Carys Moseley comments on what effects – good and bad – the coronavirus might have on society.
The ongoing crisis about how to respond to the global spread of the coronavirus is having a profound impact on all areas of public policy and culture that we deal with, and with how the country as a whole functions. Here, the potential effect on the issues that we deal with at Christian Concern is weighed up. Then there is the need to consider how the crisis exposes sinful aspects of public policy and culture and the crying need for a Christian vision of health.
Unprecedented social and economic impact
Perhaps the single biggest social change that has happened is that healthy people who have no symptoms are being told to distance themselves from others to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. In addition, those over 70 and those with underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk are being told to isolate themselves more. This is the largest exercise in mass self-isolation in world history. When all is said and done, we may face a new wave of loneliness and fear among the most vulnerable, but also of anxious obsession among the healthy.
This is an unprecedented test of people’s willingness to co-operate to prevent illness. We are witnessing much good in terms of people co-operating under major limitations on physical contact. At the same time, it is important to admit that the purpose of this is immediate prevention and survival. No doubt many people hope that eventually life can return to how it was before. However, the major health and economic impact of the crisis will likely ensure that this is not the case. Small and medium-sized businesses are particularly vulnerable to collapse given that the government has issued guidelines saying that people are only allowed out of their homes to go shopping for essentials such as food and medicines, and to exercise once a day. Only gatherings of two people are allowed in public, and everybody must keep two metres apart. Little wonder therefore that there is now talk of the government paying up to 80% of the wages of employees unable to work due to the coronavirus crisis, up to £2,500 a month.
All of society’s sins and problems are being exposed and magnified as never before due to the much narrower scope for interaction.
Beginning of life
Just three weeks ago, The Guardian admitted that promiscuity was an ‘almost guaranteed’ method of transmitting coronavirus. People had initially been told by the government to stay away from ‘non-essential meetings and gatherings’, such as bars and nightclubs. As a result – and due to following other forms of ‘social distancing’ – rates of promiscuity may be falling dramatically. This may have the effect of slashing abortion rates.
However, we must realise that we cannot tell at present. On the upside, we may see some clinics close due to infection. On the downside, abortion rights advocates pushed for more abortion pills to be taken at home. Last Monday, the government introduced DIY abortions without any debate or scrutiny in Parliament. Doctors were to be permitted to prescribe abortion pills over the phone or video connections. By Monday night the government had rescinded this decision claiming it had been made in error.
Abortion rights advocates, including especially healthcare organisations such as the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology, argued that not allowing abortion pills at home would lead to later abortions in clinics, where women could risk spreading the coronavirus.
One problem that has not been raised is that women who suffer post-abortion trauma, along with others affected, are now going to be more physically isolated than before. The mentality behind abortion is still very much alive and without a genuine change of heart and a culture of greater family and community co-operation at the beginning of life, we may only see new problems. What are the ways in which a culture of life can be advanced?
End of life
The challenges for those deemed to be near the end of life are more widely appreciated in society, as they were before. Those most vulnerable to the propaganda for euthanasia are the very same people categorised as vulnerable and high risk by the new public health guidelines – the elderly and those with ‘underlying conditions.’ In addition, there are plenty of other people who have other conditions who are also vulnerable, given that the NHS has stopped all surgery.
One thing those who are vulnerable to assisted suicide need is hope, and that in the form of companionship. As nobody is now meant to visit them, they are at increased risk of considering themselves a nuisance to society – even if they never contract the coronavirus.
It is heartening to see people sending messages on social media saying that people should not simply shrug when someone in a vulnerable category is reported to have died from COVID-19, as they or their loved ones have similar health problems. Perhaps what this teaches is that people are pro-life when it comes to the lives of those they know. How can we foster a culture of the value of all human lives during this time?
Marriage and divorce
News reports are saying that more Chinese couples are divorcing due to the strain of practicing social distancing within the household whilst simultaneously being forced to be together day and night. Likewise inquiries about divorce have shot up in the UK. The government’s no-fault divorce bill is currently still in the House of Lords, having been heavily criticised by many peers.
There are many questions to ask here. Will couples who divorce now due to the strain of the situation come to regret it later when the state of emergency is lifted? Even if they get divorced, how likely are they to be able to move out and buy or rent new properties in the current situation? The government has published guidelines permitting children living in two households due to parental separation or divorce to move between them. As there are so many such children, for how long will this exception to social distancing be allowed?
Gender and sexuality
Up until now, the main challenge in terms of public health scares was the growth of transgenderism particularly among children and teenagers, due to a quite deliberate avalanche of propaganda dished out by activists. Disgracefully, the government mostly encouraged it. Much of the media lapped this up uncritically. Now, all of a sudden, we hear virtually no more about this. As the NHS has suspended all non-essential surgery, gender reassignment surgery won’t be carried out (hopefully). However, we should not forget that the UK government was only rumoured to have dropped its plans to liberalise the law on changing gender; it never made an official announcement to this end. The Scottish government has also just been rumoured to be shelving its plans to do likewise.
Related to this is the LGBT movement’s growing campaign to pass professional and legal bans on ‘conversion therapy’ in every country. Just a month ago, the ILGA brought out a major report on this. The coronavirus crisis has hit just at the time when the government was planning to look into ‘conversion therapy’ in the UK. Indeed, given that sex with strangers is admitted to constitute a very high risk, it is shocking that dating apps facilitating promiscuity, such as Grindr, are still operating. There is now a clear public health case for people getting out of the gay lifestyle.
