(Source: José María Castillo, Spanish theologian; translation: Novena)

We all know very well that the coronavirus pandemic is a threat which makes us feel insecure and afraid. This does not need much explanation. We are living it.

But this is not the only thing we are experiencing. In addition to the threat, perhaps with more force than that same threat, we are also going through an experience that is humanising us.

The threat is something so evident that we all feel it. The humanisation, on the other hand, is not so clear, because there are too many of us who were not even aware of the dehumanisation we were going through. And it is not a problem of good and bad. It is a cultural problem.

We were born, we have grown up and we live in a society and a culture that shove down our throats the conviction that what matters in life is to make money and to be important.

Because according to many, those are the pillars on which we must build what concerns us all. To live with solidity and security. And to have the most effective means at hand to get the most out of it.

A life project, in other words, in which the subject focuses in on oneself. And in which the centre of life is in oneself. A life project fed by the economy, politics, religion, the job one has, the family in which one is born, the relatives one loves so much or of which one is ashamed. Everything, everything, absolutely everything, in the service of my good life. And whoever is left behind, it’s up to them to catch up.

In this society and in this culture we were born and were educated and everything else is organised in the service of this life project.

I am not saying that all citizens are like this and live like this. Nor can they be like this. Because the most obvious consequence which follows from what I have said is precisely inequality.

In this society, where so much importance is placed on freedom, inevitably the big fish eats the small fish.

And the consequence is that the economy, wealth and well-being are concentrated, every day more and more, in fewer and fewer privileged people, while the number of the most unfortunate grows and grows, subject to greater and greater destitution.

Those who live better are fewer and fewer every day, while the number of destitute is increasing. To the extreme that we lament that in Spain thirty people have died from the virus on the same day that, in the so-called “third world”, thirty thousand people have died of hunger and misery.

All this makes absolutely no sense. And here we are: anguished over the pandemic! Which is perfectly understandable.

But I dare say that there is something positive about the pandemic: it has come to tell us that we have to rethink – and rethink very thoroughly – what culture, what society, what economy, what politics, what values, what law, what religion… what way of living (in short) we have set up for ourselves as the most natural thing in the world when in reality it is the most savage dehumanisation that could have been invented.

And if isn’t, how can we explain that there are so many people who go to parties, binge drink in the park or go on benders in clubs even if it costs them an infection with the virus that scares us all?

Having dedicated my life to religion and theology, I ask myself (shocked and even scared) how it is possible that, in the face of this truth, there are so many clergymen (conservatives and progressives, from the right, centre and left) that start explaining the gospel and…

I don’t know what they say, but the fact is that too many people are leaving church with a clear conscience and still thinking as they were thinking before the sermon.

No wonder it has been said that “our religious experience is no longer reliable”. And it is not longer realiable because it reinforces our conviction that what matters is that the pandemic comes to an end: that we get back to our good life and luxury. And the hundreds of millions who are starving, it’s up to them to make do as they can. But don’t they dare think about coming here to bother us.

And I ask myself: where are we heading with this religion and this explanation of the gospel?

The fact is that not even the frightening misfortune of the pandemic is changing our way of thinking in terms of what humanises us. And what dehumanises us.

The future is clear: we will exit the pandemic.

What I fear we will not exit is our way of thinking and living the importance of money and getting back to the good life. Even though the most unfortunate are more and more unfortunate every day.

More on Novena by Spanish theologian José María Castillo:

Why doesn’t God stop the pandemic? Because to heal the sick is what God wants of us

Spanish theologian: “Power, money, unequal relationships… The Church lives a lot of things that contradict what Jesus said and did”

Spanish theologian: “The pandemic is making it clear that humanity doesn’t need this Church”

Spanish theologian: “The centre of religion is no longer ‘in the temple’, but in the defence, protection and dignification of life”