Lockdown: Two Years On
What happened and the lessons to be learned
Two years ago our Prime Minister told the nation that we must stay at home. Never before, in my lifetime, had anything like this happened, and we were plunged into uncharted waters. In this article I want to look back over what has happened since that day, how it has affected our society, and what lessons there might be for the future. To do the subject justice will not be quick, so I will break the article into sections. I hope that you will find it helpful. My particular hope and prayer is that some, who have found the last two years traumatic or frightening, might find a measure of comfort and hope for the future.
The reason for such drastic action as lockdowns and associated measures was the emergence of a new ‘coronavirus’ which, it was feared, could put unmanageable pressure on the NHS and cause many deaths. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus and Covid-19 the respiratory illness it can cause. From the beginning, the authorities said the illness would pose a threat to the elderly, and to those with various comorbidities which meant they were vulnerable to respiratory viruses. Therefore, a risk only to a particular section of society. That proved to be accurate; it never changed and is still the case today. What I expected to happen was for measures to be put in place to protect those vulnerable to the illness, as far as is possible and practical. However, what happened was a dismissal of established pandemic plans, in favour of the measures imposed by China: lockdown.
Mathematical models, developed by Neil Ferguson and his team at Imperial College London, suggested that huge numbers of people would die in a short space of time, so a three-week lockdown would help to ‘flatten the curve’ i.e. spread the illness and associated deaths out over a longer timeframe. These models were based on a number of assumptions which later proved to be misguided, and the models were shown time and time again to be grossly pessimistic. It is also important to point out that in choosing this particular team of modellers to follow, the government were choosing a team who had a history of predicting catastrophic events which did not materialise. Examples include Swine Flu, Bird Flu, BSE and the modelling which led to the devastating ‘contiguous culling’ of cattle in the 2001 Foot & Mouth Disease outbreak. Why did the government keep going back to a team with such a dismal track-record?
‘Following The Science’ became the government mantra, which made me very uncomfortable. Any decent scientist knows there is no such thing as ‘The Science’. Science is a constantly evolving discipline, a moving target, a process involving the forming and testing of hypotheses; always asking questions and acquiring knowledge through the process of trying to find answers to those questions. What I think the government meant is they were following their chosen few ‘scientists’ and ‘experts’ rather than the broadest scientific consensus they could find.
Very soon a cumulative death-toll began, which would be revised daily and broadcast in every news update. This cumulative toll is still being used today, despite being shown to be wildy misleading by including anyone dying ‘with’ a positive Covid-19 test result, even if they died of cancer or were run over by a bus, or even if they died of anything at all within a certain time period after testing positive!
Before I go further, there are some important facts to establish:
The average age of death from Covid-19 is around 82. The average age of death in the UK is around 82.
The average survival rate from Covid-19 is around 99.5%, in similar realms to influenza (which is a risk to the young as well as the elderly). The survival rate is even higher in younger age groups.
In 2020 the overall mortality rate, when adjusted for age and size of population, was not much higher than in previous years, and from 2008 every previous year had a higher mortality rate.
Approximately 1,600 people die in the UK every day.
Sources: ONS data and Oxford Centre for Evidence Based Medicine.
These are very important points to remember when considering the actions taken and the effects on society. The facts and context are important. Truth is critical for clear and measured thinking.
A generally acknowledged wise course of action, when faced with a potential crisis, is to keep calm and not to panic. The ‘keep calm and carry on’ motto springs to mind, or the plea “Don’t panic Mr Manwairing!” in Dad’s Army. Reminding people of the known facts, as I have stated above, and focussing attention on those genuinely at risk would surely have kept the population calm and the response measured. Simply stating how many people usually die every day, along side how many had died of Covid-19, would have kept things in perspective.