Porn industry and prostitution hit
An unexpected consequence of the coronavirus crisis is that prostitutes are said to have lost clients as they flee the possibility of being infected. The porn industry, at least in the USA, is said to be considering a temporary shut-down, though only until the end of the month, which means it won’t be hit financially.
Unfortunately, this does not mean prostitution and porn are going to go away. People are moving their businesses online just as many more people are stuck at home isolated, which means we could see a surge in online porn, voyeurism and exhibitionism online in the near future. Thus, we may well see a surge in porn addiction as well. How can churches prepare in terms of pastoral care and reaching the culture?
Schools are now being shut down and going online. All school students are at home and thus teachers will have to provide assignments for them to do online. This system can work with higher education where students are more motivated, but for the early teens in particular it will prove far more challenging.
How will parents monitor things like the new RSE curriculum that is being rolled out in advance in some schools in England? It is particularly ironic that most children are now forced to be educated at home, because the educational authorities have been very hostile to homeschooling. This is especially as it has shot up in popularity due to parents rebelling against the new RSE. Effectively this means that most people have been forced into home education arrangements. Clearly this is an unprecedented challenge for most parents, but also an opportunity to learn that this is a genuine option that can prove beneficial.
Freedom of speech
This crisis may affect people’s attitude to freedom of speech. It is noticeable on social media that some people are starting to get highly sensitive about what others say about the crisis, telling them that ‘now is not the time’ for discussion. It is also noticeable that others are falling into the trap of fighting online with people they probably don’t know. In such a climate, the temptation to call for banning speech we don’t like is magnified.
Will the Coronavirus response force an end to police patrolling Twitter or not? Or will it result in them doing it more because everybody is now online all day long? The government already regulates our movements so that we are discouraged from exercising our freedom of assembly to hold meetings of any kind. Will the government table its proposed online harms legislation, and promote the idea that ‘harmful speech’ must be curbed? We need to remain vigilant.
Religious freedom is challenged
Most Christian denominations have struggled greatly with this crisis and gone from issuing guidance on hygiene and social distancing for Sunday services to stating that they will not be holding Sunday services at all as of last Sunday. Instead there was a National Day of Prayer. Those church congregations that can are going online and meeting virtually. Last week, the government tabled its Coronavirus Bill, which would give emergency powers for the government to shut down gatherings to ‘prevent, protect against or control the incidence or transmission of coronavirus’.
It may be that churches have not fully realised the serious implications for religious freedom of cancelling Sunday worship in response to government guidance. For the fact is that going online is putting churches at the mercy of private tech companies, which are already embroiled in a continuous battle over free speech and religious freedom with both their users and those people’s governments. Christians must be proactive here in discerning what is needed, and engaging critically with politicians and government, otherwise decisions could be made in haste that will have major negative repercussions far into the future.
Exposure of government hypocrisy
It is obvious that the government, like all governments around the world, is panicking about this crisis. It is obvious that no government has all the answers, and flaws will become very evident. One of the most glaring flaws is grotesque hypocrisy about public health. This hypocrisy is rooted in their rebellion against God, aided and abetted by the majority of the populations of western countries that are also in active rebellion against God in terms of the issues set out above.
This should be used by Christians to teach people that governments are not morally perfect because they are made up of humans, and that blaming politicians for everything will not solve problems. Indeed, they are part of the principalities and powers of this world. We must point to people’s need to acknowledge God’s authority over all things.
The arrogance of the World Health Organisation
The World Health Organisation has been a major international player in the handling of the coronavirus crisis, and has been criticised for it not least due to being too close to Communist China, where the disease broke out. As I said above, the social contagion of transgender ideology is the big crisis that preceded the coronavirus crisis in the western world. Who was it who promoted the depathologisation of gender dysphoria, thus preventing mental health professionals from being free to offer therapy or counselling or psychiatric care to sufferers? The World Health Organisation.
Now there is a desperate scramble to find treatment for the disease, and the medical scientific community is rightly doing its very best to fight. For that, of course the medical community needs to have full freedom to tell the truth about all scientifically relevant details. With regard to the coronavirus, men seem to be more likely to die from it, for example. Having said that, how do we know whether official figures are counting men and women properly, given that many countries have passed gender identity laws? The truth is, we do not. The reason is that governments have acquiesced to gender identity ideology and caved into bodies such as the WHO. The WHO and western governments should hang their heads in shame.
The need for a vision of health
If the coronavirus crisis teaches us anything it is that government can and will step up to crack down on any behaviour that can spread a disease and ruin public health if it really wants to. The question is, why was there not sufficient will to crack down on pornography, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, gender dysphoria, family breakdown and neglect of the most vulnerable? For these have wreaked massive havoc spiritually, mentally and physically over the past half century. The answer is that the western world is in massive rebellion against God, hates God and has deliberately defied him in its handling of public health.
All of a sudden there is a huge panic about physical health, with mental health being considered an embarrassing afterthought. As a result of lengthy periods of self-isolation and social distancing, as well as massive economic uncertainty and job losses, we could see a huge rise in psychiatric conditions such as depression, obsession and paranoia. Churches are being encouraged to help the vulnerable but discouraged from physically meeting for worship. This makes some of their usual work impossible for the time being. If we are to move forward in the future and not just repeat the mistakes of the past, the truth is that churches need to step up to the plate here and forge a comprehensive Christian vision of health not only for the duration of the crisis but for its aftermath. Now is the time to start doing that.