Why This Is the Christian Side Hug’s Moment

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Will our disgust for germs get the best of us? A psychologist weighs the risks and benefits of human touch in a pandemic.

Imagine you are offered a fresh glass of orange juice, but just before you are handed it, an experimenter drops a roach in the juice, stirs it around, removes the roach, and hands you the glass. Would you drink it? Of course you wouldn’t. But now imagine the experimenter takes that same glass of juice, runs it through a filter used to clean tap water, boils and sterilizes the juice, and filters it again. Will you now drink the juice? If you are like most people who were a part of this experiment, you wouldn’t. You intellectually know the juice is “clean,” but for some visceral reason you can’t get yourself to drink it. This instinctual reaction is what psychologists define as disgust, and this response is referred to as contamination psychology. When it comes to disgust, our reason and our contamination psychology can be at odds with one another.

Now imagine that the issue isn’t one of juice and roaches, but of an unseen virus and contact with those that may or may not be carrying the virus. What if this virus is possibly deadly? Would you be willing to come into contact with these people, shake their hands, or attend a worship service with them?

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci recently stated that Americans should never shake hands again—and he’s speaking about after the coronavirus pandemic. Fauci stated that infectious diseases, such as influenza, could be significantly reduced by eliminating shaking hands. Biologist and Gordon professor Craig Story points out, albeit more gently, that better hygiene practices at church could help prevent the spread of diseases.

However, according to contamination psychology, there is possibility of overreacting and ending up with a …

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