As of time of writing, here in Canada there have been 60 deaths documented from the current Covid outbreak. (There have been 5425 confirmed cases of Covid here.) Many of the deaths occurred in nursing homes among the elderly, though of course this hardly consoles those who have lost loved ones there. The untimely loss of anyone through disease is a tragedy. I cannot help wondering, however, what the current reaction in our country would be to this tragedy if the current number of deaths was much larger.
For example, if the number of deaths from the Covid outbreak reached 85,000, what would the reaction be? That is a tremendous number of fatalities—many small towns in the country do not have as many residents. For example, nearby me is the small township of Aldergrove, where one of our deacons lives. It is urban in nature with much agricultural land as well. According to the 2016 Canada census it then had a population of 12,007. A figure of 85,000 deaths therefore represents about seven Aldergroves disappearing from the map. This gives one a sense of the significance of such a number. I think it is fair to say that if 85,000 people died in one year from the Covid outbreak, the resultant outcry from Canadians would be overwhelming, and that any government complacently refusing to take steps to curb such an outbreak would be immediately overthrown.
The figure of 85,000 does not only represent the equivalent of the inhabitants of seven Aldergroves hypothetically disappearing from the country. It is also the number of the number of children aborted in Canada in 2018 and actually disappearing from the country—85,195 to be precise. And yet despite this annual slaughter of the unborn in our country, not only is there no outcry from the populace, there would be a tremendous outcry from many in the country if steps were taken to curtail and limit the number of children killed.
This publicly-funded genocide is celebrated and protected by the State under the cover of “Women’s Reproductive Rights”, though it becomes hard to discern in a non-Orwellian world how the right to kill is celebrated as a right to reproduce. Three of our four major federal political parties have enshrined this “right” in their party platform, so that no one may run for office under the banner of these parties while openly dissenting from it. The fourth political party, while not enshrining the right to kill the unborn in their party platform, has all but squelched and forbidden opening the discussion of the question, feeling that to do so would amount to political suicide. I cannot speak to the American situation. But based on available state-level data, approximately 876,000 abortions took place in the United States in 2018.
The Covid crisis has many lessons to teach us, including the value of human life. It is indeed a tragedy that the disease has claimed 60 lives in Canada so far. It is an even greater tragedy that about 85,000 lives are taken in Canada each year, not by a virus over which we have little control, but by our own decision and by our own hand.
In all this it is hard for me not to remember a line from the folk song Blowin’ in the Wind: “How many deaths will it take til he knows that too many people have died?” I also think back to a poem written by one of my favourite poets, E. E. Cummings, the first line of which is, “pity this busy monster, manunkind”. In the poem he decries the monstrous behaviour of an unkind mankind—our delight in “progress” (“a comfortable disease”), with our ability to use electrons to deify one razorblade into a mountain range. Cummings ends by saying that the doctors know that mankind is a hopeless case, and then suddenly he breaks off, ending his poem with the words, “listen: there’s a hell of a good universe next door; let’s go”.
Indeed there is. But this universe is not next door, but waiting for us in the age to come, and its name is “the Kingdom of God”. In that universe, righteousness will dwell and finally find a home (2 Peter 3:13). The prophet Isaiah got a glimpse of it and related that in this new heavens and new earth there would be no infant that lived but a few days, and they would not hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain (Isaiah 65:17f). In this universe, Covid ravages the unwary, and misguided men destroy the helpless, and everyone lives and labours in a vale of tears. But the Lord will come, and He will dry our tears. We will get into that good universe soon enough. Until we do, let us wait for it with prayerful patience and be kind to one another. And let us lift up our heads, for as St. Paul reminded us and as we heard in church at the beginning of this Lent, our salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed (Roman 13:11).