Original Research - Special Collection: COVID-19 from a Theological Perspective

Being human in the time of Covid-19

Johann-Albrecht Meylahn
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 1 | a6029 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i1.6029 | © 2020 Johann-Albrecht Meylahn | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 April 2020 | Published: 30 April 2020

About the author(s)

Johann-Albrecht Meylahn, Department of Practical Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


The novel coronavirus – officially named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), causing a disease (Covid-19) which has flu-like symptoms – seems to be responsible for the current global lockdown or maybe one can even refer to it as a global event. Neither the virus nor the disease that it causes is truly novel, as the virus is part of the SARS virus family and therefore known, and likewise the symptoms of the disease (Covid-19) are also well known, even flu-like, and therefore also not novel. Yet, what is truly novel about the virus or the disease it causes is its effect, not specifically referring to the health effect, but its global socio-economic and political effect. It is for the first time in the history of humanity that such drastic global lockdown measures have been taken and that governments have taken the conscious decisions to ‘lay lame’ (cripple) their economies. Such a radical decision is truly novel. Besides the economic ‘lockdown’, there are numerous socio-economic repercussions; for example, in a single day, millions (3.3. million) of citizens in the United States file for unemployment, and similarly in many other countries. Covid-19 is a challenge to the economies of the world, to society at large, to the poor and vulnerable in particular, and to individuals who are ‘locked safely’ in their homes. Religious institutions, which traditionally provide collective meaning, can no longer gather in public places, and offer communal solace. Covid-19 maybe challenges what being human means, or at least, what one has come to believe concerning the meaning of being human. In this article, this question of being human in the time of Covid-19 will be explored.


Covid-19; Lacan; Public Theology; Pandemic; Subjectivity


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