By Patrick Mendis and Dominique Reichenbach
The novel coronavirus has brought the world to a standstill with cases and death tolls surging daily. It has incited mass panic in its refusal to discriminate against patients — infecting the young and elderly across every ethnic, religious, and political identity around the world.
At the birth of the United States, Thomas Paine – the most versatile and revolutionary founding father – wrote that “these are the times that try men’s souls. . . It matters not where you live or what rank of life you hold; the evil or the blessing will reach you all.”
In our trying times with the coronavirus, people often turn to higher powers. Pope Francis recently prayed for an end to the pandemic. Unfortunately for humanity, Covid-19 may be a reminder of deliberate intervention in modern politics — a divine self-correction process of failed or fallen leaders and nations by Nature’s God.
Since its founding, Nature’s God is the supreme architect in charge of the relationships between the ruled and the ruler — forming a social contract based on the consent of the governed and everything else. When violated, natural calamities ensue as warnings for a rebirth. The moral universe of Nature’s God is an arc that begins and ends with justice.
The Enduring Nature’s God
The Trump administration’s science-denying and evidence-hating failures have left the American people vulnerable to the wrath of “Nature’s God” and its growing pandemic across the United States.
In the Declaration of Independence, its primary author Thomas Jefferson declared that “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” entitle U.S. citizens to independence, equality, and self-governance. A commitment to the study of experience and evidence naturally exists in American DNA given that the U.S. was a nation created intentionally by the Declaration of Independence and Constitution as opposed to an evolved civilization-state like China. By its founding principles, it is imperative that Americans “hold [their] truths to be self-evident” as overseen by Nature’s God — the God of biology, chemistry, and physics.
The Trump White House, however, has rejected the American duty to truth and evidence-based government and in the process has angered Nature’s God. Trump and his administration have a record of generating or supporting “alternative facts.” Most recently, he contradicted scientists and medical experts on Covid-19 by blaming China, media, and previous administrations. Trump insisted the response to Covid-19 was “really working out” and that it “will go away,” despite that CDC experts affirmed that the pathogen will cause a national pandemic and will endure beyond this season. Now the reluctant president must recognize the lethality of the issue at hand.
Yet, Trump’s White House spiritual adviser and his administration’s evangelical leader at Capitol Ministries continue to blur truth and justice by claiming that Covid-19 is due to God’s wrath over homosexuality and environmentalism.
Nature’s God’s concerns with the Trump White House stretch beyond its rejection of truth to issues of human dignity and human rights violations. These violations include the criminal immigration prisons, the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and targeting of UNESCO cultural sites, the betrayal of the Kurds in Syria, and the continuation of an unjust proxy war in Yemen. From Vietnam to Iraq and beyond, the founding moral mission of the U.S. has been misplaced, angering Nature’s God.
Given all this, Nature’s God has now struck the U.S. with Covid-19 to correct the failed Trump administration and its flagrant disregard for American principles of evidence, authenticity, and justice.
Surviving the Mandate of Heaven
Both Nature’s God and the Mandate of Heaven establish a sense of karmic justice, a system of rewards and punishments for the ruler as well as the ruled.
The doctrine of Mandate of Heaven, or Tianming, is an ancient Chinese political and religious principle which ascribed legitimacy to the emperor bestowed by Heaven itself. If the emperor proved unfit, divine retributions transpired in the form of natural disasters to signify the withdrawal of the mandate. These calamities could spark governmental transformations, which could symbolically signal an overthrow of President Xi Jinping in the context of Covid-19.
The pandemic appears particularly heavenly given that it originated in Wuhan, a central city located at the culturally significant intersection of the east-west flowing Yangtze river and the north-south axis of the high-speed rail grid. The pathogen spread to all 34 provinces of China within one month. Widespread quarantine regulations affected 500 million Chinese people and had immediate consequences for the global economy. Given the severity and reach of Covid-19, it is hard to deny its resemblance to a calamity levied by Heaven to cast out an unfit ruler.
China’s violations of human rights and religious freedoms are the most compelling factors driving Heaven to incite a calamity. Examples include the forced detention of Uighurs, reported organ harvesting of Falun Gong members, repression under the social credit system, and the threatening nature of the unification of Taiwan.
The Truth Will Set You Free
The latest conspiracy theories driven by the Communist Party of China (CPC) claim that the U.S. military brought the virus to Wuhan. However, this debate over origins is nothing more than the CPC’s method of muddling the truth. To avoid losing the Mandate of Heaven, the CPC must recognize “the inherent failure in its system as the authorities have continued to silence and punish those who deviate from official orthodoxy and reality.”
President Trump’s insistence on blaming China for Covid-19 by calling it the “Chinese virus” is also counterproductive in the eyes of justice for Nature’s God. To avoid falling from the grace of Nature’s God, the Trump administration must recognize its duty to truth and evidence-based government.
Seemingly realizing the hand of divine providence for a shared destiny, Trump has now pledged cooperation with China after a phone call from President Xi, as if Nature’s God and the Mandate of Heaven have finally spoken to them. Ironically, however, transactional President Trump has failed American leadership globally.
Like a Chinese phoenix, a new world of geopolitics should hopefully rise in a post-pandemic era. Tried souls must remember Mencius’s wise words, “the people are to be valued most.” In a world of science, power comes from people. People themselves become Nature’s God or the owners of the Mandate of Heaven with the ability to accept or reject rulers or groups of tyrants who have lost their compassion and humility.
For a new era of geopolitics to emerge, Thomas Jefferson reminds the posterity that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” These words of wisdom by Jefferson and Paine have given us to reflect when we now have time in social isolation to begin a new world with the collective mindsets of American authenticity.
Dr. Patrick Mendis is a Taiwan fellow of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China and a distinguished visiting professor of global affairs at the National Chengchi University in Taipei. Previously, he served as a distinguished visiting professor of Sino-American relations at the Yenching Academy of Peking University and a commissioner of the US National Commission for UNESCO at the US Department of State. The views expressed in this article are his own; they do not represent the institutions of his past or present affiliations. Dominique Reichenbach, an American David Boren scholar, served as a research intern and teaching assistant at NCCU. Their views expressed in this analysis do not represent the official positions of the current or past affiliation of their institutions nor the respective governments.