COVID-19 as a Parable
COVID-19 (aka “Coronavirus”) is a serious threat worldwide, and can act as a parable to illustrate important aspects of socialization. For many of us, the Coronavirus pandemic has introduced the term "Social Distancing". Social Distancing is a fairly mild response to the disease, well short of complete isolation or lockdown.
The steps we are taking are not unique to COVID-19 – They are age-old measures that we should be taking as a matter of routine. Furthermore, they serve as a pretty good illustration, or parable, for another worldwide health threat.
You could summarize the health warning this way: “Don’t be complacent! Careless social contacts are hazardous to your health!”
Jesus was a prolific user of parables, but the apostle Paul also liked to dabble in metaphors. Remember the lump of dough and root of the olive tree to represent God’s people? (Romans 11:16 and following) Who can forget the colourful comparison of the church to a human body? (1 Corinthians 12:12-21 - “If the whole body were an eye… The eye cannot say to the hand…”)
If Paul had first sat down with Doctor Luke and discussed transmissible diseases, I could easily imagine him using such an illustration. It would have worked well before his admonition not to listen to those who questioned the resurrection: “Be not deceived: bad communications corrupt good manners.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
How can we apply the principles of the “parable” to “real life”; that is, guarding our souls against unwholesome influences?
Parable: Be wary of your proximity to somebody who is coughing or sneezing.
In this social distancing age in which we find ourselves, we learn (the obvious lesson) that if you don’t want to catch a transmissible disease, we should avoid being close to someone who might have it. How does this apply to our moral health?
Well, if you don’t want your children to pick up bad language, keep them out of earshot of bad language.
If you don’t want your children to pick up bad habits, avoid unsupervised contact with others who have those habits.
If you don’t want your children to question your authority or what you teach them, don’t put them among rebels. Be wary of competing authorities who teach things that contradict your own training up.
Parents who send their children to a school would find this difficult. Of a child’s 14-16 odd hours’ waking time (in a typical school day), they spend about half of that away from home. Perhaps they spend some "home" time on their homework. This means that they spend the majority of time under the direct influence of people outside of the parent’s control.
Parable: Wash hands after contacting surfaces where the virus might be, before touching your face.
Suspect surfaces are any outside of the home. Bus seats, railings, door handles, desks – these are all common surfaces that are capable of holding a virus for many hours. They are also surfaces that many strangers touch before you or your children touch them. Moreover, they may well appear clean.
Children come into contact with questionable behaviours and ideas. Some, like school text books, may appear clean and enlightening, but may be able to transmit error. (I’m a science teacher: I know!)
Children may unwittingly pick up vocabulary and ideas in the playground, on the bus, or in the classroom. Such ideas may need to be sanitized before they infect the child.
How do we do this? Well, disinfecting means removing and neutralizing any pathogens that are already present. Testing for a disease is a good start, if possible. Establish a relationship whose hallmark is open, honest communication. Apply the moral disinfectant of sound teaching and advice. Importantly, make sure your own example backs up everything you say. In this way, you may be able to actively neutralize any negative influences.
Of course, minimizing the need for sanitization has to be more effective.
Parable: If your general state of health or immune system is compromised, don’t risk exposure.
This is key to fighting any disease: If we work to build up our immune system, then our bodies are better able to fight against bacteria and viruses. This is why COVID-19 is a greater threat to the elderly, the long-term chronically ill, or people whose immune systems have degraded over years of illness. God designed our bodies to fight infection, so we should make sure they are as strong and equipped as possible.
A strong, healthy body has more likelihood of being able to fight a disease. This is not rocket science, but (sadly), many parents miss this one. If a child is not mature in the faith and absolutely anchored in the truth, they are not ready for missionary work among hostile natives.
When Jesus commissioned the apostles to make disciples, he did not say, “Send ye therefore your children and teach all nations…”. He was addressing his own disciples – specifically, the 11 of his closest disciples. These eleven had finished three years of intensive training, including teaching, work experience, and much admonition and rebuke to whip them into line. (Matthew 28:16-20)
Very young children have an under-developed immune system. Now, there is no evidence yet to suggest that young children are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, but as a general rule you would not want to expose little ones to harm, until they are ready to cope.
COVID-19 and Homeschooling: Social Distancing, not Social Isolation
Perhaps you have spent years preparing children to withstand moral harm. Have negative experiences, or poor friendships or permissive parenting weakened your children's immune systems? Do you really know the state of your child’s moral fortitude?
Yes, the example of diseases, especially now COVID-19, helps us to appreciate the importance of caring for our children. As we hear on the media, “We should take it seriously, but don’t panic.” It’s not a matter of locking yourselves into a deep cellar and rejecting all contact. Rather, we should minimize risks as far as is practical. Take active control of social contacts. This does not mean isolating children from others. It means seeing the risks and taking precautions.
- Be wary of proximity to "bad communications."
- Neutralize harmful communications that have been picked up.
- Ensure your children have a strong moral resistance before exposing them to harm.
It is the parents' responsibility to protect children.
As parents, we have a moral responsibility to our children to keep them safe from harm. It’s not enough to have a safe, healthy home if we send our children out unprotected and unprepared into an unhealthy environment. God warned Moses about “evil communications”, “bad communications”, and “bad company” when his people would travel through the lands of the ungodly: "Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst." (Exodus 34:12)
Homeschooling families have avoided the greater risks. They employ healthy Social Distancing, not isolation. We know that, unless there is confirmed sickness, it is not necessary to go into complete lockdown, provided we take precautions. Nevertheless, allowing children to go out unsupervised where the risks are high…
That is a lesson to be learned from the parable of COVID-19.
Note that we are not intending to minimize the seriousness or this disease or its effects on the public, particularly on those directly affected by the disease or the economic consequences of it. Any illness is serious. So is poor socialization serious for our children.
Keep up to date with the latest Australian Department of Health alerts.
Greg Simon BA; Dip Ed; Cert Teach
Greg has taught and tutored secondary Maths, Science and ICT for over thirty years, and has been a school principal before dedicating his life to working with home-educating families. He was actively involved with the homeschooling of his four children.
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