Corona,Camus & Christ: Evil in Pandemics


      Welcome back to Defender’s Voice. This is Paul Kattupalli. We hope you are doing well and staying strong during these turbulent days. The Coronavirus has been tyrannizing the world. We are all affected by this virus. I am working extra hours in my hospital to take care of patients. Many of my patients are so terrified of this virus, and often they ask me, ‘Doctor, am I going to live?’ ‘I have two kids. Who will take care of them if I am gone?’ ‘I don’t want to go to hospital because I cannot afford to pay the bills’. Those are painful questions. I’ve never seen such uncertainty and hopelessness before. 

   As I speak, around the world, more than 600,000 people got infected by this virus. In the United States alone, more than 100,000 people got infected and over a 1500 people died. The hospitals are filled beyond their capacity. There are not enough ventilators. People are dying because they cannot breath. They cannot take a full breath of air. What is more terrifying than that? In Spain, ice rinks are being converted into morgues. In Italy, there is no place in the churches to house the coffins. In Iran, they are digging mass graves to bury their dead. In New York City, refrigerated trucks are parked as morgues outside the hospitals. Many of them died without saying a goodbye to a loved one. It’s like the Angel of death on steroids. Never fatigued, it is roaming around the world crushing the vulnerable. 

    In the midst of all this pandemonium caused by this pandemic, we have individuals who can’t stop going to the beach. One young man said, ‘If I am going to get Corona, I will get Corona. I can’t stop partying.’ When I heard those words, I thought of Albert Camus’ novel The Plague. Camus writes, our human nature is we do not take serious things seriously. Let me give you some introductory details. Albert Camus was a French philosopher and author. His life was between 1913 and 1960. A short life, which abruptly ended in a tragic car accident, when he was only 46 years old. In 1957, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature when he was only 44 years old, making him the second-youngest recipient of this prize. In 1947, he wrote a novel entitled The Plague, La Peste in French. In this novel, Camus writes how a deadly plague encircled a city and plunged it into death and devastation.  It has been called the greatest novel written after the Second World War. Camus takes on four profound themes in this novel: 

Human condition 

Human nature 

Human hope 

Human destiny. 

   First, let us see the background of this author and his novel. Camus wrote this novel in 1947, the year India got independence from Britain. Camus himself was born in Algeria, a French colony in North Africa. He saw the colonialism. He saw Hitler’s Nazi regime. He saw the concentration camps which massacred millions of people. He saw Mussolini and his totalitarianism in Italy. He saw Stalin and his tyranny in Soviet Russia. His thinking was profoundly influenced by those spine-chilling atrocities the world witnessed around the Second World War. Now, let me briefly discuss the plot and the main characters of this novel, called The Plague

    First, there is a city called Oran. It has a population of over 200,000 people. Dr.Bernard Rieux is a well respected physician. As he walks around the city, he sees dead rats in the street corners. Why are there so many dead rats in this city? He becomes dreadful and gets a nauseating feeling, ‘Is this a sign of a plague?’ ‘Is this a plague erupting in this city?’ The inevitable knocks on his door. The first victim of plague arrives in his hospital. Dr.Rieux wastes no time. He runs to the city authorities and begs them to take action to stop the spread of the epidemic. He warns them, ‘We have a situation here. There is a plague in the town. Unless you act now, half of this town’s population will die in the next two months, that is over 100,000 people.’ The authorities would not take him seriously. This pattern is eerily familiar to us as we witness the explosion of the Corona epidemic. When the virus started to breakout in China, a physician, named Dr.Li Wenliang sounded the alarm. He was not appreciated. He was called to the police station and tortured for his audacity. Later when he was released, he went back  to his hospital, took care of patients before he himself became one of the victims of the virus. The entire nation of China mourned his loss. Dr.Rieux was that kind of a doctor. He stays in Oran and takes care of plague victims. The dead bodies start to pile up around the city, yet Dr.Rieux shows up at the hospital every morning. He does not believe in God. He believes in science. He believes in his profession. He derives the meaning of his life from his call to help others. 

     Then we meet Father Paneloux. He is a Jesuit priest. As the plague devastates the town, he gives a series of sermons. Why did God send this plague? Father Paneloux says God sent it to teach a lesson to the unrepentant, people who still live in their sins, who never give a thought about God or eternity. How can believers face this plague? Father Paneloux says that God is their source of hope. One day Paneloux gets a call to pray at the bedside of a boy suffering from the plague. The priest goes to the bedside and prays for the survival of the little boy. But the boy passes away after a few days. What good is there in the death of a little one? Father Peneloux tells people that the death of an innocent child may not be rationally explained but it should be accepted as the will of God. 

