Friday, April 19, 2024
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Navigating a return to normal


AS the Covid tsunami finally recedes, I find myself surveying the debris left in its wake. It’s not a pretty sight and I’m struggling to come to terms with what has been revealed. 

It turns out that the majority of my fellow citizens, in the face of an increasingly totalitarian government, will not bat an eyelid. Indeed, many seemed to relish such authoritarianism. There’s not much they will stop at to secure their ‘safety’. They will even exchange their liberty and freedom for it. There are many ‘good Germans’ among us.

Parents, friends of mine, allowed their children to be masked in school, some for up to eight hours, without so much as a peep. The same parents failed to question the policy of regular invasive testing on perfectly healthy children. Apart from the dubious ethics, there were also major concerns about the reliability of the tests. I wrote about it at the time because it was clear that they were not fit for purpose. 

Yet parents ploughed on regardless. If only they’d thought about it, they would have saved their children unnecessary discomfort and stress. They would have prevented the isolation of thousands of children based on unreliable results. They also would have spared those of us who perceived the nonsense from being cast in the role of black sheep.

‘Dominey, she’s the only one not getting tested!’ one of my friends protested as she claimed my daughter was being bullied for our stance. Neither of her assertions turned out to be true and I wondered whether this imagined scenario was in fact wishful thinking. 

There have been many such instances these past two years that have caused me to marvel and mourn. Perhaps the most painful has been the unquestioning compliance of most churches in this country. I still can’t get over the fact that pastors willingly shut their doors before the government had even mandated it. They were the only part of our national infrastructure that volunteered to be closed down. 

Who would have thought that their USP was hope in the face of death; eternal life for those who would believe? Was dying from Covid the exception to that? It kind of looked that way.

Our institutions are supposed to provide a bulwark against dangerous, overreaching regimes. Yet, in the face of an increasingly authoritarian government, the church used Romans 13 as an excuse for blind adherence: ‘Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.’ This was applied in exactly the way that I have been warned against my whole life. I kept wondering how they thought (for example) that the apostles ended up in prison so often and why they were ultimately martyred; was it their unquestioning obedience to the authorities? 

The Church has failed to understand the times. Their prophetic voice was mute when the unmistakable hallmarks of totalitarianism were being stamped all over our democracy. Why did they not perceive church closure, the prohibition on congregational singing and limits on the number of worshippers as an attack upon freedom of religion?

What about defending the integrity and rule of law? Why did they not speak out against the passing of statutory regulations without any parliamentary scrutiny (more than 50 by October 2020)?

Why did they not raise their voice for the voiceless, most notably our nation’s children, who suffered through school closures and isolation? Were they really satisfied that preventing little ones from seeing their friends for weeks on end was just and fair?

Why, above all, did they not question the pretext of ‘emergency’. Have they never read history?

Most Christians would fancy themselves a Bonhoeffer had they been in Nazi Germany at the time. Sadly, if these last two years are anything to go by, they would have been more likely to occupy the pews of the German Evangelical Church. This is a hard reality to face. It would be easier to dismiss them as selfish, mean people, but they are not. They are kind, thoughtful folk. They simply failed to discern something vitally important.

Their response reminded me of the process observed by Milton Mayer as the German populace submitted to the Nazi regime: ‘Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, “regretted”, that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these “little measures” that no “patriotic German” could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.’ (They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45)

The problem of navigating a return to normal still remains. The same question was posed by Jamie Franklin recently on the Irreverend podcast: ‘How do you [as a Christian] negotiate being hurt and wounded and frustrated and angry with the government and largely speaking, the world around you?’

The conclusion I’ve reached is to wait for the judgement of God. That might sound a bit unconventional, extreme even. Judgement Day isn’t exactly part of our national dialogue; most churches in this country neglect to preach it. Together with the doctrine of sin, they airbrush out this key component of the gospel out for fear of offending people. 

This is not to advocate a ‘let go, and let God’ philosophy. The pursuit of justice is important. It is simply that, when I come to the end of myself and the means afforded me, I know that ultimately justice will be done. What is more, it will be done perfectly.

The road ahead will be long and, at times, difficult. This is not happy ever after, not in the short term anyway. For me, though, it’s the only way forward. It’s the only way to navigate the return to normal and back to the communities I once so loved. 

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Dominey Jenner
Dominey Jenner
Dominey Jenner lives in London. She was a teacher but has been a stay-at-home mum for 11 years.

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