Last year, an article in The Atlantic called for an amnesty for past wrongs done surrounding COVID. Both the article and some of the responses to it were problematic and raised issues of what is right apology, forgiveness, and accountability as I noted.
Now, I am glad to see COVID and its aftermath has prompted a much better example of what apology and accountability should look like. A week ago, Newsweek published an opinion piece from a medical student named Kevin Bass. It began:
As a medical student and researcher, I staunchly supported the efforts of the public health authorities when it came to COVID-19. I believed that the authorities responded to the largest public health crisis of our lives with compassion, diligence, and scientific expertise. I was with them when they called for lockdowns, vaccines, and boosters.
I was wrong. We in the scientific community were wrong. And it cost lives.
The rest of his piece is even more of an eye-opener, not so much for what he admits – what he admits has become obvious to many – but for his honesty in an area where dishonesty has become the norm. He followed this up with an appearance on last night’s Tucker Carlson Tonight (16 minutes in).
I do not know the religion or politics of Kevin Bass. He might be profoundly mistaken about a lot beyond COVID for all I know. Nonetheless he shows us how to apologize and be accountable.
Bass takes ownership of his role in wrongdoing. He says clearly “I was wrong” before saying, “we were wrong.” He is doggedly complete in apologizing. Lesser men apologize for lesser wrong to distract from greater wrong. Not Bass. He apologized for misleading the public, smearing disagreement, suppressing free speech, suppressing science even, violating the rights and “the autonomy of those who would be most negatively impacted by our policies: the poor, the working class, small business owners, Blacks and Latinos, and children.” He also apologized for wrong motives and arrogant attitudes behind the misdeeds.
This is what fully confessing sin “in thought, word, and deed” looks like.
But that’s not all. He also owned up to the consequences of COVID wrongdoing from the medical establishment. He immediately confesses, “It cost lives.” Later he adds:
We have witnessed a massive and ongoing loss of life in America due to distrust of vaccines and the healthcare system; a massive concentration in wealth by already wealthy elites; a rise in suicides and gun violence especially among the poor; a near-doubling of the rate of depression and anxiety disorders especially among the young; a catastrophic loss of educational attainment among already disadvantaged children; and among those most vulnerable, a massive loss of trust in healthcare, science, scientific authorities, and political leaders more broadly.
Further, Bass apologizes not to reduce risk or cost to himself. No, his apology risks his career as there is no telling how many powerful people in the medical establishment do not appreciate his apology. And remember he is no tenured professor; he is a med student. His apology may turn out to be costly. But he made it anyway.
Bass also takes ownership of his responsibility to make things right as best he can. It’s one reason he wrote the article:
My motivation for writing this is simple: It’s clear to me that for public trust to be restored in science, scientists should publicly discuss what went right and what went wrong during the pandemic, and where we could have done better.
Here and elsewhere he urges those who also participated in the wrongdoing to own up to it also . . . which is sure to make him popular.
As we approach Lent and should be getting ready to be “worthily lamenting our sins,” Kevin Bass shows us how to do it with an apology that is honest, complete and costly, that includes motives, not just surface sins, and that includes the consequences of our sins as well. This is what a good apology, a good confession of sin looks like.
And I don’t think he’s even Anglican!
We will not begin to comprehend the Good News of Jesus Christ defeating sin and death for us and offering us His forgiveness until we comprehend and own up to the Bad News of our sin, of all our sin. That’s one good reason for Lent, by the way.
None of us can even do that perfectly — we are so sinful, we are even bad at confessing sin! But considering this example of Kevin Bass just might be a good start.