1 article, 1 quote and 1 reflection.
Premise: We aren’t there yet, but once the dust settles, blame will be just around the corner.
Today I came across this article in the National Review written by John Fund a columnist and Joel Hay a professor in the department of Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy at the University of Southern California. The article is a thoughtful reflection on Sweden’s choice not to follow the global community in having a mass lockdown. Through analysis of figures and trends it produces some interesting thoughts. It’s worth a read if nothing else.
What I saw in this article is a change in mindset that I think we will increasingly begin to experience. You see, up until now, the decision for mass lockdown has forced us to ask significant questions about how we live our lives, run our businesses, connect with our families, or in our case, run our churches. These questions were so urgent that we haven’t yet as a society started wrestling with another significant question:
Was the decision to lockdown the right one?
As the reality of lockdown begins to bite, economically, socially and spiritually, you can expect this question to get louder and louder; and, if they manage to navigate COVID-19 without a full lockdown, you can expect to hear a lot more about Sweden in the coming weeks and months.
In his insightful book “Factfulness” the celebrated Swedish physician and statistician Hans Rosling wrote about the spread of syphilis around mainland Europe. Starting as itchy boils, the skin disease would eat its way through the skin into the bones. What is fascinating and I think incredibly relevant to us now is that the disease had different names in different countries. The Russians called it the Polish disease; the Polish called it the German disease; the Germans called it the French disease; the French the Italian disease and the Italians the French disease.
Consider the following quote from Hans Rosling:
Without being pessimistic, a glance at human history will tell us that once we are through surviving, we’ll start looking for a scapegoat. As church leaders we need to be ready for this.
Anticipating what’s ahead, the assigning of blame could swiftly undo whatever coming together we may have experienced during this crisis. In the UK, we were a country torn apart by Brexit, now we have found ourselves on common ground, joining together in shared applause every Thursday at 8pm.
COVID-19 will likely accelerate the move away from globalism that we are already seeing. Nationalism was already growing and will perhaps expand on the back of this global pandemic. Fear of travel, the arrival of immigrants, importing and exporting of goods, all of it will be seen with new eyes.
The temptation, and for some, the opportunity, will be to capitalise on this narrative and start blaming others; the wealthy (see what’s happening to some footballers right now), those in power above us, other countries or foreigners, the immigrants, the list could go on. If that happens, our lines of division will simply be engraved deeper and deeper.
So what’s the response?
Firstly, keep an eye on the poor and the vulnerable. Let’s use our influence and our platforms to protect those vulnerable to the blame game. Let’s pay attention to the narratives that will inevitably be played out in the coming months.
I would also encourage us to personally remember really well. Remember what it was like when COVID-19 first started taking hold; what is was like to wrestle internally with what was right in a haze of the uncertain and unfamiliar, to be thrust into a new landscape over night. We are in a situation we have never been in before, we are facing challenges we never thought we’d face and we’ve made decisions based on the best of intentions.
Did we make the best choices or could better ones have been made? Only time will tell. That’s the beauty of hindsight, you can look back and see what was right. Perhaps though, by remembering, instead of seizing a scapegoat, we might season our words and our thoughts with understanding. By remembering, we might speak with grace, extending the same generosity to our leaders and those around us that we would want extended to ourselves.
Church leaders, the blame game will come at some point, let’s be ready; let’s not fall into the trap of blame, but to be champions of the poor and the vulnerable, to be a voice of compassion and understanding, to pursue peace not create discord.
There will come a time where honest reflections will be helpful for us as leaders, but in the case of COVID-19 finding a scapegoat would simply be unjust.