Western Science was built on Christian views of absolute truth. In an age of relativity, post-modernism, scepticism of experts, popularism, and social media it seem that now everything is a personal opinion. As a result lies triumph and spread round the world faster than honest facts. We should expect that as people cast off the restraints of being a believer in a truthful God the tendency to accept any old lie would rise. What we should not expect is the US evangelical church community to be acting in precisely the same way.
This hard hitting post needs to be shared with every pandemic-denying, vaccine-hating, malaria tablet consuming Bible basher in your social media friend list. It is time to embrace the FACTS not snake oil salesmen peddling “cures” which have been proved not to work. Christian’s are meant to love the truth not promote lies.
It breaks my heart to read in page after page of social media followers of this blog spewing out conspiracy theories that are so bizzarre that a school child should realise that they are impossible. No effort is made to seek for the truth, and anything that supports the paranoid idea that the faithful few are standing up to powerful anti-God forces is embraced.
The faithful also naively embrace snake-oil salesmen touting remedies for Covid19 that have been proven not to work, such as hydroxychloroquine. They also claim that another huge conspiracy exists trying to suppress the use of this drug.
I am certain that Jesus weeps as a result.
Truth matters. Lies kill.
Christians should embrace the concept of Randomised Controlled Trials to demonstrate whether or not a medicine works rather than relying on anecdotal reports of it seeming to work for individuals.
I have now posted a video and podcast about this article and the fantastically encouraging response I have received. It seems that many people share my concerns about how some Christians have been sharing things that are simply not true about COVID19 conspiracy theories. One point of clarification – I have since learnt that there are indeed some UK Christians sharing such things also, I just haven’t noticed them in my social media feeds. And of course there are many USA Christians who would hold a similar pro-science pro-truth line to what I am trying to promote. Hope you enjoy the video.
Vaccines are NOT the mark of the beast
Over 200 COVID-19 vaccines are in development by different groups around the world. Without a broad update of a successful vaccine it is hard to see how life will return to anything like normal. But to too many evangelicals vaccines are somehow anathema, and meanwhile the non believers look on and mock us.
According to thousands of evangelicals we are expected to believe that every single one of the vaccine scientist groups from all over the world are bought into some bizarre plan to simultaneously inject a microchip, or in another even more bizarre variant of the conspiracy theory that the vaccine will include some kind of method to cull the population. No evidence exists to support these ideas whatsoever yet evangelicals breathlessly talk about the mark of the beast, which was a physical visible brand not an invisible hidden chip. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic and if it didn’t do such terrible damage to the cause of Christ.
And to those who assume that only a tiny minority of Americans believe these lies, I wish you were correct. But according to a YouGov/Yahoo poll, half of Fox News viewers believe Bill Gates is using the pandemic to microchip the population.
We should be celebrating the human ingenuity and vast sums of money being spent in a race against time to find a vaccine that can save lives and end the nightmare the world is facing. Vaccines save lives.Vaccines do God’s work of healing. And it is no more lack of faith in God’s protection to take a vaccine than it is to wear a seatbelt when you drive a car to reduce your risk of injury and death in an accident.
We are living through the worst human crisis in any of our lifetimes as the combined global health, economic, and social impact is utterly unprecedented. The coronacrunch is real and makes previous recessions or flu outbreaks look like rounding errors. And yet at this time many USA evangelicals still talk about it as some kind of hoax or political plot.
I have even seen people seriously suggest that the rest of the world hates Trump so much that they would voluntarily crash their economies and fake huge death rates just to no longer have to watch him on the TV after the next US election. The very idea is transparently absurd. And yet it seems to me that the USA is the only country who has turned this global pandemic into a huge political football where points are scored on both sides with little focus on what is actually happening in front of us and what should be done about it.
I have read one too many of my friends on Facebook questioning the whole thing, challenging people to state if they know anyone who has got sick from or died from COVID19. And then stating “anyway it is only the old and people with pre-existing conditions who have a problem with this”.
The argument goes why should healthy young people wear a mask to protect those who are weak and vulnerable? I feel like writing in capital letters on every post : I AM ONE OF THE PEOPLE YOU THINK DO NOT MATTER. At 49 I have a severely damaged immune system from blood cancer and it’s treatment. My family and I would appreciate it if you would wear a mask to help reduce the background risk of me catching a disease that case series suggest would give me around a 30-40% chance of death.