Instead of a calm and measured approach, we saw a rapid escalation in the deliberate spread of fear. Laura Dodsworth’s important book ‘A State of Fear - How the UK Government weaponised fear during the Covid-19 pandemic’, catalogues in shocking detail how this was done and the damage it caused. A general hysteria ensued, as if every member of the population was at equal risk from a deadly virus. The concept of ‘social distancing’ was promoted, as well as a catalogue of ‘rules’ such as only one hour’s outdoor exercise a day, no sitting on public benches and no mixing with anyone outside of your household. Fear was encouraged, promoted and weaponised to ensure compliance. Emotive messaging was designed and used to great effect by the government’s own ‘nudge unit’ the Behavioural Insights Team. How many of us realise that our taxes pay for people to ‘nudge’ and frighten us? In the words of one government group:
The perceived level of threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging. Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour (SPI-B), March 2020.
Here are a few examples of the government’s ‘nudge’ work over the last two years:
‘Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’
‘I wash my hands to protect my Nan’
‘I wear a face covering to protect my mates’
‘Don’t kill Granny’
‘Coronavirus. Anyone can get it. Anyone can spread it’
‘Don’t let a coffee cost lives’
‘Look him in the eyes and tell him you always keep a safe distance’
‘Covid doesn’t discriminate’
The last one in that list was not only propaganda, but a blatant lie. The one thing we always knew about the virus is that it does discriminate and is only a significant risk to some.
Nudge undermines free will; it removes our choices without us even knowing…The weaponisation of fear undermines democracy, liberty and humanity. Nudge is not ‘fair play’. Laura Dodsworth, A State of Fear.
Fear can be a terrible thing, especially a prolonged state of fear; it makes people ill. Fear paralyses rational thinking; it plays havoc with the mind and increases anxiety. Fear can be destructive and evil. The Bible is full of encouragements from God which tell us “Do not fear.” Apparently there are more references in the Bible to this instruction than any other. At the heart of the Christian faith is the victory Jesus won over death, so we do not need to fear even death itself.
The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1
Given that fear is so detrimental to us, it should be resisted, and efforts to create fear should be opposed. In my view there are no excuses; it was wrong to frighten the public.
The job of the media is to probe and question, to explore different narratives, to air a range of voices and opinions, to seek the truth and to ensure the public get a full picture of what is going on in the world. The media should have questioned the unprecedented actions of the government from the beginning. This didn’t happen. It was almost as if the mainstream media became the public relations arm of the government. Not only did the functions of parliament virtually evaporate, but the opposition parties and the media fell into line. Accountability disappeared almost overnight. What followed was an increasingly toxic environment across the media, where anyone questioning the established narrative was ridiculed, denounced, dismissed as ‘conspiracy theorists’, or just ignored. Medics, scientists, experts in their field, eminent professors — it didn’t matter who they were; if they didn’t agree with the established narrative they were all treated the same.
One of the early and high profile examples were the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration. Their aim was to call for the focussed protection of those genuinely vulnerable to the virus, leaving the rest of society to continue with their lives and build natural immunity. Their declaration was co-signed by many medics and scientists around the world. Despite the authors being three professors from Harvard, Stanford and Oxford, they were subjected to almost universal vilification in the media and deliberate suppression of their efforts.
In the UK, part of the reason for the apparent refusal of the media to give a voice to alternative evidence, opinion and reason, was Ofcom’s statement on broadcast standards during the pandemic. This warned broadcasters of sanctions if their material had “the potential for significant harms to audiences related to the coronavirus” including health claims, medical advice or material deemed inaccurate or misleading in relation to the virus or public policy. Perhaps this explains why we saw journalists at the televised government briefings not questioning anything except why the government were not imposing more or harsher restrictions!
For those of us with questioning minds and a desire to seek truth, it soon became apparent that a bit more effort would be needed to find alternative voices and expertise beyond the mainstream media. One of the lessons I have learned is that it is important to not only listen to what someone has to say, but to consider who they are and what their motives may be. If they have significant expertise and reputation, and they have nothing to gain, or perhaps a lot to lose, by saying what they are, then it may be wise to listen carefully to what they have to say.
