THE church has endured many a pandemic in its long history; it was on the front line in most of them to provide comfort and care to the sick and dying. The Christian faith has an intimate relationship with death and suffering because our God is no stranger to death and suffering. The church has also endured many a season of house arrest, police states, restricted worship and forced closures. Admittedly, such things have not taken place in the UK for many centuries, considered to be barbaric practices of totalitarian governments until early last year.
Despite this deep tradition of suffering and rebelling against evil rules, the church has had a terrible lockdown. There is barely a church in the country that is not fully signed up to the state’s diktat telling it how to worship God, and barely a church leader who has wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemned the lockdown for the evil it is causing.
There is a strong biblical case for resisting lockdown in all its forms. Lockdowns favour the rich over the poor, the old over the young, tyranny over family, and safety over community. None of these trade-offs is one that the Christian faith encourages, and all are causing real and lasting damage to millions in the UK.
God is clear – we are not to show favouritism to the rich over the poor. Yet Lockdown has protected the wealthy at expense of the poor. Only the well-off affluent classes have the ‘work from home’ jobs. The poor are most likely to have to go into work and take the risk of catching Covid: delivery drivers, factory workers, shop workers, warehouse workers.
Not only do the poor face the risk, they bear the economic cost too. The poor have the jobs most likely to disappear.
In the gospels, Jesus welcomed a little child, telling his listeners not to think lowly of the young. Today, decisions are being taken regardless of the cost that will fall on children. They have missed almost a whole year of education that cannot be easily regained. They have been forbidden from play dates and socialising, stopped from playing in the snow by the police, and taught to fear human contact. Young people have been made unemployed in the hundreds of thousands with little prospect of finding a job any time soon. Romance is on hold. And universities are naught but prison camps that the most ardent puritan would avoid. Children and young people are the least at risk from Covid but they pay the cost of lockdown. In past times, it was considered the duty of the older generation to sacrifice themselves for the younger. In these enlightened times, this natural relationship is inverted and children are forced to sacrifice their futures so an ill old person can live six months longer.
Family is the bedrock of God’s design for flourishing society and healthy civilisation. All Christian traditions unite in agreement on the singular and necessary importance of family life. Covid has destroyed this. Grandparents are forbidden from seeing grandchildren. New parents in need of support are left isolated. Families are broken apart at Christmas, forced to argue about who gets to see who. In the name of our good health, a main source of our good health has been deliberately and cruelly stripped away. For the minor risk that granny might die, the main source of happiness and wellbeing to a human being, community in an extended family, is made functionally illegal. Granny isn’t even allowed to make up her own mind about what sort of life is worth living if family plays no part. Christians should offer no support to this madness. God loves family life, the bigger the better, and to wipe that out for a whole year has been cruel beyond reason.
In previous dark times, Christian community was a source of comfort alongside family. While many Christians are deeply opposed to lockdown, most acts of mercy are illegal in lockdown and so the church and its wider community suffers terribly. Nothing that can be captured in daily numbers, testing or press conferences, but a real and growing tide of misery that no one can escape. Spiritual health declines, churches shrink, faith falters and Christians fall away. What does it matter if the 90-year-old church member survives another six months if there is no church left for her to attend?
The dark secret that underpins the lockdown is a fear of death – a festering, thoroughly secular, and wholly ungodly desire to live forever. But death is no stranger to Christians, God has said it cannot be avoided and to seek to avoid it in such a way that brings harm to others is a type of evil in itself. It is a form of selfishness for those at risk to demand an ever extending lockdown, to possibly extend their own life, at a cost of £2.4 billion a day, unemployment, suicides, and terrible misery for the rest of us. One of the most repeated phrases in the Bible is God saying to his people ‘Do not be afraid!’But Covid has his people living in fear, cowering in their homes, instead of boldly serving and worshipping him as they should. Christians have no business supporting lockdowns: they prioritise the rich over the poor, the costs fall heaviest on the young, they destroy family life and they destroy church life.