• Nancy J Thompson

Going to Bat for Biology

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

Photo credit: Smithsonian.com

I love biology. One of my favorite classes was in genetics. I am no geneticist and no scientist, but I can appreciate how biology works, how things change.

For the past weeks, things have been changing. A new #coronavirus has come out of Wuhan, China. It started in bats, which carried it. Then it hopped from bats to people. Zoonoses: that’s the name for a disease that jumps from other species to humans and vice versa. Anthrax is a zoonoses. So is bird flu. So is this coronavirus.

Now, a Christian pastor, #Rick Wiles , is saying that the Wuhan coronavirus is a plague sent by God. He calls it God’s “death angel.” He says it is caused by “filth on our TVs” and people (specifically parents) “transgendering little children.” https://www.newsweek.com/christian-pastor-claims-coronavirus-gods-death-angel-blames-parents-transgendering-little-1484473

Sorry, Pastor Wiles, but that is batshit.

Those are the words of a man who wants to scare people with little knowledge of science. He wants to scare them into giving him money and power. He wants to scare them into hating others. He has the hubris to claim to know the mind and motivations of God, never mind that the Bible itself has made clear that the age of prophecy is over.

“Filth” on television does not cause viruses. Fact check: Rabies, smallpox and influenza are all caused by viruses. Together, they accounted for millions of deaths before television was even invented.

Another fact check: Viruses are life forms. New viruses come into existence regularly. Rotavirus; HIV; dengue; hantavirus; all cropped up over time. There is no reason to suppose that God sent hantavirus, for example, to kill Navajo people for any reason.

A third fact check: This coronavirus originated in Wuhan. China is so far the hardest hit country. China is notoriously intolerant of gays, lesbians, and transgender people. “Transgendering little children,” which is not even possible – transgender is a noun, not a verb – is certainly no cause of anything happening in China.

As for Pastor Wiles’s assertion that China is experiencing this virus because it is a “Godless Communist country,” I have a piece of advice: Go to China. Look around. Talk to people. Religion is alive and well in China. Specifically, Christianity is growing. And what branch of Christianity? Protestantism. In fact, Protestantism is one of the five official religions recognized by the CCP (along with Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, and Catholicism). Protestant house churches are proliferating. So much for godlessness.

Isn’t it time for people to move beyond ignorance? For people to shake off being led by the nose into hate and intolerance? Yes, there is a reason why this virus is spreading so aggressively. It’s not God: it’s us. David Quammen (@DavidQuammen) explained it beautifully this week in his New York Times opinion piece, “We Made the Coronoavirus Epidemic”: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/28/opinion/coronavirus-china.html

I love religion. I believe that religion and science can happily co-exist. But I hate the use of religion to try to hurt others and to try to scare others and to scapegoat others. Every time that is done, wherever it is done in the world, it ends in violence.

We have a lot to berate ourselves for. However, who has sex with whom and who has what genitalia don’t make that list. What religion we do or don’t practice doesn’t make that list. Even our TV programs should not be on that list. Start here: If God has anger at humans (and that is a big “if” for many reasons), maybe it’s because we came to being in this beautiful earth, this beautiful, dynamic, creation, and we mucked it up. Not only did we muck it up, we deny that we mucked it up. How about this for a possibility: God doesn’t need to send any virus to earth. Instead, as we create the conditions to spread viruses, and as we feel the effects of catastrophic human-induced climate change ( https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/29/health/climate-change-temperatures-health/index.html ), and as we suffer the toxic effects of air and water pollution, and as animals that we have exploited and maltreated spread their diseases to us, and as we inflict violence on each other because of our own small mindedness and intolerance and greed and desire for power, maybe God just shrugs and looks away and thinks, “Let them all reap the havoc they have sown.”

And by the way, Pastor Wiles: last I checked, most Christians aim to emulate #Jesus. Know what was radical and transformative about Jesus? He accepted everyone, regardless of gender, regardless of body, regardless of what others perceived as their sin. He practiced love. Try it.

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