Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Keep the Churches Closed

Let's leave it like this
In this world where edge-lord behaviour, as it once was known, increasingly looks like the privileged, entitled, damaging attitude it is - full marks to Michael Nazir-Ali for managing to look like an Edge-Lord-Bishop.

"Open the Churches for Easter",  he tells us in an article I've not read all of because it's behind a paywall and I'm not paying money to bolster up one of the papers that brought us Brexit. It will give people hope, apparently.

Well, forget it. Keep the Churches closed. There will be a day to open the churches. It will be when the "curve" is so flattened that we won't need to keep our socialisation down by 75% to keep the number of deaths down. Yes, people are impacted badly by keeping the churches closed. And the people most impacted will be those who are older, who have less access to the technology that allows others to adore the Sacrament via Facebook and hold church coffee mornings on Zoom.

But you know what? Those people are also, generally speaking, the most vulnerable. They are the last ones that should be encouraged to gather. They are the ones who, by age, are most likely to be hit hard by this terrible virus, and who, because of their age, are also most likely to have those "underlying health issues." And they're also likely to be sharing accommodation with other vulnerable people, or being cared for by people who haven't made a conscious decision to go to church for hope on Easter Sunday but rather thought they'd be responsible and stay home. This idea puts individual piety over charity to our neighbours.

There's no excuse for encouraging vulnerable people out of their houses when they should be, in the American term, sheltering in place. Instead, let those who have the technical capability get together in whatever way. And for the others, let the clergy and people work hard to stay in touch. Phone them up. Send them letters. Check what they need. Wave going past the window. Put worship on the telly - I believe the BBC has a track record of doing this.

But don't celebrate Easter - the triumph of life over death - by pushing up the death rate. Don't give people hope for the future while calculating odds for the present. Christianity is a religion that is compatible with rationality. Don't ignore science and make Christianity look instead irrational, uncharitable - frankly, like a death cult. We can all wait a bit to go into church buildings. Let's not start coming up with exceptions - because that way leads to everyone thinking up their own exceptions.

When we can get back in, let's get in there and celebrate like it's Easter, Ascension and Whitsunday all in one. Let's do that when we know it's safe.

Until then, let's look after each other, and show love to the most vulnerable members of our religious communities. By keeping apart from each other.

Keep the churches closed.

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  1. I have read the article (which I managed to see without paying). The bit that struck me most was this: "Prayer is known to increase confidence in the possibility of being healed, and others praying for us gives us a sense of a social net when we are feeling alone and threatened."

    He seems to be prescribing prayer in the same way that somenoe else might prescribe CBT. If praying for the sick is all about convincing their subconscious that they're going to be OK, presumably it doesn't matter whether God exists or listens to our prayers, but just that the patient thinks that prayer is effective.

  2. Fully agree with keeping the churches closed at this time. What an outcry there would be if they were opened! I would not presume to say that Michael Nazir-Ali does not his scripture but I seem to remember that on the first Easter, the disciples were all said to be cowering behind locked doors......just saying

  3. Very well said Archdruid, you have as usual, hit the nail on the head.
    On this occasion "where two or three are gathered in my name" is not the message we need to hear.

  4. Thank you, Archdruid, you are absolutely right. "In my heart, though not in Heaven (or Church), I can raise Thee." Herbert nails it yet again. Stay safe and well. x

  5. And let us always remember: Jesus prayed alone--in the desert, on the mountain top, in the Garden. May our time of "isolation" be transformed into "holy solitude."


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