Inoculated Against Ignorance, Immunized for Love


The Coronavirus is a new virus with no known vaccine and developing one will take up to another year and a half—until which time social distancing is the best way to prevent its spread. Doctors Inoculate by introducing a pathogen or antigen into living organisms to stimulate the production of antibodies. How to inoculate our lives and the lives of our communities against Ignorance and fear? And to strengthen our immunity to social dereliction and political misrule?

“Inoculated Against Ignorance, Immunized for Love”

So once again, and for the foreseeable future,

we are met—virtually—

for worship.

Governor Inslee has asked all Washingtonians to recognize the pandemic we are in the midst of, close places of assembly, and hunker down through April 24. Respecting the Governor’s leadership, we will gladly comply. I for one am glad to see someone accept responsibility, act decisively and with guidance by the scientific method. That’s what leaders do.

That’s what my Staff Leadership partners Jason Puracal and Aisha Hauser have been trying to do. On March 4th, as the spread of the Coronavirus in our area became clear, we began a seriously organized collective response. We sought guidance from the Department of Health, the Center for Disease Control, and denominational authorities. Within ten days we were on the current regimen.

We’ll continue the regimen at least five more weeks…maybe longer. And we don’t know what things will look like when we get there. And it’s kind of scary. But the staff and the Board are committed to making it through whatever lies ahead. As it says in one of our hymns—“Woyaya”—“heaven knows how we will get there, but we know we will.”

One thing that won’t help get us there is ignorance of the actual situation we find ourselves in. Our Chief Executive in Washington, DC, referred to Governor Inslee “a snake” on TV because Inslee asked Vice President Pence to soften the political jargon and “stick to the science.” But I now have to ask the President, “How’s this

rejection of science working out for you guys? For America? Whenever we’re confronted with a truly tough situation looking squarely at the facts is the first step toward resolution.

What America needs immediately are medical masks and gowns and ventilators. If, like the scientifically minded proactive leaders of Singapore, the Administration had not dillydallied, we’d be in much better shape, but…well, elections have consequences….

What America—what the whole world—also needs, is a vaccine: i.e., a biological preparation to improve immunity to COVID-19. Vaccines typically contain an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism, and is often made from weakened or killed forms of that microbe, its toxins or one of its surface proteins. Vaccines stimulate the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and “remember” it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these same microorganisms it encounters down the line. Immunization programs work two ways: on an individual basis to protect people at risk; and on a population-wide basis to provide “herd immunity,” protecting those who, for health reasons, cannot be vaccinated.

In both ancient Greece and China it was known that people who recovered from smallpox never suffered a relapse. As was true of George Washington who contracted the disease as a teenager while visiting Barbados in November of 1751—his only trip away from the American mainland. He recovered after nearly a month. Which was lucky for the United States, since simultaneous with the Revolutionary War was a smallpox epidemic that felled thousands. Of course, the Unitarians John and Abigail Adams knew George Washington well. They were modern and scientific, knew all about disease and illness, practiced cleanliness, and made their own home medicines. John had been inoculated in 1764, survived the procedure, and came through it with

protective immunity. Later, when the smallpox epidemic came to Massachusetts, and knowing it would likely infect and claim her and her four children’s lives, Abigail allowed her doctor to inject the virus into each of their arms. Abigail Adams was a brave, bold, and very intelligent person—and way ahead of her time with regard to immunology, and many other issues. How fortunate for our country that we had such people as and the Adamses and George Washington as our leaders, setting forward-looking precedents for the rest of us to recognize and follow… the way out of ignorance.

* * *

Eschewing ignorance: that’s the first step out of this mess. And second: immunization FOR love. And this is within our grasp, too. By injecting patients with (what amounts to) a weak smidgen of the disease, vaccines stimulate patients’ own antibodies and thereby strengthen their immune systems. In this light, maybe social distancing is the cure for the Seattle Freeze: by forcing Seattleites to keep one another at arm’s length, people suddenly realize how unnaturally diffident and cool the social scene around here has been—and thereby activate everyone’s “Reach Out and Be Welcoming” antibodies such that, once the crisis subsides, our social skills are all more warmly refined. Let us imagine it… and try to make it so.

Because here’s the thing: we already have the healing balm within us—a spark of divinity, the Atman, the Kingdom of Heaven within. For a long time, though, too many of us have not been able to hear our inner still small voices for all the noise and hubbub slowly and incrementally crescendoing across and through all of the lives of everyone we know.

Last week I asked everyone: where is the gift in this? I’m beginning to have inklings. We have been told to stop. And it’s no longer a suggestion, or a request. It is a mandate. STOP. Could the terrifying COVID-19 microbe be the voice of Gaia, of our dear Mother Earth?

Saying STOP this over-the-top, high-speed merry-go-round now:

The airports, the malls, the schools,

All the routine activities, meetings, and social obligations,

The frenetic, never-ending-pursuit-of-the-future that keep us from hearing our single and shared beating heart, and the way we breathe together, in unison, as One.

Going forward, our obligation is to one another. We have forgotten this and as a result the earth has a potentially fatal health crisis. Could a tiny microbe be trying to clue us in? Interrupting the world’s endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions to bring us the long-breaking news that we are not well. We have been so preoccupied girding up the comforts and conveniences that scaffold our lives that we haven’t noticed the as firestorms, typhoons, and rising tides have grown worse and worse. The whole global economic superstructure is buckling under the weight of over stimulated desire and greed. Could it be that Coronavirus is here as a way to help us pay more attention by providing a balancing force to humanity’s overactive, over populated, over weaponized way of life? Reality has intervened…asking us to stop, become still and listen; to look within our heart of hearts, to get beyond individual concerns and consider the concerns of everyone.

I have been on the telephone over the last week with many of you, and many others, who are fearful. Please: don’t let your fear freak you out by demonizing it or letting it rule. Hold it up and listen to what it’s telling you; its wisdom regarding what is at stake, at issue, at risk beyond the threats of personal inconvenience and illness?

In Wuhan, China they say people can see the sky, and birdsong has returned every morning for the first time in decades. And so… it’s come down to this: COVID-19 is a bellwether. Our earth is desperately imperiled and we are now, suddenly, beginning to feel it in our own physical bodies. The quality of our physical health is reflecting back to us critical information about the health of our ocean, forests, and skies, and all who share these resources with us.

Stop. Be still. Listen.

Ask what we need to learn so that all may be well.

Amen. Shalom. Salaam. Namaste. And blessings to all.