Diagnosis: COVID-Driven Envy?

Contemporary Insight from the Ancient Wisdom of St. James

The misinformation campaign concerning COVID-19 is a reminder that today more than ever America needs the sage and timeless counsel of New Testament author St. James. For average Americans navigating our way through this pandemic (from making decisions on how to shop, weighing the trade-offs of minimizing exposure at the expense of diminishing social relationships, planning for school in fall, and how to advocate for self and family in the event of infection) we desperately need to hear from leaders constrained by the moral compass of St. James and by their duty to serve the public and not the self. Unfortunately the misinformation has generated battles ranging in scope from “friends” duking it out on social media, to libelous smears between members of the political class, and physicians arguing their cases in peer-reviewed journals.

Consider this: depending upon the day, the directives for disease containment, treatment, and abatement change. In late February, we heard from Anthony Fauci that masks were not necessary – they were merely “security theater” yet as recently as July 28th, he not only advocated for public mask use, but is now calling for the use of goggles as added protection. The efficacy of masks is still being contested to this very day! While teachers unions are decrying the certain risks of viral exposure to teachers in the fall, frontline physicians who actually treat COVID patients assert the risk of disease transmission from pupil to teacher is minimal. Most egregiously, countless physicians reporting success with hospitalized, diseased patients using hydroxychloroquine have had their voices silenced by big tech giants, and state pharmacy boards banning the use of the drug. Fortunately for Ohioans, Governor DeWine requested the Ohio Board of Pharmacy reverse such a ban, arguing that the decision for treatment needs to be at the prerogative of the doctor and patient.

For everyday Americans, then, there is so much information and misinformation. Contrary to post-modern relativist thinking, there really is a right and wrong response to the issues surrounding this disease. We might be wise to ask ourselves what is driving the hotly contested views of many, and how can we ascertain the truth?

The ancient biblical Epistle of St. James provides much insight on what may be driving the various contradicting narratives. In his epistle to the early church, St. James, the brother of Jesus,[1] warns readers of the perils of selfish ambition and envy, stating that “wisdom” coming from the hearts of those so infected is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. He adds, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (ESV). Commentator Matthew Henry suggests that envy and true wisdom cannot coexist in the same cognitive space. One supplants the other.[2] As a consequence, envy nurtures strife, vain-glorying and ultimately lying so that mischief and confusion (due to lying) are produced, along with every evil work.

St. James reminds us that what we are watching unfold on the webpages of news organizations, peer-reviewed journals and social media is a spiritual battle. At the sake of sounding conspiratorial, how many times have we suspected that someone (politician, government expert, Instagram influencer) is trying to pull the wool over our eyes? In the COVID social/ economic/ political space, entire careers, the fortunes of several industries and institutions, and political power are on the line for many, making it fertile soil for deception.

Consider the arguments provided by powerful teachers unions against resuming face-to-face classroom instruction in the fall. We would naturally think that in their “list of demands” that must be met before resuming classes that they would merely request adequate PPE measures to ensure teacher and student safety, such as classroom space to keep students distanced, supplies of masks, gloves, goggles, and sanitizer, along with thermometers and added health-care workers.

We might be surprised to learn, however, that a Los Angeles Teachers union’s wish list demanded the defunding of police, new wealth taxes on California’s millionaires and billionaires, Medicare-for-All at the federal level, and a moratorium on new charter schools.  The wish list appears to be nothing more than a power grab, penned by those who have traded wisdom for selfish ambition. How does placing a moratorium on new charter schools in any way contain COVID? In reality, it does not, but by removing the competition posed by charter schools, the local public schools can continue in their state of sustained mediocrity and low academic standards with little pressure to improve. It’s all about power.

No doubt many have watched the frontline physicians who are bucking against very powerful pharmaceutical and political interests, reporting the success they are enjoying treating patients with hydroxychloroquine. Not merely anecdotal, these accounts are supported by a rich body of international epidemiological studies in the literature.

While we may receive these reports as signposts of the end of the pandemic and a return to normalcy, very powerful interests (big tech) have sought to silence  and undermine (state pharmaceutical boards) these. The question is, why? Countless physicians, such as the heavily-credentialed Dr. Simone Gold, have put careers and reputations on the line to advance the hope hydroxychloroquine provides a viable treatment to COVID-19. For many of these physicians, there is nothing to be gained by reporting what they are observing except improving the health of citizens. Big pharmaceutical companies in their race to develop a perceived much-needed vaccination, however, have much to gain in minimizing the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine.

In addition to the grab for power by teachers unions, that of capital by pharmaceutical companies, there are also the political fortunes to be enjoyed by those whose campaign coiffures benefit most as the misery index of Americans increases. The biggest victims, caught as roadkill at the crossroads of all these intersecting self-interests, are everyday hard-working Americans. Because of this grab for power and capital, how many people will lose their lives and smaller fortunes?

If our leaders would heed the admonitions of St. James today, they would see their own part in contributing to chaos, disorder, and sundry evil works, and repent, so our nation could be healed. But how many of them even read the Bible? For many, it’s been under quarantine from public discourse and marked “non-essential.”

[1] Guthrie, D. (1991). New testament introduction (4th Ed.). IVP Academic.

[2] Church, L. F. (1960). Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible in One Volume. Genesis to Revelation.

graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno, with a BS in molecular biology and a minor in cognitive psychology. As an undergraduate, she conducted research in immunology, microbiology, behavioral and cognitive psychology, scanning tunneling microscopy and genetics - having published research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, and projects in scanning tunneling microscopy. Having recently completed an M.Ed. from University of Cincinnati and a Certificate in Apologetics with the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, Emily is currently an instructional designer/content developer for Moody Bible Institute and teaches organic chemistry and physics. As a former Darwinian evolutionist, Emily now regards the intelligent design arguments more credible than those proffered by Darwinists for explaining the origin of life.

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