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  • Katie Smith

Contagious virus

One of my deepest triggers for anxiety when I was growing up was illness. Like most people, I hated being sick, so I thought if I could control the germs, they couldn't control me. While it's normal to dislike feeling crummy, it took me years of constant illnesses and multiple children living in and out of hospitals before I began to let go of the struggle.

Once all my kids were out of the "fragile breathing" state, COVID corroded the world and everyone guarded against viruses publicly as I had done secretly for years. I didn't sigh in relief, "Finally people are covering their mouths!" Instead, I saw a mirror into my old tormented soul. The reflection showed a drastic difference between something that is physically contagious and something that becomes socially contagious. A control that controls you. Even our beliefs or religious preferences fall into contagions.

A former presidential candidate said this of religion: “The real divide in this country, as I see it, even on the front of religion, is not between those who are members of different traditional religions, from Judaism to Christianity to Hinduism to otherwise. It is actually between those who have adopted traditional religion and those who pledge allegiance to a new religion of secularism, woke-ism, transgender-ism, climate-ism, COVID-ism" (Vivek Ramaswamy).

This quote, while potentially hair-raising for most, turned on a light bulb for me. Not the awkward hot button light, which those "isms" present, but a light that revealed the elements within the term "social contagion." I hadn't really thought about it, but Wikipedia, claims that social contagion "involves behavior, emotions, or conditions spreading spontaneously through a group or network. Generally social contagion is understood to be separate from collective behavior, which results from a direct attempt to exert social influence."

When I was living with breathing machines for my babies, emergency feeding tube replacement kits, or my own constant infections from those little germs, I didn't need to understand "social contagion". I didn't have the time or energy to even think about it. When I went without solid sleep for seven years straight, I was desperate. I cried out to God for assistance in ways I never had before then. Desperation drives almost every human to pray. No matter who they think they are praying to, a real state of despair drives most people to call out to someone bigger than themselves. Like a child yelling for mom when they are sick, we cry to God in our weaknesses rather than depend on our social environments.

Spontaneous spreading of ideas, sounds a lot like a virus that spreads spontaneously from person to person, changing forms based on its host. This explains our first-world problems. We repeat conversations or create controversy because we are bored, because we want a few followers, or worse, we think we will get fame through a contagious posting. At their best, podcasts and platforms inform and educate, but at their worst they engross us with a mental virus of false religions. Social contagions take the form of positive influence, but ultimately infect us with negative imitations.

The real God, the living, true God, is not contrived, nor contracted like a virus. God can only be imitated through sincere love-- love from His Son and His Spirit. This is the only platform worth endorsing or worth our valuable time. All the other contagions reveal themselves over time through smoke screens, abandonment, rust, inflation, or dissatisfaction. But God never fades. He never dies, and He doesn't changes like a virus. We evaluate symptoms as markers for illness, but we see fruit as markers of a growing life. "By their fruit you will recognize them" (Matthew 7).

We all run the risk of making infectious platforms from our buffet of choices in this country. Even "biblical platforms" radically stray from God's Truth. As such, we need to unplug, unfollow, and uncheck a few boxes that we merely copied unconsciously. We need to stop reading and listening to news outlets that cause spiritual indigestion. The fresh air and living water will wash us clean and help us view the world with its real contagions. Then we can use our extra time to alleviate those problems.

The more I have let go of trying to control my health, the less I hold any anxiousness. When I saturate on His word all day, serve others in His name, and sit still long enough to hear His voice, I don't have to follow any trends leading me into deep, dark rabbit holes of contagious viruses. I can live at peace with joy no matter the contagions around me.

~Carefully and Carelessly Contagious

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