If there is anything we’ve learned in the past few weeks, it’s that it doesn’t take much to bring out the crazy in some people.
A sudden sneeze, the last loaf of bread, a place in line, a certain look, and — pop — the cork in our head disappears, and we go from being reasonable to seize-able in the time it takes to blink. Cue the cops.
Life is stressful enough when things are normal. But throw in war, pestilence, earthquakes and an excitable media, and conditions come apart rather quickly.
Self-quarantined in my office, I watch people lose their minds online. My favorite tipping point is the religious mania in which people seize every convenient sign as proof that we’re living in the last days.
People in my own faith (Latter-day Saint) are doing it, pointing to various signs that prove the truthfulness of our church by seeking miracles from coincidence.
“It isn’t by accident that we are commanded to stockpile supplies,” said one.
“We have a prophet who is a doctor,” wrote another. “It proves that Heavenly Father prepares the way for us.”
That would be great except that during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, a vastly worse pandemic than this one, God didn’t tell Joseph F. Smith, then the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to stop his followers from using common Communion goblets, which helped spread the disease.
But wait. There’s still a way to factor in Heavenly Father’s involvement. Since Smith died during the pandemic, perhaps God snatched him up so that a more hygienically minded Heber J. Grant could take over and mandate individual cups.
What more proof do you need?
Then there are some Christians who smirk because the recent earthquake caused the Angel Moroni atop the Salt Lake Temple to lose a trumpet, suggesting it as a sign from God that Mormons follow a false prophet.
I’m Mormon, but I’ll go along with that — provided that we can also agree that a roof collapsing on a church of their own faith, killing half the congregation, is also a heavenly sign of displeasure instead of “God tests those he loves.”
In Louisiana, a Christian pastor has defied a state order prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people. Life Tabernacle Church Pastor Tony Spell said the virus is “politically motivated” and will continue to assemble no matter what. It’s a matter of religious freedom.
So be it — as long as the people who assemble in that church stay in that church, even if the doors have to be nailed shut until the danger has passed.
Finally, there are those heavily armed “end timers” who have been eagerly waiting for exactly what they perceive is happening.
“The world is ending. Yeah, you laughed at us for buying up all the toilet paper and bullets. Who’s laughing now? Just you wait.”
Really? How low do you have to sink to hope the worst will happen to everyone else just for the satisfaction of being proved right?
People figure that we’re in the last days, that some great religious event is just around the corner. Maybe it is. But while you wait to be raptured, take a moment and consider that every religious generation has believed this, and every religious generation has been full of … itself.
Are times like this instructive? You bet. Any proof of the merits in our collective faiths is determined in how we care for one another — even if we all happen to be wrong.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.