Over Easter, I posted this to Facebook:
Today is humanity’s annual reminder that the case fatality rate for life is 100%. By all and any various means, each of us will die, and no mitigation measure or scientific breakthrough will allow any of us to escape this result. There is, however, a whisper of a ‘cure,’ a rumor, if you will, of a Doctor who licked Death, and now offers his own antibodies to those who seek Him. This is your annual reminder that many who seek claim they have found and now feel they have Good reason to Hope. Perhaps they do?
Of late, there is much uttering of the phrase “if it just saves one life.” But people who say this don’t really believe it, because if they did, obviously there would be–literally–hundreds of thousands of new laws and regulations, if not calls for ‘stay at home’ orders to remain in effect for the rest of our lives. The people who say this are not thinking, they are feeling. Once thinking kicks in, of course the support for lifetime onerous restrictions drops significantly, if only because it finally dawns on them that it isn’t possible to extend the principle “if it just saves one life” indefinitely without actually taking other lives. In reality, cost/benefit calculations are made, and we recognize that to save a particular life it may require the death of another particular person.
So it is, that they eventually realize that its possible to really go off the deep end, and in the attempt to save one particular life, one could kill not just one other life, but ten other lives, or even a hundred. As actual real-life examples start coming to mind, they realize that the “if it just saves one life” mantra is actually worthless. It is useless in most cases, swamped by the bounding limits of many other principles that they realize, with a start, are also critically important.
In my FB post, I meant to call attention to the fact that despite the many things we can do to extend life, we cannot extend it indefinitely. Eventually, death comes to us all. Whether you mitigate, or even eliminate, all the risks we face, Death is your ultimate fate. You may delay it, but you cannot prevent it. In light of this fact, the question of whether or not there is life after Death, and what the quality and nature of that life might be, becomes the ultimate question in need of an answer. Thus, the pervasive rumor that one person, at least, has defeated death, is worthy of our attention and deepest of investigations.
In this post, I wish to address another implication of the same set of facts.
To do so, I’d like to cite a widely abused and misunderstood passage from John 12:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, the hometown of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. So they hosted a dinner for Jesus there. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Him. Then Mary took about a pint of expensive perfume, made of pure nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was going to betray Him, asked, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” Judas did not say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money bag, he used to take from what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “She was intended to keep this perfume to prepare for the day of My burial. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me.” [bold added. (See also Matthew 26)]
I have often heard people–non-Christian ‘new’ atheist types in particular–claim that this… and by ‘this’ they always mean only the part I have bolded… shows why Christians don’t care for the poor… an inference and proposition both flawed and false. I have never met a Christian who believed we should be indifferent to the plight of the poor, ever. And, obviously, therefore never met a Christian building their case off this passage. The only ones using this passage are atheists, who miss the point in an attempt to score points.
But what is the point?
Well, context matters. Jesus knows he is about to die, and Mary decides to use her expensive perfume to anoint Jesus while he is alive, rather than after he is dead. In doing so, she ensures that Jesus will reek of this perfume throughout the following week, even when he is on the cross. The word ‘messiah’ (Hebrew) and the word ‘Christ’ both mean ‘anointed one.’ All those who encounter Jesus in the following days will recognize the symbolism, with their nostrils. The ‘rumor’ that Jesus has risen from the dead spreads like wildfire, and this development is one of the reasons why.
When evidence continues to surface that it really happened, people recall Jesus’ claim to be God himself. Certainly, the author of the Gospel of John (John, probably lol) believes this all to be the case. So, we should remember just who God is to the Jews: the omnipotent, omniscient, omni-omni, maker of EVERYTHING, that is, the entire universe, from the tiniest atom to the blackest of black holes.
What Judas says is quite true: ‘this perfume could have been sold and given to the poor.’ Yes, yes it could. But he did not say this out of concern for the poor, but because he was greedy. (This, by the by, is not a sentiment limited to Judas.) Evidently, Judas wasn’t too concerned with the idea that Jesus was going around claiming to be God, and when the chips were down, actually just wanted the money. Still, it remains true: the money could have been sold and given to the poor.
On the other hand, when you are face to face with God… who could make as much perfume as he wanted just by speaking… you know, like Jesus did when turning the water into wine, or multiplying bread and fish to feed thousands of people… it isn’t a question of scarcity, is it? Do you think God is unaware of the plight of the poor? Jesus’ entire time on the earth is marked by his concern for the poor and downtrodden. It is a little silly to think he is unaware of the poor or does not care about them.
When Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you” the emphasis is on the “you.” WE will always have poor people among us. God, on the other hand, has other plans. But the linch-pin of that plan is the problem worse than poverty: death itself. Jesus came to defeat death and create a new earth. First the former, then the latter.
But this passage introduces for us another principle: good intentions, alone, are not justification for the things that we think we should do. You may recognize this principle in these terms: the ends do not justify the means. Even the end “help the poor” does not justify any and all means. Even assuming that Judas was sincere, when faced with ‘higher’ considerations, noble considerations such as ‘helping the poor’ must be kept in proportion and perspective.
Are you following along? Just because you want to “save a life” or even if you want to save a million lives, not every measure you might consider is justified. Even if you wanted to end suffering itself, not every measure is justified–note how Peter Singer believes this proposition is reasonable: the entire human race should be sterilized so that human suffering is eliminated by eliminating the humans.
To denounce such a proposition is not to belittle the problem of suffering. But if you agree with me, even to the slightest degree, that Singer is wrong, then you are admitting that even in the face of inevitable suffering of humans, it is nonetheless better to exist.