Two years ago ‘lockdown’ was imposed with very little planning or preparation. Lockdowns did not form any part of the UK pandemic plans. Therefore no cost-benefit analysis had been done. The potential costs (in terms of economics, health, businesses, communities, mental health, children’s welfare, education and vulnerable groups) were not considered. They were a complete unknown. I remember various charities, thinkers and commentators warning that the costs could be grave, the casualties many, and the long-term implications severe. Gradually, over time, as ‘three weeks to flatten the curve’ became months, and as lockdowns followed one after another, the costs became more and more apparent. Businesses folding, domestic abuse, suicide, loneliness, isolation, mental health problems, addictions, child abuse, undiagnosed illness, children deprived of education, untreated health problems, the vulnerable abandoned to fend for themselves, lost jobs, closed churches, broken relationships, the elderly and those in care homes locked away from family as if prisoners … the list goes on. Can the costs ever be counted? Will we ever know the extent to which lockdowns have damaged our society?
The argument was that lockdowns would slow or stop the spread of the virus and therefore save lives. However, experts have pointed out that each time the impact of the virus started to wane before lockdowns were introduced. Countries and states who did not use lockdowns fared no worse than those that did, in fact it appears they may have fared better. Also, each and every time the modellers were wildly inaccurate in their predictions of how many would be hospitalised or die.
A lockdown, according to the dictionary, is ‘a protocol followed in an emergency that involves confining people in a secure place, such as the confinement of prison inmates in cells after a disturbance, or the locking of students and teachers in classrooms after a violent attack’. This adequately describes the drastic nature of a lockdown. It is a form of imprisonment, which would usually be for an emergency period of hours. The removal of the freedoms of an entire population for weeks on end is extraordinary. My view is that it should never, ever happen again, but now it has been done multiple times will it become ‘normal’ procedure?
If ever there was an example of an oxymoron, surely this is it? ‘Anti-social distancing’, as I like to call it, was another new concept for 2020. Keeping a ‘safe’ distance from other people quickly evolved into a whole raft of measures, some of which I wonder might never go away. One-way systems, dots on the floor to stand on, ‘crime-scene’ tape over benches and pews, one-in-one-out policies, bouncers on shop doors to ensure a ‘safe’ number of people, perspex screen barriers, ‘2-metre rule’ signs everywhere.
For most of us, to keep away from others is an unnatural act. When people talk to us, we tend to move closer. We are social animals, so we tend to enjoy conversation and the physical company of others. For most of us, physical touch is a normal part of social life — a handshake, a hug, a pat on the back — ways to express greeting, comfort, congratulations, encouragement, warmth and connection. To switch from this, to viewing other human beings as a disease-threat and a physical risk to us is a huge shift. To persuade an entire population that this is an acceptable thing, in fact essential in order to ‘stay safe’ is quite an achievement. A dark one at that.
Looking to the example of Jesus, the embodiment of perfect humanity, we see how important contact with others was to him. His close companions, his intimate friendships, people who flocked to hear his teaching or to seek healing. Many times when Jesus healed, he physically touched the person. Perhaps the most striking example was his treatment of the leper, a social outcast who would have been viewed as a disease-threat by everyone. Jesus not only healed him, he reached out his hand and touched him! Not a hint of ‘social distancing’.
Another example of something which I have never encountered in my lifetime — the wearing of face masks. Again, this was not part of the existing pandemic plan. In fact, it was particularly stated that such a measure was not a good idea, primarily because, unless done with high-grade medical masks and fastidious hygiene, they are not only ineffective as a barrier to a virus, but can also cause contamination. For several months the UK resisted the calls for mask-wearing for these reasons, but then introduced them in the summer of 2020 (at a point when the virus was at a low level). Interestingly, the virus soon began to be on the rise again after masks were introduced, so how it could be argued they helped I can’t see.
It seems the reasons masks were introduced had little to do with preventing spread of the virus, and more to do with making people ‘feel safe’, and perhaps as a visible reminder of threat.
Whilst masks are a successful psychological tool to remind the public to remain alert, they are not effective in preventing the community spread of disease. Dr Gary Sidley & Dr Alan Mordue, HART Group article.
Despite the fact that cloth and low-grade medical masks contain holes which are vastly bigger than a virus, masks soon became an essential accessory: in fact mandatory. Covering one’s face became the ‘caring’ and ‘socially acceptable’ thing to do: a visible sign of compliance and solidarity.