Since when has it been unchristian and unconstitutional for us to put ourselves out and sacrifice a little bit of personal comfort for the safety and protection of others? And since when did we decide that obedience to the state, who rule by God’s ordination, was optional or even anti-christian? Love one another should be our motto and right now even if you think that you are safe from the virus personally protecting other people is surely a Christian duty.
And since when did we so value our “freedom” to reject the idea that the government can mandate mask wearing, social distancing measures, or even shock-horror the closing of churches. I don’t think the churches kicked up a fuss about closing in the 1918 flu epidemic. There is ample documented evidence of super spreading events associated with church gatherings. Some think a single large church meeting altered the course of the pandemic in France. The virus is much more readily transmitted indoors than outside, and it turns out singing risks spread more than talking, and crowded poorly ventilated church buildings could lead to hundreds being infected on a single morning.
And yet we hear prominent Christian leaders like John MacArthur proclaiming that they refuse to follow the orders of the State to not meet. “We must obey God not man” was not meant for a time like this. Would the same church have objected to being told not to meet at night in wartime England because the lights might help Nazi bombers find their way? MacArthur has made embarrassing public statements in the past but this one to me tops even those:
Christ is Lord of all. He is the one true head of the church He is also King of kings—sovereign over every earthly authority. Grace Community Church has always stood immovably on those biblical principles. As His people, we are subject to His will and commands as revealed in Scripture. Therefore we cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings. Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands. MacArthur quoted in Christianity Today.
Churches should not meet if that risks sparking fresh outbreaks of Coronavirus. If gathering in a bar can lead to hundreds of new cases in a Scottish city which had almost eradicated Covid19, how much more a large church gathering?
The UK’s Covid Epidemic
Of course there are question marks about the data collection regarding this epidemic. And some decisions made by governments are questionable at best. But anyone living in New York where more than one in a thousand people actually died from coronavirus, or most parts of the UK would have no doubt about how severe this is. We all know people who have died, been hospitalised, or who have permanent consequences such as altered taste sensation months after their battles with COVID19.
Due to variation in the numbers of tests, and challenges in accurately determining the true number of cases and deaths with COVID19 the best way to assess how bad the the pandemic has been in your local area is to examine how much deaths from all causes have increased above historical averages. This can be viewed for your local area in the UK on this BBC page.
The graphs below from the BBC are very indicative of the incontrovertible fact we have had a huge epidemic here in the UK. There is also the suggestion of a small increase in the number of cases in the last week or so, which is a few weeks after bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen. As the Spanish graph lower down this post demonstrates a small uptick might rapidly turn exponential again in just a couple of weeks.
The second chart shows total deaths for England but also for the county I am currently staying in with my parents. We see that so many people died earlier this year that we actually saw a period after that where fewer people died than were expected. So yes it is true that some people who would have died later in the year died earlier due to COVID but the peak of excess deaths is huge and clearly shows that this is no hoax.
That we have had a huge peak in the UK is beyond contradiction. That we may be at the beginning of a second wave brought on by relaxing the lockdown is more debatable, and the scientists have two conflicting theories on what happens next. One group argues that the herd immunity threshold may be a lot lower than we think and that countries that did badly in terms of cases and deaths first time round might actually escape a huge exponential rise this time round. That there would be a steady trickle of cases rather than a deluge until a vaccine is found or the disease dies out. But another group believes that even a country like the UK which was so badly hit is far from being safe and the second wave might cause many more deaths than the first did.
The USA position – a delayed first wave for many states?
In the USA the picture is rather more complex. And there is a pattern that perhaps explains the complacency seen in some areas. New York had a huge first wave and until very recently it looked like it might not get a second wave from lifting its lockdown. If you lock down too soon before the wave hits your area, nobody believes it is necessary and then refuse to co-operate, or the lockdown then gets lifted just at the time the wave finally arrives. This seems to be what is happening in many parts of the USA right now.
There is a page on the CDC website where you can look at all cause mortality for the whole of the USA and each state. There is clear evidence of the epidemic having had a huge wave in New York which is reflected in the national figures, but sadly many states are only now just beginning what looks like huge waves with ITU beds being heavily occupied. This is far from over. And there is evidence that just like in Europe and possibly the UK raising the lockdown even in New York has been associated with early signs of an uptick in the epidemic.
