The post-COVID malaise

If I had to guess one of the most pressing problems facing Christians in the aftermath of this accursed pandemic, I would guess that it won’t be an active dismissiveness or “I don’t need that” attitude about the local church. Instead, the struggle is likely to be the exhaustion and sense of futility from fighting the digitalization of all of life. It’s not, I think, that scores of evangelicals will suddenly think they don’t need the church because of YouTube livestreams. It will be that scores of evangelicals feel like their efforts to be “tech-wise,” to swim against the tide of life-by-internet and prioritize analog and physical experiences, have been mostly pointless. We were trying to live more in the embodied moment, and then a virus happened and we saw just how necessary the protection a screen creates really is. Even if we want to overcome that, how could we?

In other words, I think we’re going to be facing a post-COVID malaise rather than a post-COVID revolution. This malaise has already been given extra strength by the inexplicable determination of certain health officials and journalists to talk the vaccines down—a determination that has almost certainly slowed the national recovery and created vaccine hesitancy unnecessarily. I know beyond a doubt there will be millions of Americans listening to that and reasoning that their days of going to church are over—not because they don’t want to, and not necessarily because they’re afraid, but because they don’t see the point. If the dangers hover over you the second you leave your house, no matter what you or your neighbor does, there’s only so much you can endure that emotional and cognitive burden. If a coworker knows you went to church, would they be upset with you for “creating risk” (what a slippery way to use words!)? Besides, you can probably listen to the sermon more attentively at home.

The post-COVID malaise may sound like a test of what we really believe about local congregations. But I actually think this is somewhat misleading. The malaise will be more of a test of what we really believe life is supposed to feel like. Fighting through this kind of malaise is going to feel, at many different times, like you’re doing life wrong. Fighting the omnipresence of screens, the immediate answers they offer and the stress they seem to offload, is going to feel like strenuous exercise when you know you’ll be dead of cancer in a week. The nagging feeling that you’re not supposed to feel this low level anxiety and self-doubt about everything will translate to, “So why do you choose to feel it?”

And this is where we have to remind ourselves of something very important: This world is broken and fallen, and living and become the way our Creator meant for us to live and become often feels difficult in a broken and fallen world. Becoming “tech-wise” isn’t about impressing Christian neighbors or appearing like sophisticated parents. If it is about that, it’s not worth the kind of trouble that the post-COVID malaise will bring us. But it’s not. It’s really about living as image-bearers in proximity with other image-bearers. It’s really about keeping our souls open to knowing and being known, over and against the anonymity and digital obfuscation of screens. It’s about putting social anxiety, insecurity, and even shame before the gentle and lowly Jesus who heals. It’s about fighting the good fight of faith.

So how do help ourselves and each other fight the post-COVID malaise? Right off the top of my head:

  • Don’t assume that those fearful or slow to come back to church just “don’t get it.”
  • Get vaccinated when you can.
  • Invite people to your home
  • Protect relationships, not time.
  • Delete social media apps and set defined parameters of use.
  • Watch movies with family and friends, not YouTube by yourself.
  • Try something like what Brett McCracken calls the wisdom challenge.
  • Sleep.

Author: Samuel D. James

Believer, husband, father, acquisitions editor, writer.

3 thoughts on “The post-COVID malaise”

  1. You state: “This malaise has already been given extra strength by the inexplicable determination of certain health officials and journalists to talk the vaccines down—a determination that has almost certainly slowed the national recovery and created vaccine hesitancy unnecessarily.”

    I’d like to know which ‘health officials and journalists’ you are hearing that are creating ‘vaccine hesitancy’? Certainly none in the MSM! Except for that sentence which sounds just like what they would say.
    (Do you honestly believe everything the MSM says anyway?)

    Have you actually read, let alone studied, any of the studies and information put out by scientists? Well, I have. And while it’s almost impossible to find on any of the mainstream platforms due to censorship, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be found or that when you do find it that it is inaccurate, just because it doesn’t fit the narrative of Fauci and the rest of the left… Maybe I shouldn’t say the left, as I know plenty of folks on the right in my own church who think this ‘vaccine’ so called is going to ‘let things go back to normal’ ~ but according to Fauci and the current administration, we’re still supposed to wear masks (double masks no less), continue to ‘social distance’, and give up gathering including giving up shaking hands or hugging, even AFTER getting the so called vaccine! If it truly is effective and gives immunity (and without dangerous side effects), then all you folks who want to get it and don’t mind the inherent risks (did you know that there have been 40,000 adverse events in just the first month of giving the vaccines? And that’s only the ones that have been reported! Statistically, only 1% of adverse events are reported to VAERS), go ahead and get it and don’t worry about the ones who don’t want the vaccine ~ we can’t give the virus to you if you are truly protected by the vaccine. Let those of us who want to build up our immune system naturally and let our bodies fight any illness that comes along the way God designed the innate immune system without resorting to such things as vaccines, do so. It won’t hurt those of you who want to be vaccinated.
    Some days I feel like the professor in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” ~ *“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?”*
    And by the way, our church has been meeting in person since the Sunday after last Mother’s Day (even on the three Sundays in a row this month that had snow/ice). There are rooms where masks are required (2), one of which where no singing is allowed, and one where those who can’t wear masks are allowed to not wear them (the service is live streamed from the main sanctuary to those rooms and to the church’s web site channel); all of this is to accommodate the “distancing” rules in place from the powers that be (and we have two morning services, plus the evening service)! So, at least in my church, folks are gathering. We also have Care Groups and Bible studies. Some of them are meeting in person, others are doing it by Zoom (our Care Group leader is immunocompromised so we meet virtually every week to protect him).

    Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now. But you really should do more research before making the types of statements you did in the second paragraph. I’m not saying that there aren’t folks out there who are frightened by all the doom and gloom. But the answer isn’t trusting a vaccine… it’s to rely on our gracious and omnipotent God! If He leads folks to get a vaccine that’s fine, but I’d be very sure to seek His will and not just trust the so called experts.
    In His grace, Mrs. O

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  2. Thank you for this post. My church has remained “open” despite county health regulations. About half of us don’t attend due to age and/or pre-existing conditions. The church makes a big thing about government persecution, Heb 10:24-25, and government persecution. As the virus rate continues to fall in our area, they continue to try to get us all back in the building. However, yesterday I went by the church office to pick up a little translation project, and all these maskless people greeted me (all being about 6). There are county signs on the door saying masks required. To say that I have trust issues, especially when two families from the congregation were seriously ill with COVID this past week, is an understatement. I’ll probably be on the fringes for several more months, or I may end up in a different church that is doing a better job of dealing with the virus.

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