Masks are the vestiture of the faithful, signalling belief and, importantly, obedience. Laura Dodsworth, Faith Masks article, The Critic.
As with lockdowns, cost-benefit analysis seemed to be overlooked. Despite the consensus of scientific thinking and research up to 2020 showing that the wearing of face masks in the community provided little or no benefit, and could pose a number of risks, this was ignored. Before long, mask-wearing was mandated, including in secondary schools. This was particularly controversial, forcing children to wear masks for hours on end. It didn’t take long for the health risks of mask-wearing to become apparent: reports of anxiety, raised blood pressure, raised carbon-dioxide (hypoxia), fungal and bacterial infections, headaches, oral problems, nausea, dizziness, poor concentration and fatigue.
As well as the negative impacts on individuals, how do face masks affect society in general? The face is the outward expression of our humanity. Facial expressions provide the social cues we need to interact well. Many people, not just those with profound hearing problems, rely on looking at the face to be able to understand speech. This is particularly crucial for young children. A masked face is without expression. We look at the face to decide ‘friend or foe’; the smile is an immediate sign of friendly welcome and intent. How I miss smiling faces! Am I the only one who avoids looking at anyone who is wearing a mask (they un-nerve me), and smiles like a Cheshire cat at naked faces?!
Another shift in thinking has been around testing. Tests which were designed to diagnose illness began being used on healthy people, producing ‘cases’ of symptomless people. Numbers of ‘cases’ became the new obsession. The routine testing of school children was particularly puzzling, resulting in a perception that schools were ‘a breeding ground for Covid’ and that children were a particular disease-threat. I know people who have avoided being near children for this reason.
I remember Donald Trump saying “the more you test, the more you will find”. He was right! But of course, once Donald Trump says something then it is pounced on and there can be no truth in it! Testing healthy people for a respiratory virus, especially children, is surely folly; especially when it results in them having to isolate for days on end, as well as their friends and ‘contacts’.
Even now, two years on, there are still people routinely testing. Will they ever be able to get a snivel or a cough again without panicking that it could be the dreaded virus and demanding a test to be sure? Testing even seems to have entered the realms of social etiquette. It now seems acceptable to request (or even demand) that guests test themselves before going to weddings, dinner parties and even funerals. Wouldn’t it be sad if we never recover from this idea that perfectly healthy people pose a disease-threat to us?
Vaccines for respiratory viruses have always been a challenge. Every year vaccines are produced for influenza, with varying and much-debated degrees of success. To expect a vaccine to be produced quickly for a new virus, and one which could prevent illness and stop transmission was surely impossible. Yet that was the aim, and by the end of 2020 vaccines were ready for roll-out. Less than a year from emergence of the virus to a vaccine ready to go, and not a regular vaccine, but one using new gene-based technology never before used in this way on humans.
The facts are that these vaccines were released under emergency authorisation, in the absence of effective treatment - note this condition was necessary. The pharmaceutical companies producing the vaccines were also given indemnity against any harm or death their products might inflict. There was no long-term safety data, and limited short-term safety data (and even the latter is only now coming to light for scrutiny). If all of the above had been stated very clearly, along with information regarding the risk posed by the virus to a particular individual e.g. virtually no risk to a healthy young person, and a higher risk to an older person with comorbidities, then informed decisions could have been made. This is ‘informed consent.’ However, the messaging has been very different. ‘Safe and effective’ is the mantra. Then came the idea that you need a vaccine ‘to protect other people’, despite it becoming rapidly apparent, and then openly acknowledged, that the vaccines did not prevent illness nor prevent transmission.
At first the vaccines were for those most vulnerable to the illness, then gradually they became for every adult, and then for pregnant women and children. All the while, safety data on adverse reactions and deaths was glossed over as insignificant. At the time of writing, the UK MRHA Yellow Card reporting system shows 2,061 deaths and approaching 1.5 million adverse reactions. Whilst we cannot be sure that every one of these was a direct result of the vaccine, there is a general understanding that the Yellow Card reporting is an under-estimate of what might be actually happening in the population. Surely it at least warrants thorough investigation and review, and certainly an immediate halt in the vaccination of children. It is now well established that boys and young men are at particular risk from heart damage after the vaccine, which can have permanent and deadly implications, and yet as a group they are at a vanishingly small risk from the virus. But still the messaging and the coercion continues, like an unstoppable train. Get vaccinated, everyone, it is safe and effective, protect yourself, protect others, protect the NHS.
