As the new coronavirus spreads across the world there is a big risk of it killing tens of thousands if not millions of people. The complaint of the World Health Organization is that many countries are ill-prepared for handling this.
It’s not hard to see why.
Two things are crucial for stopping a pandemic: international cooperation and universal health care of good quality. When these are missing, the likelihood of certain areas around the world becoming infection hubs increases, which in turn spreads the disease uncontrollably.
In a worst-case scenario, between 60 and 80 percent of the global population might get infected by the new coronavirus, killing tens of millions.
Unfortunately, there are two trends that go against international cooperation and universal health care – one ideological and one economic. I’m thinking of nationalism and economic inequality.
Nationalism is about loving, prioritizing and admiring one’s own nation and people. While many will tell you that it’s totally possible to both love one’s country and cooperate internationally, research shows us that nationalists suck at international cooperation.
Which is about as surprising as hermits not being very good at organizing birthday parties.
Economic inequality is often defended and justified by saying that some people deserve to be richer due to hard work and skill. Of course, if that were true almost every African woman would be a millionaire.
But putting aside the question of why people are richer than others, it is very clear that the massive economic inequality that we see in the world today – where some people watch their children die from malnutrition while others buy them video games for Christmas – intensifies the coronavirus problem.
It’s already clear that Iran has a much harder time handling the virus than China or South Korea. And if community transmission starts happening in Africa… God help us. Bill Gates rightly points out that poorer nations need more support to tackle a pandemic:
The pandemic shows us that nationalism and economic inequality makes the world a worse place to be in. The new coronavirus doesn’t care about borders. Neither does another massively deadly problem that’s on the horizon: climate change.
In contrast, the Pentecost narrative in the second chapter of Acts shows us exactly what we need. The Holy Spirit enables us to communicate in many different languages, breaking down barriers and enabling the international spread of good news (vv. 1-4). Also, the Spirit gives his people so much love for each other that they can’t stand economic equality and start practicing community of goods (vv. 44-45).
The Bible simply gives us better guidance than nationalism or capitalism ever can provide.