Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, is a public figure, and it is Andrew Cuomo the public figure I’ve been thinking about. Of course, public figures have personal lives. There is no reason for me to think anything other than that those who know Andrew Cuomo personally, his friends and his family members, like him very much. No reason to think he is not a nice man.
But there is something about the public figure Andrew Cuomo that’s been bothering me. It’s what he has been saying publicly. So, please, this is not a personal attack. It is,however, an expression of concern, a deep worry, about what Andrew Cuomo, the public figure, has said and what it represents.
About ten days ago Cuomo was interviewed on CNN. The interview had to do with his handling of the coronavirus crisis in New York. He has been commended for the job he is doing. The governor pointed out that they were just beginning to see a flattening of the curve, and that is a good thing. He commended New Yorkers for their diligence in social distancing and other measures. That’s the kind of thing good governors ought to say.
But then, out of the blue, no other context, he went on to say, “Our behavior has stopped the spread of the virus. God did not stop the spread of the virus.”
Something seems to be bothering the governor, for the very next day he raised the same issue in a press conference. “The number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that. Fate did not do that. Destiny did not do that. A lot of pain and suffering did that.”
Good governors ought to commend their stalwart people for the hard work they are doing, their pain and the suffering for the common good. But I wonder why this good governor goes out of his way to keep any credit going in the direction of the divine.
I’m wondering if Andrew Cuomo’s God is too small for coronavirus.
Cuomo claims Christian faith. Last year he told the New York Times, “I was educated in religious schools, and I am a former altar boy. My Roman Catholic values are my personal values.”
In commending New Yorkers, people of many faiths and no faith, for their hard work, their pain and their suffering, Cuomo made it clear there’s no room for God in all of this. If the God to which Andrew Cuomo refers is the little God whose task it is to bring happiness into my little life, a God all too common among those of us who otherwise claim a robust Biblical faith, then I have to agree. The transactional God of the prosperity gospel (we pray hard enough or think positively enough and God will bless us more than enough) is no match for a pandemic. The God in whose name we baptize our plans and projects for social justice or economic prosperity is not up to facing covid-19.
But the God who tells us his thoughts are not our thoughts, nor his ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8); the God who declares that nothing will be able to separate us from his love in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39); the God who reminds us that now we see as in a mirror dimly, but then face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12) – the God we meet in Jesus Christ is big enough for times such as these.
I don’t know Andrew Cuomo, but I wonder if his God had grown smaller and smaller until that God was simply irrelevant to the crises a governor must manage. I know too many of us in the church are happy enough with a very small God, and then when something big comes along we find that our small God fails.
Is your God big enough for today and for whatever tomorrow might bring?
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