With this unprecedented obsession with vaccination (last week the fourth dose of injections have begun) has come a new form of derision and insult. Any who question the narrative, or decide their known risk from the virus does not warrant the unknown risk from taking an experimental medication (the vaccines are still officially in the experimental stages), or object on moral or religious grounds (some of the vaccines have been developed using cell-lines derived from an aborted fetus), or simply want to wait until there is more safety data — they are all deemed ‘anti-vaxxers.’ This has become a scapegoat term, a group to blame or regard as the problem. In fact, most of those who have declined the vaccine are not ‘anti-vaxxers’ at all; they have taken other well-established vaccines but did not want this one.
It is fascinating to me that it wasn’t long ago that if you said to someone “here is a genetically modified tomato” they would have refused to eat it, and yet they have lined up to be injected with a medication which contains gene-based technology. The vaccines instruct the body to produce spike protein, the most toxic part of the virus, in vast quantities.
Scientists and medics who have questioned the wisdom of using such vaccines, particularly on those at low risk from the virus, have been vilified, censored and dismissed as spreaders of ‘mis-information.’ Yet many of them have risked their careers, their reputations and their livelihoods to speak out because they are so concerned and because they believe that truth matters. Dr Robert Malone, one of the original developers of the mRNA vaccine technology, is one such man.
Regarding the genetic Covid vaccines … they are not working and they are not completely safe… the full nature of the risks remain unknown. Robert W Malone MD, MS Integrity. Dignity. Community.
Professor Norman Fenton is another, who has shown that the official ONS data on all-cause mortality reveals concerning levels of deaths in the vaccinated, as well as anomalies in the data including the mis-categorisation of some deaths occurring shortly after vaccination as ‘unvaccinated.’
Official mortality data for England reveal systematic undercounting of deaths occurring within first two weeks of Covid-19 vaccination. Craig, Neil, Fenton and McLachlan, March 2022.
Whatever our individual views, surely we must all agree that every person should have the right to decide for themselves what they put in their body, that ‘informed consent’ should mean fully informed, and that as safety data emerges it should not be hidden or obfuscated.
Mandatory masks, mandatory lockdowns, mandatory testing, mandatory vaccination…
When a society recommends particular courses of action to individuals, it generally leaves the decision to them. The right of the individual to autonomy in decision-making, particularly regarding their own body, is surely at the core of a free and democratic society. Once this is removed, particularly when deemed to be ‘for the common good’, then we move to the realms of totalitarianism.
All sorts of things could be argued ‘for the common good’ or ‘for the benefit of others.’ Most of us have two functioning kidneys, but could survive with just one. So perhaps the state should demand one of my kidneys ‘for the good’ of another? Most women have more eggs than they will ever need. Surely these could be commandeered ‘for the benefit of others.’ Do you see the dangers? What if a childhood illness emerged which threatened the lives of unknown numbers, and an injection was developed which would kill one in a hundred, but if every child was injected the illness would be eradicated. Would that be acceptable? Would you be happy for your child to be injected? What if it was one in a thousand? Should it be mandatory? Do you see the danger?
Every person is created by God and precious to him. The Christian view is therefore that every individual matters and has inherent, God-given rights of autonomy and value. Individual choice, freedom and dignity matter. Our society has strayed down a dangerous path with the Covid mandates, and in particular mandating vaccination for some in order to keep their job. Linked to this, vaccination certification requirements also raise important ethical questions. Can it be right to restrict people’s access to any part of society based on what should be their confidential medical status? Creating a two-tier society has never gone well. Creating an underclass of the unvaccinated has happened; removing their rights, their access to services, their movement, their jobs and even their access to church has all been on the table. Punishing the unvaccinated is wrong and another form of coercion; they pose no greater health risk than anyone else and so their personal decision should be respected.
