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On the Refusal to Capitulate to Suffering

By Katharina Klöcker

The corona pandemic is causing deep suffering worldwide, and continues to develop at a fast pace. Apart from medical crisis management, one of the most important social tasks is to maintain and promote a broad, constructive discourse on the necessary containment measures. This is the only way to stop acceptance waning and to prevent the spread of anti-democratic ideas.

Precisely because of its anti-resignatory attitude, theology should intervene in this discourse and seek to answer questions of justice which have been neglected so far. If it does not want to suffer a (further) loss of social relevance, it must engage with the acute problems of the times in a visible, serious manner, and offer more than just ready-made answers.

In this crisis, the alleged negative correlation between fear (of infection, illness and death) and solidarity is repeatedly referred to. The great helpfulness of the past months demonstrated that fear does not per se promote selfish behavior. However, especially in times of pandemics, there is a danger that solidarity will turn into hostility. 

Christianity also knows these dangers of desolidarization out of fear. It therefore calls upon trust in God as a way to overcome fear. But this remains an ideal that many people cannot attain. Another way how fear and solidarity can be put into relation from a Christian perspective is shown by the “unbelieving” disciple Thomas in the Gospel of John. Only in the symbolic confrontation with the wounds of Jesus does he recognize that God is alive. The refusal to capitulate to the suffering of the world could thus become a way of encountering God.

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