13They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ 14Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what wrong has he done?’ But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’
Mark 15:13-14 – REB
41Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, with never a thought for the plank in your own?
Luke 6:41 – REB
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Amos 5:24 – NRSV
Those who follow this blog will know that its purpose is to explain Christian theology and thought; it was never intended to be a ‘political’ platform. But I’ve never agreed with those who feel that Christian teaching should be kept out of politics. Surely we have a duty to comment, when we think that our country and Church is behaving without compassion? Listening to the news in the last few days has brought these three Biblical quotations to mind.
As a result, I want to ask a few pertinent questions about the events of the so-called ‘lock-down’ so far (not just the events of last weekend) and how we’ve ended up where we are. I’m very happy if you wish to disagree with some or all of these questions! I’ve grouped questions around subject headings, which I hope will help. I’m posting this early, rather than waiting for next Sunday, so my next posting after this one will be on Sunday 7th June.
- When and how did we become a country in which appeals for people to use their own ‘Common Sense’ were loudly condemned, and strident calls made for every tiny detail about rules and guidelines to be dictated by the government?
- When and how did we arrive at a position where as a country we appeal for more and more advice about what we can and cannot do, but then can’t be bothered to read the detail when it’s provided. Instead, we want to quote the phrase: ‘Stay at Home’ as if it that phrase was meant to be: ‘Stay at Home, without a single exception or interpretation, ever’?
- Why did the government decide to empty the hospitals of the elderly and return them to their Care Homes, where they could not be supported medically in the same way? This looks like frail people being sacrificed on the altar of ‘Protect the NHS’. If so, this is disgraceful. How and why did the hospital and Care Home managers agree to this happening?
- When and why did the government decide to ‘maximise’ the published number of COVID deaths, by counting all those who’d died with COVID, as though they’d died from COVID? And why did they allow the basis of calculation to be changed in mid-crisis? Any junior manager knows that such changes make decision-making on robust data effectively impossible.
- Why has the government not been honest and open about why we’ve been short of PPE and test kits? Why do they feel they have to protect organisations and countries which have refused to supply us and others with critically needed components and kit?
- When and why did the media decide to deliberately engender such terror of COVID in the population, that we now have people who are seriously ill and not attending hospital because of their fear? The cost of this media-induced hysteria has yet to be counted and may be colossal.
- When did it become acceptable for the media to maintain the anonymity of people making allegations, which have since been shown to be totally false?
- How did we arrive at a position where we accept broadcasters taking cameras into COVID ICU units containing the very ill and dying, clearly representing a health risk, and in a way that cannot possibly have been done with their informed consent? How could those who have sworn the Hippocratic oath have allowed this to happen?
- When did we find it acceptable for terrified and bereaved people to be abused by being paraded on our TV screens in emotional breakdown, in what often presents as some misery peep-show, provided for our entertainment?
Hounding of Individuals
- When did we become a country in which one (admittedly very controversial) man has been subjected to such a display of outright hatred? What happened to the appeals for calm, self-control and kindness, after the tragic deaths of Jo Cox and Caroline Flack?
- When did the media decide it was their job to hound a fellow human being for not following their interpretations of guidelines, when the photographic evidence clearly shows those same media blatantly ignoring the rules on social distancing? How did we get to a situation where we criticise one person for travelling 260 miles, but within hours, members of the media have done the exact same journey, purely to show the public what Barnard Castle looks like?
- How did we arrive at a position where the media can shout: ‘One rule for us and another for the privileged few!’, whilst they have been jetting around Europe, to bring us ‘first hand, on-the-scene’ news?
- How have we come to accept a criticism of one family taking a long journey to self-isolate, but the Prince of Wales did an even longer journey for the same reason, without being subjected to the same hatred and abuse? Others like Ian Blackford and Stephen Kinnock, who deliberately broke the rules (in these cases with no guideline exceptions) have also been treated very differently. Why?
- Why as a people have we allowed the media to manipulate the news, to reflect a pre-ordained agenda? Who are those who decide that agenda? They’re unelected and anonymous. When did we allow such anonymous and unelected bodies to hold our elected politicians ‘to account’ and behave as though they are Her Majesty’s Opposition?
- When did we start to consider Science as ‘an incontrovertible fact’, not open to multiple interpretations?
- When and why did we permit those producing ‘mathematical models’ of COVID to portray them as ‘the unique truth’, when such models are nothing more than a series of arithmetic assumptions, with errors multiplying themselves out?
- Why did the government suggest that it was possible to ‘Follow the Science’ without having to make any finely-balanced decisions?
Public and Institutions
- Why did we allow the development of the concept of ‘Key Workers’? Surely every single one of those working, whether paid or unpaid, is doing something valuable for the community?
- When did we become a nation of people who are eager to report our neighbours for breaches of guidelines? Have none of us ever read about the events of China’s Cultural Revolution, or the history of North Korea?
- When did we start behaving as though the NHS, one of the largest organisations in the world, is incapable of making a mistake, and the government is incapable of doing anything right? Is it healthy that the NHS has come to be regarded almost as a religion, requiring weekly worship?
- How did we get to a position where unqualified Union leaders have been allowed to challenge advice from specialist experts, denouncing them for being wrong?
- When and how did everyone become a PPE expert? I made PPE for almost 15 years of my career and sat on technical standards committees. I’ve been shocked by the complete nonsense that’s been treated as absolute fact.
- When did we lose so much understanding of the policing of our laws, that a Senior Police Officer can say without embarrassment that it doesn’t matter what the law says, the issue instead is whether actions by members of the public are ‘within the spirit of what we wish to achieve’? When did the Police (some Police and Crime Commissioners and even some Cabinet Ministers) cease to understand the difference between ‘law’ and ‘guidance’?
- When did we lose our ability to ‘pull together’ through a common crisis like this, instead of looking for scapegoats on which to pin our hatred and vitriol?
- When did we lose the meaning of the word ‘courage’? I’ve been lucky enough to have spent a great deal of time over many decades with real heroes, who risked their lives routinely in the air (with some friends actually dying) and fighting fires on the ground. When did the word ‘hero’ come to mean someone who’s doing their job in a sector where the death rate has been lower than in the population at large? My experience of talking to real heroes is that they normally do everything they can to avoid talking about their own courage or heroism. What a time to have celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE Day!
Church of England
- How did so many of our Church of England Bishops decide that it was right, just and compassionate to call for the sacking of someone innocent of breaking the law and who (at worst) has interpreted guidelines differently to others? When did our unelected Church also consider it appropriate to issue threats to the elected government that if they don’t fire that innocent person, they’ll refuse to work with the government?
- Why did our Church leaders decide that they were going to voluntarily decide to make the rules on churches and funerals much more rigid than the government was asking? How could they possibly have thought that it was compassionate or necessary to stop close friends and relatives from attending funerals, or prevent private prayer in churches, rather than working out sensible precautions?
But, above all, I want to ask this most important last question, about both our country and our Church of England:
- When did we lose all compassion for our fellow human-beings? We are all made in God’s image. We are all vulnerable human beings with strengths and weaknesses; we all make errors of judgment and we all deserve to be treated with mercy, understanding, compassion and decency.
We pray, Lord, that all of us who may have shown a lack of compassion may come to see the damage we have been doing and learn the lesson of: ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’. Amen