Well, we are not presently face to face with God, but we are face to face with ‘higher considerations.’ As freedom and liberty is eroded and stripped away, with many people arguing that these should be ignored for years, if not indefinitely, we must consider whether or not the ‘ends justify the means.’
Now, our calculus would be different if it were the case that death is not an inevitable part of human experience. If we fully expected to live forever in these bodies, then we would regard the various threats to our life with continual horror and fear, doing everything possible to prevent death from happening. But that is not our expectation. No, its the opposite. We all expect to die, actually.
You do know that you are going to die, right?
Listen, I tell you a truth: much has been made about the effectiveness of the quarantine in St. Louis during the Spanish Flu c. 1918, in which we are confidently told many lives were saved… BUT ALL THOSE PEOPLE ARE DEAD.
Except for the very tiny number of people aged 100 and up who are still alive–and this handful will be gone soon, too–the entire population is dead. DEAD.
Did you know that there is no one left alive from the US Civil War?
They are all dead.
You see, no matter what you do today, in 100 years, 120 max, YOU WILL BE DEAD.
Since you cannot avoid death, no matter what you do, we are forced to realize that it cannot be our highest consideration (unless it is in connection with how to secure life after death). HOW we live, then, becomes important.
It is true, if we did a full lock down of the world indefinitely, we could ensure that nearly all diseases are eliminated. We could get rid of the coronavirus, true, and also the flu, ebola, and all the rest. You would have to lock everyone into a padded room that is fully isolated from everyone else, but YES, you could end infectious diseases. Of course, everyone would die of starvation, because everyone is locked in padded rooms and no one is left to plant, harvest, process, distribute and prepare food, but yes, you COULD end infectious diseases. Or, you could go full Singer, and just kill off all of humanity. This, too, would end all human to human transmission of diseases. YES, YOU COULD!
But let’s say you struck a balance where only half the people were locked up in padded rooms and the other half operated in hazmat suits to tend to the needs of all the other people, and you managed to achieve the end goal of eliminating all infectious diseases… in 100 years, 120 max, despite your monumental success, THEY WILL ALL BE DEAD.
Now, this may be shocking to you, dear reader, but there were infectious diseases even before the Spanish Flu. There were plagues that cut down hundreds of thousands and millions of people. You know what else murdered millions of people? The Communists. The Nazis. Do you know that there were infectious diseases during the American Revolutionary War? Along with that cause of death, there were other causes of death, such as the bitter cold, and British bullets. But they did not lock themselves in their houses and shame those who left their houses and propose doing so for 3-18 months or longer before all the ‘threats’ went away. No, these soldiers actually risked all that, when staying in their homes would have been ‘safer.’
Higher considerations: life without liberty was a pale thing compared to life with it.
Now, you may say that since all those people are dead, in ultimate terms, their freedom did not obtain anything important, either. However, this is the kind of thing that fat, lazy, comfortable people make in the year of 2020. Any person familiar with any history at all knows that the scale of misery and suffering associated with not having liberty really makes our current issues look trivial in comparison.
But then, any person familiar with any history at all knows that it is not inconceivable that we could go back to the scale of misery and suffering that have been the rule in other eras. Heck, if anyone wants to be perfectly safe from the coronavirus, they can mosey on over to North Korea, where there are no (officially) reported cases of the coronavirus… ZERO… and they can spend some time contemplating whether or not freedom and liberty is something we should be prepared to jettison in an instant if faced with an infectious disease.
I’m not kidding. If you don’t think freedom and liberty should be on the scale, then you should head on over to a place where they have dispensed with freedom and liberty altogether, and are fully committed (!) to the safety of the public. Then come back to us (if you can) and tell us again that “to save just one life” even our freedoms should be sacrificed, even indefinitely.
It is almost inevitable that this post will be misconstrued by partisan panic-mongerers who are barely literate. As I have argued before, one problem is that the very same rationales used to justify the short term impositions are, in the same articles, studies, and essays, used to justify the long term impositions. Thus, if one expresses criticism with the long term impositions, in their minds (not exactly high class thinkers, I’m afraid to say), you are criticizing the short term ones.
But that is not my point. That is not my purpose. And that is not my position.
The point is that our cost/benefit analysis CANNOT be limited only to lives saved and lives lost. There are things greater even then life, revealed by the fact that WE ALL DIE.
I would like to think that a lot of people would actually agree with me in this, but to be frank, you can’t hardly tell from scanning Facebook and the MSM. The majority opinion appears to be that the only ‘unselfish’ viewpoint worthy of consideration is: “Lockdown! Indefinitely, if necessary!” Everyone else, “Shut up.”
I have argued for short term impositions in other posts, but I have done the ‘cost/benefit’ calculation for the long term impositions, and there is a significant likelihood that A., those long term impositions will result in MORE suffering and death than the coronavirus would ever have done and B., the measures to actually ‘succeed’ (if that was your real goal) are unspeakably draconian and C., the moment the majority figures this out, it will be TOO LATE to prevent large scale dying.
I am not indifferent to death and suffering. I actually think that the ‘majority’ has less concern about death and suffering than I do, because, unless they are truly stupid, they should be with me, not against me. The truth is that if America continues what it is doing “indefinitely”, by this time next year, there will be mass suffering on a scale that is currently unimaginable. But here is the problem: even another 3 months of this will cause irreparable harm.
People think that we can just put everything on hold for 3-6 months and then, after a short ramping up time, be back to normal. In 3-6 months, these people will discover the truth, but it will be too late.
That means RIGHT NOW is the time to engage the brain. RIGHT NOW is when you need to re-evaluate the “if it saves just one life” principle. Because, if you think its a horror to lose just one life, just wait until you see what is coming because YOUR principle and YOUR principle ALONE ruled the day.