The ethics of trying to pressurise people into vaccination through sweeteners… or threats… reflect not the morality of personal responsibility, arising from our Judeo-Christian foundations, but the immoral bullying of a quasi-religious cult… When we dare to succumb to that first subtle ethical shift, perhaps just by being willing to think, or say — especially to children — “it’s just a little jab; it’s a public duty, and it’s what you really must do for the good of the rest of society”, we need to ask whether we may have just taken a first step on what may prove to be a steep and slippery slope. Rev. Dr William Philip, article in The Critic.
We need to think very carefully about the idea and implications of mandates, particularly when it comes to what an individual puts in their body. A society which coerces or forces its citizens to take a medical procedure is in a dark and dangerous place.
The NHS has become a much appreciated institution in our society, understandably so. However, its limitations, enormous cost and cumbersome nature have been known for a long time. Most winters see media headlines warning the NHS is at the brink and about to collapse as seasonal influenza or norovirus hit.
In 2020 the NHS entered a new era, moving from the subject of appreciation to veneration. Lockdowns, rules and restrictions were not just there to ‘save lives’ but also to ‘protect the NHS’. In time it even became the mantra for coercive vaccine messaging: take the vaccine to help ‘protect the NHS’. Its new-found God-like status was accompanied by much quasi-religious fervour and symbolism: NHS rainbows, ‘clap for carers’ weekly rituals, conversion of churches and cathedrals into vaccination centres, an NHS app to monitor people’s movements and contacts, and to instruct them when and for how long they should isolate.
Despite this new elevated status, the NHS was no longer for everyone. If you didn’t have Covid-19 then you were not welcome. GP surgeries were virtually closed to patients, routine screenings were halted, treatments and operations were postponed or cancelled. It was astonishing to watch, as if other illnesses no longer mattered. Many medics and experts have warned that the impacts on health and death rates will be significant, and could last for years. We may never know the true costs.
One of the things which has really puzzled me is the complete absence of advice for people who get ill with Covid-19. I remember very early discussions two years ago about the merits of Vitamin D, particularly for those who may be vulnerable to the illness. I remember thinking that it would be very cheap and easy to get Vitamin D to all of those who were told to ‘shield’. It would do them no harm and the general benefits of Vitamin D are well established, so why not give it a try?
It didn’t take long before medics and scientists in different parts of the world started working together to compare knowledge and experience in efforts to treat patients. The FLCCC Alliance (Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance) developed a number of protocols including for prevention and early treatment. They are an incredible group of dedicated medics including Dr Paul E Marik and Dr Pierre Kory. I could write a whole essay on this topic alone! Every possible obstacle appears to have been put in the way of medics using re-purposed drugs (those already used and passed in safety trials for other conditions). Ivermectin is one example, a Nobel Prize winning and extremely cheap medication widely used as an anti-parasite drug. These medics and many others have shown that early treatment is critical for preventing hospitalisation and deaths from Covid-19, and yet early treatment is being denied to patients.
In the UK there is still no advice to people on treating the illness, not even the simple use of high dose vitamins and oral and nasal rinses. It seems to be simply ‘stay at home until you are sick enough to go to hospital’. At this point, for some it is too late. How could this possibly still be the case after two years? Remember my earlier point: the vaccines could not have been given emergency use authorisation so quickly if there had been effective treatment in place. Could this be part of the explanation? How many lives could have been saved with early treatment?
Over the course of the coronavirus outbreak, much has been learned by doctors and scientists around the world, and we now know how to treat Covid-19 at home. With early treatment, the risk of death goes down dramatically. It’s a good idea to be prepared with simple medicines and therapies before you or your family members get sick. Early Covid-19 Treatment Guidelines, World Council for Health.
The complete absence of early treatment advice from the NHS is astonishing and demands an explanation.
Perhaps the most shocking behaviour of the NHS (and also care homes) was the treatment of relatives, and the prevention of visiting. Women gave birth alone, parents were prevented from being with their sick children, people died alone in hospital or care homes without a loved one with them, vulnerable adults (including those with dementia and learning difficulties) were shut away from their relatives without any possibility of understanding the reasons. This was unbelievably cruel, for both the patients and the relatives. What it worse, it is still happening in March 2022. It must stop now and we must never let this happen again.
