Re: A time of opportunity, a time of reflection
I do not normally respond to Baptist Times articles but on this occasion I feel I must make an exception. As a retired GP and a keen supporter of the Baptist Union, I was disturbed by the tone of Ian Stackhouse’s article ‘A time of opportunity, a time of reflection’. The author obviously meant to be provocative and certainly succeeded.
As we are all perfectly aware, we are in a worldwide war against an invisible enemy virus and the need for limitation of personal freedom is a small price to pay to defeat this enemy. To state 'that the ‘collateral damage’ of lockdown measures etc., will be significantly greater than anything arising from the virus’, is to minimise the enormity of the clinical crisis that the world is facing.
As far as the limitation of ‘freedom of worship’ is concerned, the minor inconvenience of the absence of corporate worship in a building is a small price to pay in the present circumstances. It is also, an acknowledgement to our community that we are willing to make this ‘sacrifice’ for the sake of public safety.
The leadership of my own Baptist fellowship has been extremely grateful for the continued advice and help from the Baptist Union and has developed its own staged plan of eventual exit from lockdown. I agree that like our Baptist forefathers we need to keep a careful watch on both local and government decisions and hold them to account - our obvious duty and right as citizens as well as Christians.
However, when the public health stakes are so high, some limitation of our freedom has to be accepted in a civilised society.
I write to contribute to the debate Ian Stackhouse invites at the end of his reflection article about the government’s use of lockdown to deal with Covid. Although I would rather contribute to a conversation, since I have no wish to be confrontational.
Like Ian, I am very concerned about the consequences of lockdown. The health, social, commercial, educational and artistic costs are plainly huge. However, I completely disagree that this price is significantly greater than the massive toll in deaths, grief and suffering that would have been caused had we not been required to isolate from each other. Indeed, every price imaginable would have been far more extensive if the transmission of the virus had been left to go unchecked.
I’m sure some might argue for a health policy which asked the population of the UK to distance themselves from each other voluntarily. But this would be to ignore the general tendency of human nature to do the wrong thing and not to care for our neighbour.
And this is what lockdown is actually about. It is about the second great commandment - loving our “neighbours” enough to keep our distance so as not to infect them with a brutal, killer disease. Washing hands and wearing facemasks are not effective on their own. The restriction of movement and contact is an essential weapon of the battle.
The fact is that without any other realistic tool to prevent transmission of a highly contagious disease, the only reasonable measure is to require people to stay apart from each other. It is, I admit, a blunt instrument. But surely the only effective one. After all, the virus can’t and doesn’t move. It is inter-person activity that gives it legs.
In my view, the legal requirement to generally isolate has been evidence of good governance for the benefit of the people. Of course, I understand that there has also been the need to protect our medical care system from being overwhelmed, but the core argument for lockdown is the prevention of infection, disease and suffering. As it is, this virus has caused previously unimaginable devastation, but without lockdowns it would have been cataclysmic.
It follows that I see the restrictions on gathered worship and civil freedom as having been absolutely necessary as exceptional responses to an exceptional medical threat. Even in this current lockdown, when church gatherings have still been permitted under strict circumstances, I applaud the many churches which have continued to be active solely online, motivated by keeping members, staff and the public safe.
So, Ian, I do not accuse you of anything - and certainly not the things you report others have done so. I understand your position. I also passionately believe in the Bible’s injunction to meet together in person and the Spirit’s internal homing call for us as Christ-followers to do so. However, I simply disagree with you on disease-control grounds. Lockdown has been a terrible, but a vitally necessary thing – and this is a view supported by every single medic I know.
Re: Donald Trump and the heresy of white evangelical Christianity
Joshua has written a very good article that needs to be read by many.
I would very much like to see an article explaining why and how so many evangelical Christians came to fall for the all the lies etc that Trump has fed them.
I totally agree with Joshua's article except that it comes two years or one year too late to have had an influence on some white evangelical voters in the US. In 2019 I published an article on the "embarrassing betrayal of the Christian faith by white evangelicals". In this essay I made use of the scholarly analysis by Robert Lifton of the Nazi doctors: When they were dispatched to a death camp, some of them were at first upset about the situation, but over time and with their social relations with lots of alcohol within their inner circle, they became adjusted to their situation as 'normal'; whereas, in fact, it was a "malignant normalcy".
This seems to be a good description of US evangelicals. They think that their situation is normal as they are good patriotic Christians who are out to 'restore' a 'Christian' America (which it never was) and they blindly follow their cult leader ("I am the Chosen One"). However, their situation is anything but normal: It is a "malignant normality" into which the Chosen One and the religiously blind leaders have led their sheep. God, have mercy!
Dr Erich Geldbach, Uferkirche, Marburg (Germany)
Joshua Searle asks us to pray for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris so that the slow process of reconciliation and healing may begin in America. But these are the very people that are determined to tear the nation apart by their promotion of same sex relationships and marriage and transgenderism, and determination to legalise abortion on demand with no time limits. How can Joe Biden be, in Mr Searle's words, "a man of simply humanity and dignity" when this new President's agenda is so anti-Christian?
'White evangelical Christians' and Christians of all colour, voted for Donald Trump because there was no alternative for their Christian world view. Mr Searle's rant is just typical of the 'Woke' nonsense that is infecting the Church and it now seems our Baptist colleges as well.
As an American Presbyterian who graduated from one of the U.S.'s largest evangelical seminaries, I very much appreciate the clarity and depth of analysis of Dr Joshua Searle's note on "Donald Trump and the heresy of white evangelical Christianity."
The uncritical syncretism of evangelical Christianity and US white nationalism with its deeply racist origins is highly problematic for the witness of the Christian Church in the U.S. Yet we appear to be seeing a retrenchment by many evangelicals, who are evidently more willing to embrace the flag than the cross.
B Hunter Farrell
I just wanted to congratulate Joshua Searle on his article on Trump and the white evangelical movement in America. What a superbly written article, brilliantly summarising the chaos of the last 4 years.
As a committed Christian , I have been dismayed by the way Evangelicals have followed a sociopath and his distorted truth. Blind to the fact that he is the opposite of Christ and his teaching. Equally responsible in my view, are the Republican Christians like Mike Pence who, as your article says, have much to repent.
Re: New resource helps Christians story-tell their faith
I have just read your excellent article about the work being done by Mark Roques and wanted to say how good I thought it was - not surprisingly, as Mark has a unique talent for reaching out to people, especially young people, which needs to be shared.
Owen Carey Jones
I can't recommend too highly the story-telling approach Mark Roques uses as a tool for effective evangelism. It captures the interest of young people (and those of all ages!) through use of contemporary issues in a vivid and often humorous way, then exposes some of the foolishness of the world and the wisdom of God. No one in my experience does this better.
After all, it is employing something of the preaching techniques of Jesus himself, who knew his listeners and their needs, 'where they were coming from', was able to grab their attention, shock (in a good way), and send them away with clear, memorable messages for a new outlook and new ways of acting.