    The plague finally leaves the town after killing multitudes of people. Then the people of the town go back to their old ways. Throughout the novel, Camus asks many profound questions of existential importance. A deadly plague is reaching the shores of the town. Their days are numbered. Human existence, such a short, chaotic and uncertain life. Is there any meaning to life? If there is, what gives meaning to such a life? The people in the town are trapped in the plague. What gives them hope? Even little boys and girls are falling prey to the plague. Why are little children dying if this world is ruled by a loving God? When the plague left the town, people went back to their old ways, as if nothing had ever happened to their town. Who can change  human nature? Through these questions, Camus analyzes four things: 

The Human condition 

The Human nature

The Human hope 

The Human destiny 

1.First, the human condition. 

    Camus is describing a plague that permanently infested the human race. By plague, he does not mean a physical disease caused by a physical agent like Coronavirus. It is our evil nature. The people of the town do not take the plague seriously. They take it lightly. Camus says that is our condition. We are not aware of the seriousness of our condition. We think we are the masters of our predicament. When President Trump said, ‘we will open the US economy by Easter’, Dr. Anthony Fauci,the direction of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said,‘You don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline’ Think about those words.With all they science we developed,With all the modern medicine we developed. With all the technology we developed, we don’t make the timelines, the virus, an invisible microorganism,  makes the timeline. How humbling! We think we are in control, when we are not. Jesus told us, ‘we are lost’ (Luke 19:10). Lost in sin being dragged to the bottomless pit of hell. But how many of us realized our condition? 

2.Human Nature 

    Camus says the plague is not a visitor. It does not come and go. It is always there. The evil is a permanent resident. It is everywhere. It is like Coronavirus. We have to cover our nose and mouth with a face mask. We should wear a full personal protective equipment. There is no place it cannot enter. There is no air it cannot spread through. There is no object it cannot stay over. The people of Oran do not realize this truth. When the plague leaves the town, they erupt in celebrations. Camus writes these words, 

“And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the

 town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always (impermanent). 

He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned 

from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good;

 that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests;

 that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city”

    Dr.Rieux, the physician of the town diagnosed their condition accurately. The plague never left the town. It is roaming right in their town. It is residing right in their living rooms.Yet the people of the town are celebrating. That is our nature. God told Cain, we read in Genesis 4:7, ‘If thou does not well, sin lieth at the door’ Cain, if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door. Evil is right in your home. Lord Jesus told us in Mark chapter 7, 

That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, 

adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, 

deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.’ 

    Please note those words: All evil things come from within and defile the man. Camus,an atheist, wants us to see that Christian truth Jesus told us two thousand years ago. Dr.Rieux correctly the diagnosed the human nature of the people of Oran. Jesus, the heavenly physician correctly diagnosed our nature, our evil nature. As Corona roams around the world, it is in full display. Some people are working hard to take care of other people. Some doctors, nurses and other workers sacrificing their lives in their fight against this virus. On the other hand, some people are looking to make a quick buck. 

    I heard about a small business owner. Due to this pandemic, there is unprecedented demand for hand sanitizers. This young man went around the town in his van and bought out all hand sanitizers. He brought home over 20,000 bottles and started to sell them online for prices ten times higher than their retail price. Amazon discovered his activities and cancelled his business account. Now, his garage is full of hand sanitizers, over 17000 of them. Now, he is lamenting, ‘how can I get rid of these bottles? When people were suffering, all he could think of is how to make more money? Some faith healers are also smelling money. Jim Bakker is promoting ‘silver solution’ on his TV show. I put my healing power into this silver solution. Buy it and drink it and you will get immunity against Coronavirus. Jim Bakker is bragging that he can heal this virus within 12 hours. Dr. Fauci, can you talk to Mr.Bakker? Another faith healer, Kenneth Copeland is asking people to touch the television screens when he is preaching. If they do it, no coronavirus will touch them. Regrettably, many innocent people are listening to Jim Bakker and Kenneth Copeland. 

    They are wasting their money and hope over fake medicines, silver solutions, holy waters, and holy oils. Do not get deceived by these charlatans. They don’t have any healing powers against Coronavirus. Right there is no specific treatment or vaccine to this virus. If these faith healers have any healing powers they claim they have, they should immediately go to New York City and save the lives of thousands of people fighting for their lives. We also have individuals who say that we should expend some lives to save our economy. They say the health of the economy is more important than the lives of a few million people who no longer contribute to our economy. That is a very slippery slope. We should never put more value on anything above human life. 

    Jesus asked, ‘What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, but lose his soul?’ (Mark 8:36) Your soul is more valuable than the whole world. Hard to believe, but that is true. 

