I’ve just finished two biographies on Cotton Mather and purchased a third.
Cotton Mather is likely one of the greatest men you’ve never heard of, or if you have heard of him he is probably one of the worst men you never heard of.
If you have heard of Cotton Mather (1663-1728) you have probably heard him portrayed as the instigator behind the Salem witch trials, which means you have really never heard of him. But such false and defamatory portrayals draw clicks on the internet around Halloween, so the characterization remains.
Mather was a Puritan. He was a pastor, a prolific writer, as well as a scientist who first promoted inoculation in America to prevent smallpox. Mather’s writings and influence helped lay the groundwork for the Great Awakening, America’s first great revival.
But to the point of this post, Mather was also a husband and father, and his first two wives died young. The first, Abigail, died following giving birth, and the second, Elizabeth, died of the measles, along with two of their new born twins. Another son was born without an anus, and all Cotton and his wife could do was watch him die. Mather had fifteen children, but only two would outlive him. In other words, Cotton Mather would bury thirteen of his fifteen children.
There is much said about intolerance, and much of it is wrong.
As I’ve written here before, intolerance in-and-of-itself is amoral.
It is the object of intolerance that renders intolerance moral or immoral. It is good to be intolerant of racism; it is bad to be tolerant of it.
The reason racism is still pervasive in the United States is because we tolerate it. By “we” I mean those who are not victims of it or who benefit from it. We tolerate it because it doesn’t affect us, and to the extent it does affect us we benefit from it.
And while history is no stranger to plagues and pandemics, we have not seen a pandemic like this in America or the world in general in over one-hundred years.
In a previous post, “Will This Be the Church’s Covid-19 Legacy?,” I asked whether the Church would be remembered for being a super-spreader of the virus. It’s a fair question.
But maybe the better question is, “What should the Church’s Covid-19 legacy be?” As one committed to continuing to see the advance of the kingdom of God on earth, I want the Church’s legacy in this pandemic to be a positive one, as it has been in other plagues, such as the Plague of Cyprian and the Black Plague, where the Church actually gained credibility and Jesus-followers as a result of its response to pestilence.
So, here is a best case scenario of how the Church could be remembered 50, 100, 200 years from now if it can pivot in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
I’ve had the disheartening task of trying to reason with two of my closest family members over the last few weeks. If it was something trivial I would have just let it go. Unfortunately, it is very important, perhaps even a life-or-death issue. You see, they are Covid-deniers.
What they believe is still not entirely clear to me, but it involved the coronavirus being created in a lab, Bill Gates patenting it, drug companies hiding a cure so they can make more money later on it, and 130,000 people not really dying of COVID-19 because hospitals make more money by wrongly coding the deaths. It seems like everyone is in on the conspiracy, including the CDC, the FDA, and the NIH.
I don’t think they think I’m in on the conspiracy because I was genuinely shocked. I kept asking, “You don’t really believe this, you are just joking with me, right?” No, they really believe it, and they sent me a ten minute YouTube video from a family physician in Texas to prove it. None of his COVID patients have died, you see, so he knows it is all exaggerated.