By Mariah Buzza
If the year 2020 has revealed anything, it is that suffering is an inevitable part of life. While Christians believe Christ has redeemed suffering, it is an experience that all will endure. The COVID-19 Pandemic has single handedly reminded us of this reality. From economic depression to the looming fear of the virus, anxiety abounds. However, the key to the Christian life lies in how we respond to suffering. While the virus is indeed a threat to human life, has society at large responded in a way that is counter-productive and creative of even greater suffering? Have we paved a way for the culture of death?
In response to the virus, governments throughout the United States initially shut down all activity it deemed “non-essential.” In this process, lawmakers declared what aspects of life were to be considered “essential” or “life-sustaining.” It should not come as a surprise that churches were not included in the latter category, as society has become increasingly disaffiliated with , and in some areas, hostile towards  Christianity and religion in general. For a culture and society that is increasingly replacing religion with an aggressive moral relativism , this process of distinguishing between that which is essential and non-essential is contradictory and, in some cases, clearly discriminatory.
The lack of consideration for churches as essential not only highlights the decline of religiosity but ultimately paves the way for discrimination that is already occurring. An example of this discrimination can be seen in the state of New York , where caps were put on the number of attendees allowed to participate in worship services but not on businesses, and despite the fact that evidence exists that when guidelines are followed the risk of spread remains low in houses of worship. Thankfully the Supreme Court agreed that the caps were improper and struck the order down, but this type of inconsistent regulation is not merely a disconnected symptom of increasing religious disaffiliation, but is actively damaging to the life of numerous souls.
Suffering Souls Forced to Die Alone
A bleak reality of the COVID-19 pandemic is that those suffering the most from the virus have been forced to die alone for fear of viral spread. Hospitals across the United States have restricted patients from receiving visitors. However, these restrictions have gone so far as to bar the sick from receiving a visit from a pastor or priest, and in some cases causing them to die without final encouragement from a spiritual leader. In some cases, dying patients have also been denied the ability to see their families simply to say goodbye. As time has passed many hospitals have loosened their restrictions for the dying, however it remains problematic that the most vulnerable lack the freedom to nourish their souls in their final moments. The treatment of the dying as mere transmitters of a disease shows how little we value the life and dignity of each and every person.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that humanity has forgotten the sanctity of life and the value of community. One need only look to the New Testament to understand the centrality and need for community in living the Christian life. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”(Matthew 18:20) God is all the more present when Christians are together in communion with each other and it is very clear that Christ desires this. In a time in which God is needed more than ever, communion is needed more than ever. It is not good for man to be alone.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has illuminated the battle between the culture of life and the culture of death that exists in our society and appears to be culminating in the field of health care. The culture of life will only prevail through an acknowledgement of the immense dignity that every human life possesses and that this dignity calls for communion. Health care professionals and our legislative bodies can only promote the culture of life by acknowledging a patient’s right to ethical treatment at all stages of life and allowing patients the resources necessary to care for their spiritual health in respect of their First Amendment Right to Freedom of Religion.