How to both die to “normal” and celebrate life as you wait during the pandemic

May 14, 2020

I dream about my old life. The coffee stops, neighborhood bonfires, and weekend trips. I never thought I’d admit this, but I’m dying for normal rhythms again.

Banal as they seemed, I long for the days where you make a pour over on the way out the door, run an errand en route to work, catch up with a friend after, then take your kids (those dear creatures who have, in the past two months, tested everything you say you believe) to the park for a moment before sunset. Now, it’s all in your living room—your coffee, the office, your friends on Zoom, and the jungle gym. When will this end?

For now, we wait.

I want to get back to normal, too. We’re all holding our breath as we lose income, relational connections, and health—many physical, some mental. As much as it stings, I’m convinced this struggle could be an important inflection point in our stories. If we stop and search our hearts in the middle of this—between the cracks and chaos of trying to find new rhythms—normal again may not cut it.

What do you need to let die? 

Historically, pivotal moments of suffering force God’s people to re-evaluate. From a spiritual angle, I invite you to reflect on this question: what might you need to let die?  If this season has caused you to sense deep down that something must or will or maybe even has already changed permanently, then spend some time with this question. And beware of distraction as you do. The master narrative of consumer capitalism is a powerful force, already gearing up to regain our loyalties and push us back to “normal” levels of distracted, consuming frenzy as soon as possible.

But what if there’s something more than normal for you on the other side? Perhaps this lockdown marks the beginning of the end of something—a job you’ve outgrown, an unhealthy relationship, some economic practice or ruinous habit. It’s tough to embrace endings and to see them for what they might truly be—new beginnings that insist we grow. 

So, I ask again: what might you need to let die?  Sit alone with that question, if you dare. 

Again, watch out. When we starve our idols to their death, they cry out in protest. They’re known to leave a painful vacuum in their wake. But, as the Easter season reminds us, the hope of something new is here. Death can lead to resurrection life.   

As you wait, celebrate

To be honest, I want the results of this new life, but without the tough refining tasks required to get there. But there aren’t any shortcuts. In this in-between time of waiting, let’s not pass these months shut-in and angsty. What does it look like instead to grow through hardship and even practice new creation life—right now?  

Against the gloom, what practices of hope, life, and joy can you infuse into your days?

On the historic Christian church calendar, Easter is not just a day—it’s actually a 40-day season. Though these days feel more like mourning, how might we dare to celebrate during this time? To do what Yahweh told Israel to do while enslaved—to plant gardens, have children, throw wedding parties—even under oppression?[1] As people of Jesus, we must find a way to celebrate life—for Easter is our greatest festival.[2]

In my household, we’re giving celebration a shot in simple ways. We’ve adopted 3 hens and built a large raised garden. We’re making backyard omelets and growing arugula and eggplants for the first time. Though our modest little house and yard can feel like their own exile, I am seeing spots of joy in slowing down. There is so much to explore in one tiny plot of land—as children will remind you if you put your phone down and pay attention. The worms in our compost entertain them and feed the chickens for hours—as do the pungent wild onions springing up. They never tire of sampling the perennial herbs and adding them to bouquets of cream and mauve grass flowers. When nature runs out of tricks, you can have a lot of fun with a bottle of vinegar and a box of baking soda. For a weekly delight, we light a candle on the eve of the Sabbath, then take to something joyous—baking dessert, venturing out on a picnic or hike, or blending up smoothies. Simple felicity. 

What about you?  Against the gloom, what practices of hope, life, and joy can you infuse into your days? Even as you juggle your coffee, office work, and kids, how will you celebrate through the waiting and hardship?


  1. ^ Jeremiah 29.
  2. ^ N.T Wright, Surprised by Hope. 

J. Mark Bowers

J. Mark Bowers writes and trains for the Chalmers Center, a church-equipping organization focused on breaking the spiritual, social, and material bonds of poverty. Having lived and journeyed extensively in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, he is also the creator of Profit & Pilgrimage, a movement of people who travel … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24