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Episode Summary

Ryan McAnnally-Linz offers a reflection on human vulnerability, the response of Stoicism, and the call to Christian love.

"Fortress building and Stoic detachment are tempting in times like these. But they are fundamental failures to acknowledge the full scope and depth of our relationships to each other. Human beings are made for communion, for loving interchange and connection. Stoicism denies the profound goodness of our material and emotional relationships with others. It is social distancing of the soul—which, from a Christian perspective, would be a quite fitting description of hell." (From the episode)

"Social distancing" isn't just a term we learned in 2020—it became a global human habit, practice, and way of life, all in a matter of weeks. How should we understand the Christian call to love given the need for physical distance? Ryan McAnnally-Linz offers a reflection on human vulnerability, the response of Stoicism, and the call to Christian love.

Show Notes

0:35 Introduction to the podcast topic and speaker.

1:40 Beginning of Ryan’s reflection on human vulnerability, the response of Stoicism, and the call to Christian love.

1:45 In his book, Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari suggests that, once basic human survival is secured by overcoming famine, war, and pandemics, the natural progression of the human species will be to seek a god-like existence of immortal happiness.

3:55 Stoicism’s vision of the good life: virtue and rejection of attachments to the world.

5:45 “Following the Stoics, we might find ourselves responding to COVID-19 by training ourselves not to be internally affected by the turmoil around us. This training could look like denying the severity of the crisis or teaching ourselves to see it as overblown political theater. It could look like withdrawing our emotional investment in relationships with others, or like focused breathing and meditating the stress away. At its most extreme, it could look like the Stoic practice of memento mori, reflecting on the eventuality of our own deaths to dull the fear of their arrival.”

6:12 A Christian response to Stoicism: love of world and community.

6:30 Romans 12:5: "so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another."

6:45 State of nature or Bellum omnium contra omnes (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan)

7:19 “Vulnerability per se is neither good nor bad. It is simply a fact of our lives as finite creatures. We depend on other creatures, large ones like the sun in the sky and small ones like the bacteria in our guts, for our very lives, and therefore we are vulnerable to harm. But that does not mean that it’s good to be subject to harm, much less to actually be harmed. It’s not. There are, therefore, forms of vulnerability that we ought to seek to mitigate, for our neighbors, but also for ourselves. The social distancing we’re currently practicing aims at doing just that.”

9:05 “The good that vulnerability points us to is love, caring communion, and intimate connection. The situation with COVID-19 is strangely different, and yet the fundamental good at stake is the same. Health-care workers are, indeed, drawing near to the afflicted, at much risk to themselves. But the vast vulnerability to this virus asks something different from the rest of us. It asks that we keep our distance. Self-isolation is precisely the mode that communion takes under the conditions of this pandemic.”

9:45 "The Parable of the Good Samaritan" as a model for Christian love.

10:53 Closing

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