Updated: May 18, 2020
What would it look like if we responded as decisively to all of God’s priorities as we do to government guidelines? What if the things that bothered him most bothered us most? What if God’s word drove our behaviours more than the cultural currents that surround us – or whatever we had planned for this Sunday?
Churches tend to be sluggish things.
It can take years to get the pews removed, decades for an organ, and if you try to get a church to act upon or even just speak into the daily industrial scale slaughter of human babies in our own nation – well, you could be waiting a lifetime.
It never seems the right moment somehow, or there is yet another stage of consultation required.
What a thing then to behold every church in the country springing into action in response to Covid-19. Not only have we seen creative responses to the ban on public gatherings (livestreamed services and the like): countless bespoke messages have addressed the phenomenon of the coronavirus head on, offering a Christian response specifically to this crisis. And words are being matched with action.
One high-profile Christian leader broke his social media fast to give an urgent message on corona – and said he had 8 meetings the following day, most of them about corona.
A large and well-resourced charismatic evangelical church in London has “appointed a special task force to oversee the church’s social response to the Covid-19 situation”.
And even a flagship example of the more conservative evangelical churches who normally only mention things “when they come up in the text” – they’re not into topical teaching, apparently – has published written and spoken messages specifically on corona.
And all this is very good.
But the very fact that churches are responding to corona so decisively (we’ll consider how churches are responding in our next post) is noteworthy. It shows that we can do it. One might surmise from the decades of inaction and silence on, for example, 9 million slaughtered babies, that the Church is quite unable or unwilling to respond to anything – but corona is showing us that this is not the case. Where there is the will or the compulsion, the Church can indeed jump to it.
The fact of our response to corona has exposed all our classic excuses for avoiding abortion. If we waited for the word “coronavirus” to come up in the Bible before addressing it, we’d be waiting forever. If we protested, “But we’ve already got things planned: a speaker, a series, a system,” we would stick out like a sore thumb for our lack of appropriate cultural engagement. If we insisted that we’re just here to preach the gospel, not address issues like corona, someone would rightly point out that there must be such a thing as a gospel response to corona.
An interesting thing about the three examples above of rapid response to corona, is that these three people/churches specifically have refused to give public statements or any kind of public steer on the crisis of abortion. I know exactly what they think about corona and how they are responding to that; I still can’t see anything on abortion.
When you consider that abortion is the world’s leading killer – some 40 or 50 million babies every year worldwide, 1 in 4 babies in the womb in our nation – compared to the global corona death toll of 20,000 at time of writing, why is our response to this virus by orders of magnitude so much more serious than our response to the intentional and violent killing of millions of unborn children?
Is it because God is more outraged by corona than he is by child sacrifice?
Imagine if a church leader ignored government guidelines, convened a Sunday gathering, and one person caught corona as a result and died. The leader would be slammed as selfish, cavalier, irresponsible – and probably unfit for office.
And yet there are thousands upon thousands of babies killed every year – in the Church and beyond – precisely because we are carrying on as if nothing is happening. And we accept this.
Why the discrepancy?
A concern for human life could explain our response to corona, but not our lack of response to abortion. Likewise reverence for God’s word could explain the former, but not the latter.
Why? Why are some issues on the table whilst others are firmly off?
We join in with the corona chorus, but we omit the abortion solo.
The only thing that can make sense of our continued silence around abortion, is that we are terrified of upsetting the culture, whereas we should be terrified of upsetting God.
We are looking to the culture for our lead. The culture tells us what’s on the programme, and what’s not. The culture tells us what we can talk about, and what we can’t.
The problem is not only that our conclusions are dictated by the world around us (see next post), but also that subject matter itself is dictated to us: not just the answers we’re giving but the questions we’re asking.
We spring into action on an issue like corona, but circumnavigate issues like abortion, because our Sat Navs are set to avoid persecution. We don’t want to upset the applecart. We don’t want to upset ourselves.
The world has told us not to touch abortion, and we’ve all said, “OK”. Real babies perish as a result.
The fact that we are responding so resolutely to corona, whilst continuing to ignore abortion, ought to drive us to ask some searching questions of ourselves.
What are we made of?
Whom do we fear?
This is Part 1 of a 3-part series of blogs examining the UK Church's response to Covid-19.
It is hoped that they make sense as stand-alone pieces, but you are warmly invited to read Part 2, which considers the impact of our becoming a "Non-Prophet Organisation", and Part 3, which examines the viral video The UK Blessing and suggests what our response at this time ought to be.