One of the maxims that has been attributed to former Congressman, White House Chief of Staff, and Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel is ‘You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before… You never want a serious crisis to go to waste”.
Emanuel has made that statement many times. The first time it was publicly noted was Nov. 19th, 2008 at the beginning of the Great Recession. He said it in the context of being able to press the newly minted Obama administration’s agenda for financial, regulatory, and social change but especially what came to be known as “Obamacare”. But it has been turned against him time and again because it was used in the context of political advantage to be grasped in the context of an immediate crisis. For instance, Senator Paul Rand famously criticized Emanuel’s axiom. The Kentucky Republican… was asked… by Fox host Andrew Napolitano how (liberal) pundits could “get away with blaming murder on political discourse”-( Note: This was in the context of the Arizona shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011). Rand said, “Well, these are the kind of things that I think some on the left decide and manufacture even before the events occur. I mean, this is part of the playbook of Rahm Emanuel where they say any crisis should be used to their advantage to further their agenda. So I’m not surprised that they do it, I do think they should be ashamed of themselves for doing it.”
In light of what is happening with COVID-19 in America right now, conservatives are blaming liberal democrats for doing just that even though they are not invoking that verbiage. However, it should be noted that Rahm Emanuel was not the first or only politician to express that sentiment. The same essential quote is attributed to Winston Churchill as well; a man who navigated not a few crises. Others have used it as well. So, it is probably unfair to say that the sentiment is always wrong all the time. It should be evaluated in each given context.
For instance, I think I can encourage you to not waste this COVID-19 crisis. There is much good that can come from a crisis like this. Let me list some:
- First and foremost, God can use this crisis to cause people to reflect upon their need of the gospel. Are we “jaded” … are we insensitive and cynical to pray for God to use this crisis to impact people to think of their own mortality, their misguided priorities, and their need of redemption? I think not. I’m praying that God would use this crisis in all those ways.
- This might be a good time for families to draw closer together, spending time together rather than splintered into their respective interests and activities
- This is a great opportunity to display the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus to those impacted by this situation
- With entertainment options curtailed and perhaps coming to a close except for home entertainment, perhaps reading and spiritual reflection might make a comeback. Isn’t there a good book or two you have wanted to read but simply could not find the extra time?
- With so many events, gatherings, and responsibilities cancelled, perhaps it would be an opportunity to “decompress” from the everyday pressures of life.
- Don’t forget to laugh a little. I was amused as one smart mother over the weekend told her kids, “If you clean the house from top to bottom this week-end, you will not have to go to school at all next week!” Smart lady! When is the last time you had a good “laugh session” with the entire family?
- Don’t waste the opportunity to grow in appreciation for all we have. Yesterday, we had the first of our “online worship services”. It all went very well but it was a poor substitute for being gathered together. “Koinonia” … i.e. biblical fellowship suffered from not being gathered. Oh, how we take that for granted, don’t we? I hope I will grow in my appreciation for the hundreds that come every normal week here to worship, fellowship, socialize, and bond. There is a pop song by Passage called “Let her go” and the refrain is:
“Well you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missing home
Only know you love her when you let her go
And you let her go.”
I was kind of feeling this way about our gathered worship…you can so take it for granted that you don’t realize how much you miss it until it is not there.
So, let’s give Rahm Emanuel and Winston Churchill a bit of a break. While it certainly can be ill-used, don’t be afraid to embrace the idea of never wasting a good crisis. Use this crisis to the glory of God to get all that can be gained from it for the sake of Christ and the gospel, our spirits, and our families. Let’s not let it go to waste.