By Tommy Airey
This is excerpted from Tommy Airey’s essay “Love in the Time of Corona Virus” on the Radical Discipleship blog.–RMB
“The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.”—Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera (1985)
… 20 years ago, Richard Horsley identified consumer capitalism as the official religion of the United States, offering salvation through the acquisition of products. The problem for so-called “Christians” is that capitalism–especially its current condition called neoliberalism–is tragically incompatible with the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who defined love as a life of sacrifice for our friends, neighbors and enemies. In other words, he critiqued the profit motive and self-interest. His prophet motive was self-donating love. He triangulated the exclusive requirements of conservatives and the inclusive offerings of liberals with an expansive vision of love that prodded his followers to flee the fold to find God in the lame, the lepers, good Samaritans and Syro-Phoenician women.
What’s all this got to do with a pandemic? Just about everything. Most of what I heard last week from the media and folks on Facebook who suddenly became experts on viruses boiled down to my safety and security. Dig a little deeper though and our new lifestyle glossary—social distancing, self-isolating and flattening the curve—has everything to do with protecting everyone else, especially the elderly, immune-deficient and those with little or no access to health care.
After I drove my mom from the Pacific Northwest back home to Southern California, I wanted to see old teachers, former coaches and beloved mentors. I couldn’t. Not because I had to protect myself from them. I had to protect them from myself. My capitalist-conditioned soul was caught in a Covid-19 riptide. All of a sudden, my life had limits! Was I going to stop at In-n-Out for a grilled cheese animal style? No. Was I going to go to the gym? No. Was I going to run on the beach? Yes. It was deserted.
Limits and capitalism do not go together. But limits and love do. Real love requires that we think through all our decisions on the basis of how they will affect other people. Our segregated society, working through the suburbs, social media algorithms and so much more, has malformed who we imagine “other people” actually are. Capitalism is built on myths and false assumptions and subsidized by hidden realities. Almost everything we enjoy has been produced by mechanisms of exclusion, exploitation and extraction that middle-class white folks, trained up in niceness and civility, are taught to never notice or name. Because we are possessed by a spirit that makes us unable to speak. …–Tommy Airey
Read Airey’s whole essay at Radical Discipleship.