Some thoughts on ‘the new normal’- ‘old normal’ – Part 2
So, it can be said that our lives before COVID-19 were not ‘normal,’ but abnormal and our quest to now abandon the COVID-19 ‘New Normal’ is not really a quest to return to normality or the ‘Old Normal’, but to the abnormality of Genesis 3ff.
In Matthew 19:2-12, Jesus drew our attention to what has become normal, yet a deviation to what it was from the beginning – hence actually abnormal, even in its normality. Divorce, which had become legal and normal for them and us, is actually abnormal for God and it is only in Christ that God constantly points us back to the beginning. Similarly, I suggest that our quest for the ‘old normal’ is actually a quest for the old abnormal. The human race, since the Fall has been living in abnormality, and if we really want return to the ‘Old Normal’, it must not be to the pre-COVID-19, but actually to pre-Genesis 3, before the Fall.
Only a few months ago, Man began to see what nature could be, if only Man found his original role in God’s world. At the beginning of the lockdown and as it progressed, as Man stayed in-doors, slowly we saw nature renewing itself. All over the world and especially in highly polluted countries and in the light of the ending of economic activities, pollution began to clear. Images from space bore witness to this. Slowly too, animals began to venture to what were once their natural habitats. In Naples I believe, dolphins took over, where once, big ships, full of tourists and with all their pollution had held sway. It became clear that Man’s economic and social activities were on the whole, detrimental to the health of the natural world and environment. The irony is that, in the ‘New Normal,’ we caught a glimpse of Genesis 1-2, even if only for a few weeks. Man saw God’s ‘Normal’ and perhaps seeing this, Man might now be more inspired to seek this ‘Normal’ rather than our ‘Old Normal’.
Attaining to God’s ‘Normal’ (Genesis 1-2), especially as far as Man’s place in the natural world is concerned, might be difficult, unless Nigerian Christians widen the scope of their understanding of Man’s relationship with God. The Church in Nigeria has almost totally not seen the need to address our current understanding of the creation accounts of Genesis, which have led us to ‘dominate’, ‘subdue’ or ‘rule’ the earth in such a way that has been detrimental to our environment. We sing hymns celebrating creation such as F. S. Pierpoint’s ‘For the beauty of the earth’ especially at harvest, yet we don’t see in them a call to action to safeguard God’s gift of creation to Man. The care and nurture of nature is an integral part of Man’s stewardship to God, and we will do well to remember that stewards must one day give account.
Paul tells us that even the created world is to be a beneficiary of Christ’s redemptive activity: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in the hope that creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:19- 21). To enter into God’s Normal, we must hold our relationship with God and our responsibility to care for the natural world and environment together, for in Christ, Man and Nature are liberated.
The Church in Nigeria must urgently take a fresh look at the accounts of creation and embrace a new theological ethic of creation that reminds Man of his responsibilities to God to care for the natural world and the environment. Our country is not immune to climate change, and we have already started feeling its effects. If we sincerely desire to get back to God’s Normal, we must as a people begin to see as legitimate, the rights of animals and the creation, which has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth (Rom. 8:22).
(Rt. Rev. Akinpelu Johnson. M.Phil.; A.K.C.; F.K.C. is the Anglican Bishop of Lagos Mainland Diocese)
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