Many NHS sites are still imposing draconian and vindictive policies. Children are being separated from parents and dying relatives are being abandoned to a lonely end. It is beyond comprehension that this situation persists. Three weeks to flatten the curve? More like 24 months to bulldoze the social contract. HART article, March 2022.
This is the topic which upsets me the most: what we have done to our children. I had thought that a civilised society will always put the welfare and wellbeing of its children first. Not ours. We closed the schools and left the children to endure ‘home learning’ for weeks on end, as well as imprisoning them with lockdowns so they could not socialise or, in some cases, even get fresh air.
Children have faced more restrictions than any other part of society, and yet they are at virtually no risk from the virus. The children who were already the most vulnerable have been hit the hardest. Levels of child abuse, mental health problems, self-harming, suicide, obesity and eating disorders have all risen. The gap between the least and the most advantaged children has widened dramatically, both in terms of education and poverty. Lockdowns, school closures, routine testing, isolation orders, masks — these have all had a huge impact on children and young people. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we then introduced experimental vaccines for them, presumably ‘for the general good of society’ since children themselves are at such low risk from the virus. We have no idea if there will be any long-term implications for their health. We do already know there are some potentially serious risks, in particular heart damage in boys.
Effectively, our society has used children as a human shield to ‘protect’ adults, at great cost to the children and probably to no actual benefit to the adults. Will the lessons be learned so we never do this again? Well, the terms of reference for the UK Covid-19 Inquiry currently don’t even mention children!
Children are our collective responsibility and God expects us to cherish them and protect them. Jesus rebuked his disciples when they tried to stop people bringing little children to him.
Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”… And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:14-16
Children are our society’s most valuable asset; they are a gift from God and precious to him. It is time we make their welfare a priority. I heard a Christian leader praising young people for their ‘sacrifice’ over the last two years, as if they had willingly chosen to give up so much for others. What a deluded thing to say! We took all of these things from them. It has been nothing short of child abuse and I am ashamed of our society for doing it and allowing it. We will never know the extent of the trauma and the long-term damage inflicted on children. The more resilient will be OK. The less resilient will not, and tragically some are no longer here to see adulthood. It breaks my heart, and I am sure it breaks God’s heart too.
Since the very beginning of the first lockdown I have felt there is great spiritual significance in what we have faced. A battle between good and evil, light and darkness, truth and lies, life and death. These are things the church has a lot to say about!
I wanted to see church leaders countering fear at every opportunity, questioning and seeking truth, speaking up for the genuinely vulnerable including those most affected by restrictions, promoting the gospel message of truth, hope and salvation in every part of life, helping people to understand and come to terms with the reality of our mortality, holding authorities to account, defending the rights of individuals to make their own decisions and speak freely, speaking the truth and life and direction of the word of God into a society paralysed by fear and confusion, rapidly descending into a new religion of Covid obsession. I expected church leaders and their congregations to stand strong, resist pressure and fight for a place at the centre of society in a time of crisis and great need.
Sadly, tragically, what unfolded was the complete opposite in the vast majority of cases. The church shut its door, bowed to every measure and restriction, and became nothing more than another mouthpiece for government messaging. I have heard people who would not call themselves Christians, including some high profile commentators, saying how shocked and disappointed they were to see the church behaving in exactly the opposite way to what they had hoped and expected. The church is uniquely placed to speak into the fear of death and the unwillingness of our society to confront mortality. We have the gospel message of defeat over sin and death and the hope of eternal life — this is what people needed to hear!
‘Stay safe’ became the dominant sentiment and greeting of the last two years. As a Christian, I don’t understand what it means and I cannot subscribe to it. Of course I want people to be well, but life is not safe: it never was and it never will be (except of course way back in the garden of Eden, and one day in heaven!) In this life, living involves risk. We can never be truly safe. We take risks every day: getting in a car, eating our food, crossing the road, playing sport, navigating a world full of germs, viruses, bacteria and hazards of all descriptions! Relationships are a risk; we can get hurt, but we still take the risk because the rewards are worth it. Human flourishing requires getting out in the world and making the most of life, including and in spite of the risks involved.
