Paul refers to it, “the spirit of fear.” 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

Of course, Paul merely distilled a theme that pervades the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation: Believers, by virtue of their commitment to the God who creates, sustains, and redeems them, are expected to eschew, not fear per se, but a temperament of fear that, in light of God’s promise, can only be deemed irrational.

Fear in itself is universal, necessary, and, when it alerts us to real dangers demanding attention, desirable, for fear in such circumstances keeps us safe. Fear is actually one of God’s countless blessings. In contrast, fearlessness in the face of danger is no virtue. As Aristotle noted, a person who is deficient in fear when a situation demands a greater supply of it is unreasonable. He is vicious, and his vice is that of recklessness.

Irrational fear, however, is something Christians must acknowledge and surmount. This being said, it is at once tragic and outrageous that during this Christmas season so many self-styled disciples of the babe born in the manger have in effect decided to cancel their Christmas celebrations because of their fear over the possibility of contracting a cold-virus—and, yes, SARS CoV-2 is a cold virus—with a survival rate of 99.5-99.9 percent. 

It’s even worse than this, though. Far from being something new and mysterious, COVID has been with the world for the better part of two years now. Those most fearful are those who are “fully vaccinated,” “boosted,” and continue to wear masks. Their fear, which has been more or less constant for the last 21 months, has recently spiked to March 2020 levels over Omicron—which is by all accounts the mildest yet of the COVID variants.

The fear over COVID, in other words, is more irrational than it has ever been. This is no mean feat, given just how irrational this fear has been since day one. 

Conspicuously, painfully absent from the scene is the spirit of “power and of love and of a sound mind” that is supposed to distinguish Christians. 

As far as power goes, the only power on display is that of career bureaucrats, politicians, media figures, and the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies—all of whom serve their material interests through a tireless campaign of panic, deception, intimidation, and coercion. Their power has expanded exponentially to heretofore unseen levels courtesy of the millions and millions of citizens who ceded it to them from fear. 

As for love, it has seen better days. Clearly, the ruling class hasn’t a scintilla of love for those whom they rule. It’s not necessarily quite right, however, to say as many commentators often say, that its members have contempt for the citizenry. Certainly, there’s some contempt. Yet it’s probably most accurate to characterize the predominant attitude of the powers-that-be as simply exploitative. Citizens are mere objects, things, nothing more and nothing less than a means to an end, whether the end is votes, ratings, readership, or profits.

Yet the love has been in shamefully short supply during the COVID era on the part of the masses too. While the fearful are undoubtedly sincere, they must, ultimately, own it. They are responsible for having elevated their fear over and above all other considerations. Their hysteria over this cold virus with a mortality rate of one-tenth to one-half of one percent has motivated them to happily endorse—to make possible—the systematization of fear. Those who had always purported to value the tolerance, inclusion, and, yes, love, of “the other” have chosen to institutionalize intolerance, exclusion, and dread of the other—who is now virtually anyone and everyone, including friends, neighbors, and the members of their own families. 

Those who not all that long ago shouted, “Bridges, not walls!” and who still insist upon the realization of a “borderless” world have done an about-face in the COVID era as they have embraced as many borders and walls as there are human beings. Only these barriers between persons are in the form of masks, plastic visors, and other “social distancing” protocols. 

Those who are forever wailing over “systemic racism” have zero qualms about systematizing the very sorts of oppressive restrictions that they claim to oppose. Masks, historically, have signified outlawry. This has a “disparate impact” upon blacks who have borne and continue to bear a stigma of criminality. Masks render users partially faceless and impede the sounds of their voices. They also put others on notice that a mask wearer is like a leper, the flesh-and-blood embodiment of a deadly disease. 

Faceless, voiceless, untouchable—are these not the very evils to which racism subjects its victims? And, by the very definition of “systemic racism” as it is wielded by its self-sworn enemies, are not these COVID restrictions systemically racist by reason of the “disparate impact” they have upon blacks?

Those who have been shouting from the rooftops, “My body, my choice!” since forever are now vigorously advocating for mandating experimental COVID vaccines that are not yet fully tested and after the injection of which, according to the CDC’s own VAERS system, more adverse effects have ensued than have reportedly followed after the administration of all other vaccines combined over the last 30 years. Furthermore, the fearful favor systematic discrimination against the vaccine-averse throughout every aspect of society—regardless of how much pain and suffering it causes.

And since nearly 70 percent of American blacks remain unvaccinated, this again shows that, by their own lights, the fearful insist on perpetuating the very systemic racism against which they railed most vocally. 

Those most easily panicked have always been those to shout loudest on behalf of the working class, the needy, the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden. Yet because of the system that they’ve endorsed, since the beginning of the COVID era in March of 2020, legions of Americans have lost their jobs and businesses. They’ve also lost relationships that sustain them, those “little platoons,” as Burke referred to those of our communities that enrich our lives with meaning. Friendships and family ties have ruptured. Domestic abuse, substance abuse, and rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide have risen dramatically. 

Because of the “quarantines” that the fearful have supported, it is estimated that 2 billion people around the world fell into poverty last year. Evidently, the disruption in the global supply chains was too much.      

On a personal or more local level, the fearful have treated their relatives, friends, neighbors, and even strangers who they regard as “anti-maskers” and “anti-vaxxers” in ways that, as far as the consequences, if not necessarily the motives, of their actions are concerned, can only be described as cruel. 

There has been no love.

Regarding a sound mind, by now it should be self-evident that the spirit of hysteria that has defined the age of COVID is a function of a most unsound mind. No more needs to be said on that front here other than this:

Christ, the Reason for this Season, is also the Logos, the Word, or the Reason of God. The antithesis of Logos is chaos. The spirit of fear is intrinsically irrational, unsound. 

This Christmas, let us pray that God continues to hold us steady in the midst of this sea of irrational fear that surrounds us. Let us pray that those who have become possessed by the spirit of fear may see the error of their ways, repent of their actions, and become free.

And let us pray as well that God may visit his justice upon the powerful who have corrupted and harmed untold numbers of human beings around the planet.

Let us pray that the truth about this ugly episode in our history may finally be revealed. 

Merry Christmas.   



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About Jack Kerwick

Jack Kerwick earned his doctorate degree in philosophy from Temple University. His areas of specialization are ethics and political philosophy, with a particular interest in classical conservatism. His work has appeared in both scholarly journals and popular publications, and he recently authored, The American Offensive: Dispatches from the Front. Kerwick has been teaching philosophy for nearly 17 years at a variety of institutions, from Baylor to Temple, Penn State University, the College of New Jersey and elsewhere. His next book, Misguided Guardians: The Conservative Case Against Neoconservatism is pending publication. He is currently an instructor of philosophy at Rowan College at Burlington County.

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