‘Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So, you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’ (Matthew 24:42-44)
What is REALLY going on behind COVID-19? Is it the start of a New World Order, a CDC cover-up, a planned biological attack on the Western world, or one of the multiple other possible explanations being given? If you truly believe that one of these theories is 100% correct and you are willing to base your life on it, please read no further.
However, for those who aren’t sure, or who have friends who keep wanting them to consider alternative explanations, I hope this post helps.
Firstly, as a doctor I have seen the reaction that we are having as a society played out hundreds of times in individuals over the years. Consider a young woman just told she has breast cancer. She will go through some predictable responses and emotions:
- Denial – (‘The tests are wrong; we need to redo them. I want another opinion.’)
- Anger – (‘It’s not fair; why me? I have small children!’)
- Anxiety/Depression – (‘I’m so scared and worried’/‘What is the point of it all anyway?’)
- Bargaining – (‘I’ll clean up my diet and start exercising more.’)
Throughout all this, there is a strong tendency for people to look for someone (or something) else to blame. Essentially what they are looking for is a sense of control and predictability – and it is totally okay to want this.
Think about how we have responded as a community to COVID-19. We have seen all the above reactions in ourselves and those around us: denial, anger, anxiety, and bargaining. And we are certainly seeing a lot of finger-pointing and looking for someone to blame. We do want to regain some sense of control, and that is understandable.
When people start blaming, however, there are a few problems:
- They are often picking out one or two things or people to focus their anger on, rather than acknowledging that there are many different contributing factors (some known and some unknown).
- They are so focused on finding a scapegoat that they fail to see all the good that has been done (and is being done). Their world becomes quite dark and hopeless. I am seeing a lot of this in my patients in recent weeks.
When people start looking to regain control, the theories I mentioned at the start can be very enticing. It gives a sense of relief to know that things are playing out as expected (even if not by the people that you wish were in control – at least someone is, and maybe we can stop them!)
So what happens when people start to believe that there is an organised plot to take over the world?
Even before COVID-19 there was research into this (it is not a new way that humans have used to cope with disasters and fear, but we are now seeing it intensified):
- They start to be able to ignore facts that contradict the story. Because they feel better by having a focus for their anger, they are willing to ignore logical inconsistencies. In fact, inconsistencies are often twisted into new ‘evidence’.
- They start to vilify people who believe differently to them, and rather than listening, they start to push their perspectives on others.
- In the short term, they feel a sense of relief and regain a sense of control. Along with this is a sense of feeling that they have special insider knowledge that they need to share with others so that they, too, can feel relief.
- Ironically, the long-term consequence is usually a sense of powerlessness and despair. I don’t believe we have seen this yet with COVID-19, but it is a very real danger in the coming years.
For now, none of us have the resources or capacity to investigate every theory that is out there. On the face of it, some seem downright ludicrous but many hold a germ of truth, which is what makes it tricky for even intelligent and educated people to discern.
My concern as a doctor and community member is that people are expending huge amounts of time and energy chasing after theories, discussing them and spreading them, and NOT focusing on the fact that we are in the middle of the worst medical crisis our generation has seen.
Let’s get our priorities straight.
When the dust settles and investigations are conducted in years to come, many of those questions will be answered. That will be the time to seek justice and call people to account. For the moment, we need to do what we know is important and helpful in reducing virus spread and unnecessary anxiety. So, on a very practical level:
- Check your own coping; are you drawn to theories because they give you a sense of control and predictability? Remember this is a temporary ‘fix’ only.
- Ask friends who forward you theories and plots to stop doing it; explain you find it unhelpful.
- Think twice before forwarding information that you cannot verify.
- Think twice before forwarding information that made you feel anxious when you read it.
- Consider turning off media and social media for a while; ask a friend to fill you in on anything essential (e.g. rule changes).
As Christians we know that, whatever happens, God is in control and knows the timing of everything including the return of Jesus. But we do not, so let’s not get caught up in predicting but rather ‘keep watch’ by faithfully obeying him in the present. That is how to ‘be ready’.
As individuals and communities there is still so much that we CAN do and control, so let’s focus on that!
Dr Tash Yates is a GP based in Gold Coast, Australia.