We are beginning to see evidence of second waves in some European countries, especially Spain and the conflicting theories about what proportion of your population needs to have been infected before you are protected against a second wave are about to be tested in the next few weeks. This graph from the BBC is a sign of how rapidly this virus can get back out of control. Looking at this graph should be an antidote to any complacency.
All this is certainly factoring into my thinking about whether or not it is time for me to be reunited with my wife and five kids. I left the family home because my wife is in and out of several homes each day as a health worker, and several of my children volunteer at church in the foodbank or recording live services for the web. Since I have a very poor immune system it seemed to make sense to shelter safely with my parents who are both also strictly isolating themselves. As the numbers have been going down in the UK I have been thinking about whether it is safe for me to consider going back home with some risk mitigations in place. The possibility that we are turning the corner into a second wave is certainly a factor that is making me think very carefully about the wisdom of the timing of my reunion. But if the cases continue to be relatively low, I will soon move back, whilst continuing to take sensible precautions to reduce my risk of catching the disease.
Some Christians think that social distancing, avoiding indoor gatherings, cancelling church, getting shopping delivered, wearing masks, working from home, improving ventilation, and other precautions are all evidence of a lack of faith. They say God will protect us. But those same Christians wear a seat belt. And no doubt some of them lock their doors at night to protect themselves from thieves. God calls us to take sensible precautions. And he has never promised that we will be kept safe from all suffering in this world, far from it.
I am reminded of the story of Oliver Cromwell who on rallying his troops to go into battle, in his mind on the side of God, told them to
“Trust in God, but keep your gunpowder dry”
I urge my Christian readers to get on the side of truth. Read up on the science from reliable truth-based resources. Stop promoting crazy conspiracy theories, and fake “cures” for Covid19. And get ready to swallow your fears and embrace a reliable vaccine when the studies are concluded. And maybe even volunteer for a trial of a vaccine or treatment for this disease if you catch it. And please use your social media channels to get the word out about this article and the statement I will explain below. Lets spread hopeful truth to counter both the fear and the lies.
UPDATE Jan 2021. It has come to my attention that parts of this article might come across as dismissive towards those who genuinely have a different perspective to me on some of the issues. I should state clearly that when I wrote I was taking aim at people who carelessly repeat claims that are clearly incorrect, or which they do not attempt to validate.
We should be Truth seekers. Some of these issues are complex and not everyone who has come down on a different viewpoint has done so wirh disregard to the truth.
On the contrary some on the other side of some of these issues seek after truth more diligently than some who might agree with my own perspectives.
So I am urging for a little more humility on both sides of these debates. And if I was writing this today I may have toned down some of my comments. I did consider editing the piece and doing so retrospectively but I think that it’s often better to leave an article like this as it came out at the time. The way it is written reflects how I felt when I wrote it. I stand by almost everything I wrote but apologise for any distress or offence my careless wording in places may have caused to some.
SIGN A CHRISTIAN STATEMENT ON SCIENCE FOR PANDEMIC TIMES
After I published this article I discovered that Biologos have issued a very helpful statement on the need for Christians to embrace science at this time. It has been signed by over 3000 Christians so far. This organisation was founded by leading Christian scientist, Dr Francis Collins. He directs the US National Institutes of Health, and is therefore the boss of Dr Fauci who has become a familiar figure for many pandemic news watchers. I wholeheartedly embrace and endorse this statement and have added my signature to it. I would urge all Christians to sign it if you are concerned for the cause of truth and the protection of others. Whilst of course understanding the need to balance risk reduction with the enormous economic and social costs of this global disaster.
We, the undersigned, join together as Christians who uphold the authority of God’s Word and see science as a tool to understand God’s world. We call on all Christians to follow the advice of public health experts and support scientists doing crucial biomedical research on COVID-19.
We are deeply concerned about the polarization and politicization of science in the public square when so many lives are at stake. The word “science” has become a weapon in the culture wars. Scientists are vilified and their findings ignored, while conspiracy theories go viral. Sadly, Christians seem just as susceptible to these trends. Thoughtful Christians may disagree on public policy in response to the coronavirus, but none of us should ignore clear scientific evidence . . . READ THE REST AND SIGN
Watch Biologos Special Event with NT Wright and Francis Collins
Where is God in a Pandemic? Tim Keller and Francis Collins
Adrian’s Corona Hope Series
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