This is the 12th contribution to His Grace’s emergency team ministry during the coronavirus pestilence. It comes from Mike Stallard, who has been in education all his life, and is now retired.
Covid-19: the big scare. And with very good reason too. The plague does not respect rank. Boris Johnson is now very ill and other people die. Stalin, that master of extermination, said that thousands of deaths are a statistic, while the death of one person is a tragedy. So let us not trade figures. Just one person dying before their time is up is a tragedy both for them and, perhaps more, for the people who miss them. The Right to Life. We all believe that. Now it just isn’t there. And in this humid, putrefying air, linger the very germs that might well send us, too, to oblivion.
This week we Christians have a lot to say about that.
Way back in the 1970s it was fashionable to dismiss the Resurrection – even the death – of Jesus of Nazareth as midrash; stories made up by pious, ignorant men based on Old Testament scriptures. Allegory. Professor Lampe was king, not Jesus. Those days have gone now.
Jesus died and was properly buried all right. It is quite OK to believe in the historical resurrection and the historical death of a historical figure called Jesus of Nazareth, who was publicly executed in front of a huge crowd of hostile people and crucified by the Romans (those experts in law and punishment, whose soldiers were both civilised and disciplined).
What is more, there is now no shame in believing in the actual physical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth who appeared to 500 people at once, who ate fish which he had cooked on the beach, who was recognised by Mary, and who displayed to Thomas the wounds which he had been given.
We Christians have so much to offer at this dangerous and challenging time. If Jesus came back from the dead, doesn’t that show us humans that there must be life after death? That there is a lot of point to living properly, unselfishly and decently before that death? That God is in charge and He really does care passionately about us on this little speck of dust in the vast Universe?
So who is responsible in this time of international crisis?
The dear old Government does its best. Sometimes it goes too far. Sometimes it does not go far enough. The Government, after all, is made up of human beings. These are our fellow humans doing their fragile best.
The media reflects what it thinks we would like to see and read. But murses and doctors cannot give us eternal life. They die for us, it is true – but nobody claps for Jesus.
The NHS bumbles on, badly equipped, unable to cure, playing God with a tick on a red pad. It can – and does – prolong lives. But after death, its remit ends. Human beings having a go, doing their courageous best.
Is it all a Chinese plot? I received a long letter the other day from someone on their iPhone saying that it was very strange that in Shanghai and Beijing, just a few miles away from Hunan, there had been no evidence of the disease. No Chinese officials had died. Therefore Covid-19 must be a Chinese plot to destroy the world!
It is so easy to point the finger, isn’t it?
So who is the guilty party in all this?
We Christians have a lot to say about Covid-19. Especially in Holy Week. But we have simply shut up shop, locked the church doors, and walked away. As Nigel Farage pointed out recently on LBC, the last time English churches were closed was in 1208. Now we need them open for private prayer and private thoughts, usually in front of a cross or crucifix or an open Bible. (And of course in those vast, empty spaces, observing social distancing!)
It is the churches themselves – ourselves – who have made this simply impossible. We are the guilty party.
We call it a sin of omission. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done. The hungry sheep look up and are not fed…