Afraid of the Crowds (2020)

People have not changed much; but the world has changed.

It has been almost a year since I wrote about the Crowds. You may read that blog post if you are curious. In that blog I referenced a book by Thomas Hardy.
Today, Albert Camus — the Christian. And the book? The Plague.
Camus does not advocate a particular theological view of the cholera epidemic that swept the world at the end of WWII; indeed, that epidemic was merely the template from which he addressed the matter of the view of the plague from two of its “first-responders”: A physician (Bernard Rieux) and Fr. Paneloux, the Jesuit priest.
Set in Oran, an Algerian port city, these two are confronted with the sick and dying and, as we see in their character development, both (and as one would expect of a Jesuit Priest), paragons of morality and character, compassion and care.
Battling the plague, we see that two men, surrounded by many more equally devoted and selfless, are committed just as are the Heroes of the COVID-19 Responders; and indeed have far less insulation from contracting the deadly disease.
Camus speaks through both Paneloux and Rieux, and in speaking we hear the despair contrasted with the devotion, the crisis confronted by compassion, and most memorably the hell of pandemic met with the homily of Fr Paneloux.
Employed is the Biblical image of the “Threshing Floor”.
At the “threshing floor” (more than 50 Biblical references can be found). God separates the wheat from the chaff.
In this particular analogy are questions: Is God rooting out evil? Is God revealing good? Is God doing both? Is God restoring or purifying the good — represented by the gran –originally born in humankind while separating the chaff to be thrown into the fire.
in “The Plague” I have found some resassurance in my own perspective that as a matter of Nature, God does NOT deal with us as individuals personalities in the purging process; rather, God “deals with” our nature as a race, separating wheat from chaff in usa as a race (human race) but not in each individual one of us — as if we ar some kind of special kind of redemptive project. Yest, I k now that this flies in the face of the appeal to “let Jesus come into your heart”; but I have discussed this else where in this blog.
The threshing floor is a place where God’s “chosen people” are joined with those previously (by tribe) discarded. (think Ruth and Boaz).
After all, the farmer does not separate wheat one sheaf at a time, but rather a shock at a time. If you read into this a tone of universal salvation, don’t. There are always those sheaves in which (in whom) there is only guild !! Read “an entire sheaf is throne into the fire” sometimes from the clutch of the evangelist, rejoicing and “bringing in the sheaves”
the conversation in “The Plague” between the two giving aid to those infected turns most personal in their witness of plague-tortured child.
But what is winnows out is not so much an understanding of the nature of God — that is not their common Ground, Rieux and Paneloux — but and awareness (and “agreement about” GRACE. Indeed, Camus reveals that the matter of “salvation” is above what we might call the “pay grade” of those whose vocation makes them first responders — they become for us voices of Truth — Truth, but not agreement.
I am left wondering what Truth we might discover in transcripts of recordings of medical professionals providing the intensive care treatments to those who went to the beach a bumped up against one another and shared droplets deadly. I doubt we will hear any of those recordings, at least for this purpose.
We may have to read Camus. Put “The Plague” on your summer beach-reading list.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s