Whilst we are on the subject of safety and risk, I am reminded of Aslan, the lion who is King and a picture of God in The Chronicles of Narnia.
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr Beaver… “‘Course, he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.” The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis.
God isn’t safe, but he is good. He is everything that is good and we can trust him with every part of our lives. The Christian life isn’t safe, and at times it may be hard, but nothing is a surprise to God; nothing can get in the way of his purposes for our lives if we trust him and follow him. The church in the West needs to wake up and stand up. Aslan is on the move!
Looking to the future
What a gloomy story I have told! It is, but it is important to be real, to be truthful and to be honest about what has happened over the last two years, however hard it may be and however depressing the picture. In 2020 we put aside the wisdom of years, in favour of the example of China. What we have, two years on, is a society more fearful, more paranoid, more divided and more fragile than in recent memory.
However, the Christian message is one of hope; more relevant today than ever. Jesus came to give us a hope and a future. There is always hope and there is always the opportunity to move forward on a better path.
We must never let these things happen again. Viruses and diseases will continue to be with us: they are nothing new. Whilst this particular virus has of course caused a level of destruction, and every death is sad, it has been our response to the virus which has caused so much devastation.
I have no doubt that Covid-19 is the greatest threat to humanity we have ever faced; not because of a virus…but because of our response to it. Dr Julie Ponesse, in a speech at The Faith and Democracy Series, October 2021.
We can make sure our response is different next time, for no doubt there will be a next time. There are also general lessons for our society to learn:
We remove God and his ways from our society at our peril.
We must prioritise our children.
Genuine local community and human interaction is essential for our flourishing.
Churches are not a general amenity or an optional extra; they are critical for a healthy society.
All health is important, not just one illness.
The value, rights, autonomy, responsibility and freedom of every individual are precious and should not be sacrificed for ‘the common good’.
A truly healthy society recognises the value of physical, mental, moral and spiritual health. Before 2020 we had already got these things well out of balance, and the last two years have exacerbated the problem. People are desperate for hope, for love, for relationship, for purpose, for community, for healing, for release from bondage, and for security. Ultimately only God can provide all of these things, and more. Only Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Only he promises the gifts of forgiveness, salvation, transformation and eternal life in heaven. This is the gospel we in the church have, the hope for the nations and the only antidote to the struggles and strife in this world.
Whilst I may be critical of the church, I absolutely believe it is the bride of Christ and God has chosen to use it, will all its faults and flaws, to bring his kingdom on earth. God will work his purposes through his church, even if it ends up being just a remnant of what it was in the past. Those who stand firm in their faith, who do not give in to fear, who put on the armour God gives them for the battle ahead, and keep their eyes fixed on Jesus rather than the ways of the world: God will use them!
There is a battle raging; a battle between good and evil. We must recognise that and we must make sure we are on the right side. Humanity is capable of great arrogance and great evil, the seeds of which are in every human heart.
The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago.
When we recognise this: that the problems our society face start with the sin in my heart, and every human heart — then we can do something about it. Jesus came to do something about it! His victory over sin and death is once and for all, for all eternity. The battles may still rage, but the war is won. We must remember that! We have a choice to follow Jesus and to be on the victorious side.
So, to conclude, whilst I have little hope and cause for optimism when I look to the world’s institutions of government and power, I am nevertheless hopeful and optimistic!
Human beings are amazing creatures created by God in his image. Some human beings are particularly extraordinary. I have mentioned a few in this article. Heroes of our time who are fighting with every fibre of their being for truth, freedom and what they believe to be right. I have been truly humbled and inspired by the work of these and others.
God is faithful; he is good; he never changes; he is never caught-out or surprised by anything we do; he loves us; he wants to bring us freedom and life; he will never let us down; he will never be defeated; he will ensure that truth wins, light wins, life wins. Therefore we can throw off fear, we can live in hope and we can look to the future with confidence.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23.