April 2, 2020

"The Soap Police" (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

March 2020

In confronting the coronavirus, experts point out that one of the first and most important precautions are the simple rules of hygiene, cleanliness, hand washing with soap and other liquids that kill germs and viruses.

I read an article by the Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari, in which he raises some issues related to the coronavirus, with the changes being made in all the various nations. The main point of the article is that there are two things that are the important choices we are facing today in relation to the new coronavirus. "The first is between totalitarian surveillance and citizen empowerment. The second is between nationalist isolation and global solidarity."

The article raises many remarkable points, among which are the serious decisions being made nowadays within a few hours, which they would not have taken under normal circumstances.

Then, what caused an impression on me, is what he called "the soap police", that a "self-motivated and well-informed population is usually far more powerful and effective than a policed, ignorant population." He cites "the soap police" as one example:

"Consider, for example, washing your hands with soap. This has been one of the greatest advances ever in human hygiene. This simple action saves millions of lives every year. While we take it for granted, it was only in the 19th century that scientists discovered the importance of washing hands with soap. Previously, even doctors and nurses proceeded from one surgical operation to the next without washing their hands. Today billions of people daily wash their hands, not because they are afraid of the soap police, but rather because they understand the facts. I wash my hands with soap because I have heard of viruses and bacteria, I understand that these tiny organisms cause diseases, and I know that soap can remove them."

Soap banishes and kills germs and viruses and is the first essential weapon in the domain of human hygiene.

This made me think how much cleanliness plays such an important role in our lives, not only that of the body but also of the soul. Just as there are viruses and germs that can kill the body, even more so there are viruses and germs that can kill the soul. In both cases cleansing is required.

In the Orthodox tradition, we are constantly talking about the cleansing of the heart from the virus of sin. Christ became man in order to kill this virus. The Son of God defeated the virus of the serpent. And He has left us many spiritual soaps, such as the tears of repentance, good therapeutic thoughts, prayer, and many other things. This is not "the soap police", but "the soap therapy".

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.