This is Pastor Tim’s Article which appeared in the Evening Leader on Tuesday, Jan 17
Where is everybody? Do any of you feel that way? Have any of you noticed that there are almost no public gatherings anymore? I have had conversations with dozens of pastors who tell me their congregations are a fraction of what they used to be, and Wayne Street is no different. But it isn’t just churches. When Susan and I go to the movies, they are rarely even half-full. We have even been in a couple of practically private showings because almost no one else was there. Even shopping malls; I can remember being in stores prior to Christmas when you couldn’t get down the aisles. I didn’t see any of that this year. Just this morning, I was in the gym and there were three of us in there. Three! We haven’t even had time to burn out on New Year’s Resolutions. Everyone was just too cynical to resolve to be there. I can’t even remember the last time I was in a crowd of people. It was probably when Susan and I took a trip down to Nashville. That was 5 months ago!
Not only am I trying to figure out what happened to everyone, but I am also trying to figure out why they all disappeared. What is the reason public spaces are not quite as public as they used to be?
I know the COVID hysteria did not help. I can remember thinking in March 2020 that people were not upset nearly enough that the Government was shutting us down, something they had no right to do. I can remember at the time telling people that once we allow the government that much authority, they will never give it back. Today, I saw an article in the Washington Post about how they are expecting COVID to be back in the near future. The BBC just reported this week that China has just reopened after three years of COVID shutdown! I still see people wearing masks. I want to remind you that if your mask is not an M-95, and if it is not fitted properly, that mask is doing nothing at all.
I am afraid that for way too many people, the overreaction to COVID was a dream come true. Even if the shutdown was justified, we should have hated it and prayed every day for it to be over. I am afraid that it just gave people the chance to do what they always dreamed of: shut themselves in their house with their internet device where they can live vicariously through the virtual world.
It scares me to death that our culture was decimated by the reputation of a virus. Not the sickness the virus caused, but the reputation of the virus. We have just forfeited everything to spend our time surfing the web and browsing some streaming platform.
If you think that I am making this up, then why are help wanted signs on every business? Why are industries grinding to a halt because there is no one to do the work? I think that the COVID shutdown was just a symptom, I do not think it is the problem.
The problem we face today is Nihilism, which is the belief that there is no meaning in the world. I am afraid that people just stay home and out of society not because they are afraid of COVID. They are staying inside because of a mistaken belief that it doesn’t really matter anyway. To quote King Solomon from the book of Ecclesiastes, we believe that “everything is meaningless, a chasing of the wind.” All the COVID shutdown did was convince many people that they were right, nothing matters anyway. We can just barricade ourselves inside of our homes and it makes no difference. That is a prevailing belief in the world today.
I am here to say that is not true. I opposed the lockdown when it was billed as 15 days to slow the spread, and I never stopped being opposed to it because I am the exact opposite of a Nihilist. I believe that there is tremendous meaning and purpose in the world, and I am dedicated to going out and getting it. I know I am not alone in this. If you have any ability to get out in the world at all, then let’s get together and show everyone there is something worth getting out for. Let’s fill up gymnasiums and movie theaters and churches again. Let’s go work out or go shopping because that is how we build community. While you are out, you might run into someone you know and you can brighten his or her day with a brief conversation. These things do not happen in the virtual world, only the real one. The real world needs defending by people like you.
You are more powerful than you realize. You will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whatever you believe will determine what you are. Want to believe that there is no value in the world? Then there probably won’t be because from your vantage point, you failed to create any value. But if you want to get out of the house and go to a public space, whether it be a job, an event, or a worship service, you create meaning, and that is power.
I don’t know where everyone went, but I miss you. I hope you come back soon.