We have said that Christians must live by the truth, not by unfiltered facts. Related to that is our second principle for living with an endemic.
Second, don’t live by lies, especially in the local church.
Lies come in various forms in this endemic: false interpretations; contradictions, and inconsistencies.
In our first point we’ve dealt with the importance of living by truth, not by unfiltered facts. We should not be willing to live by interpretations of how to respond to this disease when they are shot through with anti-Christian ideologies of the body, of human interaction, of life after death.
We should also not be willing to live with contradictions within the church. In broader society, we are living with contradictions, and we know it. We know that most facemasks, and certainly the way most people use them, do not stop the spread of the smaller aerosol particles that carry Covid, but yet we wear them in the mall, at gym, and everyone demands them. Until we’re in private company, then we take them off. Or until we’re enter the magic zone in a restaurant, then we are somehow non-infectious (and non-infectable), while we eat and drink and exhale to our heart’s content. When we comply and wear a mask, we sit and breathe in our own carbon dioxide for hours at a time, which is hardly conducive to your health. This is an absurd contradiction.
Public places insist upon social distancing, and limiting gatherings to supposedly prevent a saturation of the air with Covid, but we board airplanes of over 300 people, sitting next to each other, for several hours at a time. By contrast, countries with vaccination rates of less than 50% have returned to full stadiums of people without masks. This is an absurd contradiction, but the world lives with it.
The fomite theory of Covid transmission is mostly abandoned. We know it does not adhere to surfaces very well, nor does it last very long on any surface. Certainly, if a Covid-19 positive and symptomatic person sneezed on his hand and shook yours, there’s a genuine chance of transmission, but the idea that Covid is on the books at the bookstore, on the plastic packaging of the food, or clinging to the clothes in the clothing store has been mostly rejected by immunologists. Even though that’s the case, we are forced to wash our hands with alcohol upon every entrance of a public building, believing that alcohol on our hands will prevent us from catching an airborne disease. Covid does not spread through water, but my local gym insists upon a social distance of a lane between swimmers. This is all absurdity.
We have our temperature taken upon entering public places, even though some of us who had Covid did not experience a fever when sick, meaning the test is mostly meaningless and an absurdity.
These are hopelessly inconsistent standards, and we know they have become a part of life in a Covid world. When we know something does not work, or is futile, or makes no difference, for us to keep doing it knowingly is a kind of pretence, which means it ultimately becomes a kind of hypocrisy or deceit.
You may have to do those things in the public space by law. Certainly, when we are unsure of whether something spreads Covid or not, there is no sin in erring on the side of caution. It is even fine to do something out of respect for others’ consciences, in certain contexts.
It is not fine to maintain a contradiction in a church setting, while positively harming Christian fellowship and worship. That is siding with pretense over ministry. Doing ridiculous and contradictory things may be the order of the day in the world, and there we must sign the forms, wear the accoutrements and submit to temperature checks. Absurdity is how the world lives, and Christians have to be in the world to eat, trade, and so forth. But we are not to be of the world, and that means avoiding that absurdity in our own churches. Christians are to live lives of sincerity, with unfeigned love. Adopt whatever protection measures you think are prudent, but don’t insist that the absurdity that is now in the world must be adopted by the church.
There are all sorts of responses that look serious, but aren’t. A superstitious person appears to take things seriously when he throws salt over his shoulder, or never opens an umbrella indoors, but those are not serious responses to life’s unpredictable nature. They’re merely busy, visible responses. A bureaucrat appears to be taking things seriously when he insists you must sign in triplicate, and answer 15 questions, but it is not necessarily a serious response to the problem he claims to be solving. It is a response, but not a serious one.
Let’s say the government had told us that a cork in each nostril will prevent Covid. Pretty soon, the corks are mandatory, and the whole population is corked. But then, some bright spark notices that we could still breathe through our mouths and that the corks are not making a difference. He takes the corks out. People now look at him askance for his audaciously uncorked and flaring nostrils. “Don’t you take the disease seriously? Don’t you care about life?” He does, but he has realised that what has become an act of societal compliance is not actually preventing the spread of the disease in any meaningful way.
Christians should be interested in truthful, serious responses, not keeping up the mere appearance of being serious, or doing what everyone else is doing. A serious response to Covid combines two things: a Christian worldview resulting from proper interpretation of God’s word, and the best, most verified information about Covid-19. Because someone is not as fastidious with masks and smearing alcohol into the skin does not mean he doesn’t take the disease seriously. Let’s simply be honest and not given over to contradictions when we are together.
A third kind of dishonesty is conscious inconsistency. We should not be two-faced or live with double standards. It is fine to be cautious, but are you being equally cautious about other dangers in your life?
Right now, where I live, you have a very low chance of being around someone with Covid (I realise this will change with the seasons). With that very slight risk, even if you did contract it, you also have a 99.2% chance that the disease will not be deadly for you. If you have antibodies from a vaccine or a recent infection, that chance is even higher. By this stage, the danger here becomes less than other diseases like tubercolosis, dangers such as our roads, or even gun crime. Consistency means you treat the dangers in your life with the caution they deserve.
However seriously you’re taking Covid-19, let it be consistent with other dangers that are equally or more dangerous. If you are going to restaurants but not to church, then you are not consistent. If you are spending time in places of recreation, but avoiding church, then you are not being consistent.
It makes no sense to give Covid the widest possible berth, and treat it with the strictest caution, if you are not going to do the same for tuberculosis, hepatitis, Marburg virus, MERS, and regular influenza (which also has a fatality rate, though much lower than Covid). Consistency is honesty.
Christians must choose to not live by lies.