We Can Only “Imagine” a Utopia
Worldview Lessons from the Coronavirus, Part 1 (Part 2 is found immediately below Part 1)
Gal Gadot and celebrities sing John Lennon’s “Imagine” online imagining it will bring the world together.
March 23, 2020
By John Stonestreet
Reprinted from: BREAKPOINT
Last year my wife and I, with a group of ministry leaders, visited the ancient church of St. Anne in Jerusalem. It’s a hauntingly austere and beautiful stone church built in the Middle Ages with such incredible acoustics that visitors cannot help but sing.
After our group sang some hymns together, a group of largely European tourists followed, locking arms, closing their eyes, swaying and singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” You know, the one from Shrek?
This ancient church sits by the biblical pool of Bethsaida, where Jesus healed the lame beggar, in a story that explicitly teaches that we cannot heal ourselves. How ironic here, of all places, to sing a biblically inaccurate song about sex that has nothing to do with God whatsoever.
It seemed like such a contradiction. The beauty of the setting, it seemed, stirred something deep inside them, but who exactly were they singing this song about nothing to? No one?
Then last week, actress Gal Gadot posted an Instagram video, that featured her and a few dozen other celebrities singing John Lennon’s secular utopian anthem “Imagine.” The video was intended to encourage people during this global coronavirus pandemic, but many who’ve thought about the lyrics of “Imagine” deeply of all (which, by the way, Britons voted as the greatest song of all time), rightly wondered how it could possibly comfort anyone who finds themselves, as Lennon’s pal Paul McCartney once sang, “in times of trouble.”
“Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try,” the song began. “No hell below us. Above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today…” Other things Lennon asked us to imagine include no religion, no possessions, and a universal brotherhood of man (a line which, I’m sure, wouldn’t be woke enough for today).
But how could such a world–one where there is no Higher Power in control, and where there is no life beyond death, and which nothing outside of us exists to ground human dignity or morality, and where history is an unguided accident headed nowhere—bring us anything resembling a utopia?
In such a world, without ultimate standards of right and wrong, what makes a so-called “brotherhood of man” or a “life in peace” any better than one of greed, or survival of the fittest? In fact, in such a world, why would a virus be any less valuable than a human? Why should we protect the lives of the elderly and frail instead of our economic bottom lines?
In other words, the imagined conditions of “Imagine” can never produce the imagined result of “Imagine.” And herein lies the problem with just about every utopian vision: They’re for a world that’s imaginary.
In fact, even more than just being imaginary, such visions can be deadly. If the history of the 20th Century teaches us anything, it’s that this-world-only political utopianisms always lead to catastrophe, in which individuals are sacrificed on the altars of the collective good, as with the totalitarianism of Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany, and Mao’s (and now Xi’s) China.
Even so, I appreciated a tweet by friend Bryan Mattson, who reminded me to extend compassion toward the celebrities singing in that awful “Imagine” video, a compassion I probably should’ve been quicker to extend to those European tourists choosing to sing an empty “Hallelujah” ballad instead of something like the Hallelujah chorus last fall in Jerusalem.
You see, not only are they reflecting the image of God in their impulses to sing and look for some higher meaning or purpose of existence, grasping for beauty, for meaning, for consolation, for Truth that can only be found in their Creator and in His Son. But for now, “Imagine” and “Hallelujah” are the only hymns they’ve got.
Let’s pray that one day these men and women will come to realize the truth of what C. S. Lewis wrote in “Mere Christianity”: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” Or as St. Augustine said, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”
During this time of global crisis, loving our neighbors must include pointing them to where they can find the hope and salvation they may not even realize they are looking for.
John Stonestreet & Shane Morris | BreakPoint This Week | March 20, 2020
John Stonestreet & Roberto Rivera | BreakPoint | March 13, 2020
Deciding Who Gets Treated and Who Doesn’t
Worldview Lessons from Coronavirus, Part 2
March 25, 2020
By John Stonestreet & Roberto Rivera
A recent episode of “The Daily” podcast featured an interview with Italian doctor Fabiano Di Marco, who was just getting his first break after three straight weeks tending to Coronavirus victims. In his words, the whole experience is “a war.” And like all who face war, Di Marco and his colleagues faced agonizing choices. Specifically, they faced “hundreds of patients” with only “tens of beds.”
Thus, in Italy, reports are emerging that doctors like Di Marco are being forced to ration medical treatment. Should a bed and care be given to an eighty-five-year-old with a low chance of survival, or a forty-five-year-old with a much better chance of survival? Or, as another Italian doctor described, should doctors “take into account whether older patients have families who can take care of them once they leave the ICU, because they will need help.”
The decisions that Italian officials are being forced to make is part of a process known as “triage.” It’s the first step of an emergency room visit, and can be defined as “The process of sorting people based on their need for immediate medical treatment as compared to their chance of benefiting from such care.”
In extreme cases, triage is more important and more difficult than a typical ER visit. For example, after events like the Las Vegas mass shooting in October 2017, hundreds of Coronavirus victims are taken to local hospitals. Temporarily overwhelmed by the demand, medical personnel make agonizing decisions about whom they can help immediately and to what degree, and whom they cannot help immediately. Once the crisis passes, at least the medical treatment infrastructure part of life, mostly goes back to “normal.”
The chaos of those 24 hours in Vegas has now gone on for weeks in Italy. Decisions only needed in the aftermath of a tragic event are the “new normal” there. By some estimates, the U.S. is on a similar trajectory as Italy. Are we ready for the medical challenges posed by COVID-19? If our medical resources are overwhelmed, are we ready for the sort of ethical questions the crisis will demand?
Because triage is necessarily about the “efficient use of resources,” it necessarily involves making a value judgment in the context of our culture of confused values, in application to something priceless—human life. That word “efficient” should give us great pause, not because we shouldn’t use limited resources wisely, but because of our cultural tendency to devalue human life already.
Wesley J. Smith has already documented the rise of what he calls “futile care theory,” in which doctors withhold medical treatment they deem “too burdensome” or “too expensive.” He wasn’t identifying such a tendency in troubled areas of the world with scarce medical resources, but a rising trend in American medicine. “Futile care theory” rethinks ideas of efficiency in exclusively financial terms. This way of thinking, especially in a crisis, won’t bode well for human dignity.
There’s also the increasing popularity of an argument that euthanasia enthusiasts like to use, that what matters most is the “quality” of life. As I’ve said before, wherever euthanasia has been legalized, the power to define “quality of life” quickly shifts from the patient to family members and even bureaucrats. As a result of that shift, the “right to die” becomes the “duty to die.” Economic pressures from a virus-induced pandemic “duty” will only grease this already slippery slope.
As Italian doctors struggle under unimaginable pressure with limited resources, they do so under the influence of their worldview, their ideas… about life, about healing, about human value, about morality. Our doctors will too, which is why we need Christians articulating medical ethics, joining hospital ethics boards, advocating for patients, running for office, and becoming health care workers everywhere.
Because, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the daughter of an evangelical pastor, told the German people in a national address recently, “These are not simply abstract numbers . . . [they are] a father or grandfather, a mother or grandmother . . . They are people . . . And we are a community in which every life and every person counts.”
For as long as this crisis lasts and beyond, one job of the Church is to bear witness to that truth and make sure it is not sacrificed on the altar of “efficiency.”
John Stonestreet | BreakPoint | March 23, 2020
The Daily | March 17, 2020