Cultural dementia

Yesterday our MPs, deeply conflicted, but not sufficiently so to check out the data intelligently, voted through another national lockdown. This was despite the well-publicized de-bunking of the doomsday projections made to justify it, the data showing that infections and deaths have both peaked and appear to be on the way down, the latest excess deaths report that confirms we have average deaths for the time of year, and above all the clear evidence that no proper impact assessment has been done, let alone made available to parliament or public.

Parliament knew this because the first speaker, the last Prime Minister Theresa May, pointed it out. Under any circumstances for MPs not to insist on such a cost-benefit analysis before agreeing to action is grossly irresponsible. But given recent memories of the foot and mouth debacle, the false swine flu scare, the dodgy dossier on Iraq, and the numerous other recent wars entered with no clear aims or exit strategy, this indicates more than mere haste. It indicates madness.

But a more graphic news item yesterday shows what inhuman blindness has reduced Britain to a police state, where the ancient common law of basic rights restricted only where necessary has been replaced by the assumption that we are not permitted to do anything unless positively sanctioned by a government decree.

A retired nurse, aged 73, has been unable to visit her 97 year-old mother with dementia in her care-home for 9 months (though previously needing to visit daily to help feed and stimulate her). She and her daughter decided spontaneously to take her home before a new lockdown made even distressing visits “through glass” impossible. A full account is here. It seems that, seeing her mother’s steady deterioration from isolation, she had tried unsuccessfully for many months to find a way of caring for her at home, including sending letters for help to her MP which did not even receive a reply. The underlying legal problem was the lack of a “power of attorney.”

In Britain, aging people may grant a power of attorney for finances, and/or for care decisions, to relatives, to be enacted once they are unable to handle decisions themselves. The problem was that the elderly lady’s late husband had neglected to do the second. My brother and I made exactly the same oversight with our mother, but she never went into care. In this case, however, the local authority not only took on responsibility, but excluded the family altogether.

When the daughter removed her mother, the care home called the police for “assault,” the daughter was stopped, handcuffed and publicly arrested at a garden centre, and the mother was forcibly taken back to the care home in a patrol car.

The rationale, presumably, was to ensure the old lady’s “safety,” despite her deteriorating condition, the massive death rate in care homes during the spring, and the lack of protective resources allocated to care homes now, billions having been thrown instead at blanket testing of the population not at risk. In a national emergency, one might anticipate that common humanity and a millennium of English common law would have allowed a willing daughter a dispensation to care for her own mother. But though we cannot protect livelihoods or basic human freedoms now, the letter of the law requires treating a carer as a violent criminal, and a nonogenarian as a mere COVID risk.

What we have achieved in 2020 is the removal of every freedom and care for actual individuals, in order to protect an entirely notional entity, “the elderly.” It is similar to the way that real flesh-and-blood people are now penalised by the law, by employers, or by social media for thinking or saying things that somebody judges might offend an imaginary “community.” And, it appears, a majority of people in Britain either think all this is right, or don’t think about it at all. Madness – the madness of crowds.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a majority (perhaps) is electing another person with dementia, who cannot even remember that his son died five years ago, to be the leader of what was once “the free world,” and Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful armed force on the planet. This man is also, from publicly available evidence, guilty of corruption on a grand scale whilst US Vice-President, and vulnerable to extortion by hostile governments. Yet the focus in the media is all on the legal battles over votes, the emphasis being on the unreasonableness of his opponent.

Now, personally I see Donald Trump as the equivalent of the biblical King Jehu – a rough man for rough times, the non-politician whose priority was to drain the political swamp and give working people their due. But even supposing that you see him as the media sees him, a lying clown, it is a damning indictment of a nation if the only two presidential candidates it can muster are a lying clown and a senile criminal. It is madness – collective madness.

And that leads to my sober, and serious, main point. “Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad” (Prometheus, in “The Masque of Pandora,” by Henry Longfellow). When across our nations the only news is bad news, evil is counted good, and good as evil, it is a strong indicator of peoples under judgement by God. That was always the biblical pattern, and there is no good theological reason to suppose our times to operate on different principles.

In Zechariah 11-12, the Jews who had recently returned from exile were told that before the final triumph of the Lord through his Messiah, on behalf of his elect, their continued faithlessness would be judged:

“For I will no longer have pity on the people of the land,” declares the Lord. “I will hand everyone over to his neighbour and his king. They will oppress the land, and I will not rescue them from their hands.”

On September 10th, 2001, I met with the other members of the editorial board of a Christian magazine, founded by a man with a burden for the prophetic word, Rev Dr Clifford Hill. Its message to Britain and to the Western Church had, over many years, been that our collective turning away from God, and from his word and his ways, would not go unrequited, without repentance and a recognition of the Lordship of Christ. Our nations had been entrusted with much, and had betrayed that trust.

We prayerfully concluded, that day, that the time of mercy for our society was past, and that we should now be showing God’s people how to survive and witness in a land already under his judgement. The very next day the Twin Towers fell.

Yet not only has there been no significant turning towards God in the West in the intervening years, but the churches, when not seeking narcissitic spiritual experiences or believing false prophecies of peace and prosperity, have been eager to embrace the same human philosophies that have corrupted secular life. Beware when the Church’s priorities coincide with those of critical race theorists, sexual and gender progressivists, apocalyptic environmentalists or Islamists, and downplay the eternal teachings of Scripture.

Billy Graham’s wife Ruth once said that if God does not judge America, he will have to apologise to Sodom and Gomorrah. The Living God does not do apologies. It seems to me that our working assumption should not be that goodness will reverse the tide of madness, and still less that the destruction of the old order will spontaneously (or with the encouragement of the World Economic Forum or the UN or the Gates Foundation) lead to a bright new world. Rather, things will go from bad to worse (2 Tim 3:13).

When Peter preached that first, famous, Pentecost sermon (Acts 2), he preached repentance and baptism into Christ as the means to receive the Holy Spirit, not so that they could experience great things, but so that they could survive. He warned, and he pleaded, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Peter’s mental context was the prophecy of Jesus, just two months before, of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple as his own vindication, which was fulfilled amidst unprecedented bloodshed within that generation, in 69-70 AD.

So it is now our task, I believe, not to wish for reprieve from the coming conflict, hardship and increase of evil, but to reveal to believers and unbelievers alike the true darkness of the hour, and how to persevere as light within it, without compromise to the truth of Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. For in his prophecy of destruction, only to be completely fulfilled at the time of his coming, Jesus said:

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who endures to the end will be saved.”(Matt 24:9-13).

This, my friends, is the time to endure. For our salvation is at hand.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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