Last week while reading up on the news, I came across the cartoon you see here. It grabbed my attention right away. It obviously plays upon the "Rosie the Riveter" graphic from World War II. We are meant to understand that if we pull together as a nation - like we did to defeat the Axis powers and Japan then - we can defeat SARS-CoV-2 (a.k.a., "the novel coronavirus") now.
It is a striking image as much now as it was then. Now, rather than praising the contribution of women to the production of equipment for the war, the Rosie character praises the many nurses on the front lines of a very different battle. (Of course, we recognize that many men are included among those represented by this Rosie the Nurse character.)
Prominent in the graphic is Rosie's bare, right arm in a position to flex her bicep muscle - easily recognized as a symbol of strength and effective power. "We can do it" is the message, and the means is by our own powerful right arm. It is meant to comfort us - we have done this before, after all. And it is meant to call each of us to do our part for the effort.
This is striking again from a different perspective. We recall that the motif of the "strong right arm" is one prominently used in the praise of the one God and savior of Israel - savior of all, in fact, in Jesus Christ.
Psalm 98:1, for example, calls God's people to worship him, saying, "Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory," (NRSV, italics added).
This was an image given by God himself to represent his power to save. When God was giving Moses the message to the Hebrews while captive in Egypt, God promised, "Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments,'" (Exodus 6:6 NASB, italics added).
One more example. When Mary praised God that she would bear the Savior, she sang, "He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts...and lifted up the lowly," (Luke 1:51, NRSV, italics added).
The right arm of God is strong to an awesome degree. The One who humbled proud Pharaoh, who provided a path for his own people through the heart of the Sea and destroyed Pharaoh's army by that same sea, is the One who sent the Savior through the womb of humble Mary of Nazareth. Even more, the right arm of God is the one that raised Jesus from three days dead. So, we hope he will raise us, too, when that day comes.
The encouraging message - the intent to comfort, the aim to call forth more help evident in the Rosie graphics old and new - resonates with all of us, I am sure. This is surely a time when these things are needed. If COVID-19 is less deadly in terms of percentage mortality, it is frightening in its exhaustive scope. This pandemic will reach us all eventually.
But is our hope and comfort and calling really in the strength of our own right arm? Have our past national accomplishments successfully tempted us to assuage our fears in the dizzying elixir of "success" and "achievement"? Has our national esprit de corps already forgotten that the inspiring power of our historic greatness has been in trusting the strong right arm of God?
We can do it, as Rosie again says. But we have not done it alone, and we will not do it again alone. Let our faith and hope for positive outcomes and for standing strong together and meeting the COVID-19 array of challenges rest upon the right strong arm - that of God, his goodness and power. Not in our own.
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Nathan Wheeler, PhD, is the Preacher for the Eastside Church of Christ in Farming-ton, NM.