The life of a grandmother, 

the life of a grandfather, 

the life of a disabled person

the life of a terminally ill person 

the life of a homeless person 

the life of an uneducated person 

the life of a poor person

the life of a child, even, 

the life of the unborn 

Every life is valuable and every life is worth living because it is created in the image of God. That is the true nature of humanity, we are created in the image of God and then evil entered into our race when our forefather Adam violated God’s commandment in the Garden of Eden. Camus wrote, “There is (but) one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest comes afterwards” Please note those words: the fundamental question of philosophy is to answer whether life is worth living. 

  1. Human Hope 

Let us go back to The Plague. Camus says this evil nature trapped humanity. Camus joined Communist party. The Communists argued that human evil will disappear once we eliminate all economic inequality in our society. Camus says, ‘not so’. This evil is here to stay. He rebuked the Marxists and socialists of his time. Changing economic conditions will not eliminate this evil nature. He said, man is trapped, his life is absurd. Camus thus founded a school of philosophy called absurdism. He says man is trapped in this ‘eternal recurrence’ with no hope. And here Jesus walks in to help us. Yes, you are trapped. You are lost in sin. But I came to this world to save you. 

    In Luke chapter 19, we see Lord Jesus walking through the town of Jericho. There is a richman named Zacchaeus. He was eager to see Jesus. The problem is, he is a short man. But he thought of a solution. He ran and climbed up a sycomore tree to see Jesus. Then something unexpected happened. Jesus came under the tree. He looked up,  saw Zacchaeus, and said, ‘Zacchaeus, come down, today I want to stay in your house. Today, salvation came to your house. The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’ (Luke 19:1-10) 

    Yes, you are lost; I know your condition; I know your nature; I want to come to your home; I want to heal you; I want to save you; I want to give you hope. As Corona encircles us, we are not hopeless. Because we have Jesus, we can have hope in every situation. The other day, my wife went for shopping. We can see a lot of people doing panic shopping these days. They are hoarding up their shelves, not giving a thought for others. People were fighting over tissue paper and in some instances, police had to intervene to disrupt the crowds. 

    My wife called me and said, ‘I am buying only what we need. Only one bag of each’. I commended her for that. When we go for shopping, we should think about other people. Jesus told us to pray, ‘Give us our daily bread’. When the people of Israel going through the wilderness, God took care of their needs. God sent them manna to feed them. They were told to gather manna only for the day. Do not worry about tomorrow. God will give you his grace one day at a time. Today He will give you grace for today. Tomorrow He will give you grace for tomorrow. He will not give tomorrow’s grace for today. When the plague hit the town of Oran, Father Paneloux did not lose hope. He trusted God. We are temporal, but God is eternal. We are frail, but God is strong. We are mortal, but God is immortal. Camus was an atheist, but he respected people like Paneloux who put their faith in the eternal principles of God. 

  1. Human destiny 

What is human destiny? Camus says, man is trapped. That is his destiny. It breaks my heart, as Coronavirus frightening more and more people, some people have committed suicide. Camus says, that is not a bad idea. As I quoted earlier, Camus said, “There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide”. 

   But, that is another area where Jesus differs with Camus. Jesus wants to give us a better destiny, a heavenly destiny, an eternal destiny. It’s a destiny beyond the reach of any virus or plague. In the final hours of his earthly life, we see Jesus nailed to the cross between two thieves. One of those thieves come to his senses. He is bound to the cross. He has no hope. He has no escape. He musters all his energy, looks at Lord Jesus, and says, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into thy kingdom’ (Luke 23:42) That thief prayed with faith in his heart. ‘Lord Jesus, remember me when you come into thy kingdom’. Jesus looks at him and says, ‘Today, thou shalt be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43). Today you will be in heaven. What a glorious destiny! That is the destiny Jesus wants us to have. 

     We read in 1 Peter 5:10, 

‘But the God of all grace, who hath called us 

unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, 

after that ye have suffered a while, 

make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you’ 

    God call you to eternal glory by Christ Jesus….after you have suffered a while. All the pain in this world….the Corona, the cancer, the injury, the fall, the anxiety, the hunger, whatever it is, it is temporary. Even through all this suffering, God gives you his grace because he is God of all grace. Today, we have seen four issues raised by Albert Camus in his great novel, The Plague

Human condition 

Human nature

Human hope 

Human destiny. 

Camus said, man is trapped, he has no hope. But Jesus says, ‘I came to save this man. I came to redeem this man’. Today you come to Lord Jesus, ask him to forgive you all your sins, to redeem you and save you. 

Let us pray: “Lord Jesus, we pray that you comfort all of us as we go through this Coronavirus. The world without you has no hope. But we praise you for giving us your salvation, your grace and your hope. In your precious name, we pray. Amen” 


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