From Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis:
“The rightful king has landed . . . in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going.”

Early in the coronavirus pandemic I wrote to an Anglican priest in London to say that I thought the massive overreaction by government and the resulting worldwide level of public fear relating to the virus was demonic. He wrote back to say that yes, he too thought “the virus” was demonic—and that it was our duty to stay away from church to show “support” for the government until the demon virus was defeated. He mistook my point.

The virus is not the tool of the enemy. Viruses come and go, and by all accounts Covid-19 is historically unimpressive, ranking near the bottom in lethality among all pandemics since the year 150. Fear is the enemy’s weapon, and irrational fear his trademark.

Below the C. S. Lewis quote is a graph published by www.gov.uk of the daily hospitalisation count from Covid-19 since the start of lockdown to yesterday, September 9. In observing this graph you might notice the conspicuous absence of a “second wave.” For several weeks running this summer, five times as many people died in the UK of influenza than of Covid-19. [Sorry, the latest report from the Office of National Statistics shows flu deaths in the UK are actually over 12 times the number of Covid deaths. It’s hard to keep up, especially when the BBC would sooner cut off its right hand than report this information.] Yet from the constant fear-mongering by the government, dutifully repeated by the teachers union and the media and fully embraced by the clergy, not to mention the cloying, ubiquitous virtue-signaling by corporations promising to “keep us safe,” you would think Covid-19 was the Black Death reborn.

How truly low the death count from Covid-19 is will never be known, because UK politicians eager to justify their panicked response and appease an increasingly fearful public weakened the standards for reporting medical causes of death that apply to other diseases. This resulted in a system in which, literally, someone with a history of a cough or fever who was later hit by a bus could be recorded as a “Covid death.”

Both here and in the USA, doctors have reported being pressured to record Covid as the cause of death when it is not, and to reject Covid treatments as “dangerous” or “reckless” when they are in fact safe and effective, but videos and reports in which they raise these concerns have been deleted by YouTube and taken down from social media as “misinformation.” You have to watch reports like this one on Fox News to learn this, but don’t bother sharing it with your left-wing British friends (which is to say, increasingly, almost all of your British friends). They have been taught by their minders to run screaming from the room with fingers in ears, singing “la-la-la” at the first mention of Fox News.

Here in formerly democratic Great Britain, Ofcom released “guidance” to UK broadcasters against reporting information that deviates from official government advice regarding the virus on grounds that to allow such information to reach the public would be “harmful.” Several reporters have already been reprimanded by Ofcom and seen their names and “offences” posted to Ofcom’s website, like so many heads on pikes, as a warning to others who might be thinking of straying from the Covid orthodoxy.

But wait—aren’t controversial ideas the whole point of free speech? Isn’t the point to allow supposedly dangerous ideas (just as freedom and democracy itself were once regarded) to be debated in the marketplace of ideas so that the best ideas become the best social policies? Stalin and Mao certainly didn’t think so, and neither apparently does Boris Johnson’s government.

This is the politics of power over principle, and the Church should be ashamed to be a part of it. With some bishops and clergy seemingly cheering from the sidelines, others unthinkingly falling into line, and others too frightened to speak, the government closed the churches in March without a fig leaf of resistance from the officer corps in Christ’s regular army. Just let those words flow over you again, slowly: the government closed the churches. Not the grocery stores, not the liquor stores, not the garden centres, but the churches. Could you have imagined it? For fear of a disease that 99 percent of the world’s population experiences as a brief and mild respiratory illness, they closed the church that Christ endured torture, suffering and death to purchase for us and that his early followers defended with their lives. And the bishops scolded us for objecting while they handed over the keys.

For generations the faithful have sat in pews listening to the clergy read scripture that speaks of Satan as a roaring lion, prowling the earth in search of souls to devour, and of Christ’s followers as being engaged in a cosmic battle, not against viruses or other enemies made of flesh and blood, but against diabolically clever, dark powers and “principalities.” One is left to wonder, now, whether church leaders themselves really bought what they were selling, and if so, where they expected the lion to show up and the battle to take place? After Christ carried his cross to Calvary to establish his Church and banish our fear of death, could the Prince of Darkness have hoped for any greater victory than to enlist the princes of God’s kingdom on earth in a worldwide campaign to lock the churches, withhold the Eucharist from the faithful, and order priests to absent themselves from the bedsides of the sick and dying over . . . wait for it . . . the fear of death?

The shepherds frightened the sheep, and the sheep remain frightened. Church attendance that was already dropping like a rock in most Protestant denominations has been decimated since the easing of restrictions. Is it any wonder why? Churches now look like the scene of some terrible disaster, strewn from one end to another with police tape and manned by citizen-gendarmes threatening to chuck people out if their mask slips or they dare to sing to or touch each other. Before the bishops locked the doors and deemed church-going “non-essential,” the little Catholic church in my neighbourhood in London had standing-room-only crowds at two masses on Sunday and one on Saturday night. Now, two months after lockdown was lifted, only around fifty souls bother to show up in masks for a single, short-form Sunday mass after which they are squirted with sanitizer and given the bum’s rush out the door. The altars of our eternal salvation have become temples to our mortal terror. Christ warned us not to fear the enemy who could destroy our bodies but instead to fear the one who could destroy both body and soul in hell, yet now it’s rubbish to all that. The new mantra is that we live or die by coronavirus alone.

This is fascism. This is groupthink. This is public hysteria in a public that has lost its faith in anything beyond the material world. This is Evil with a capital “E.” And it has done incalculable damage to the Church. But the one thing it is not, is new or unexpected.

Growing up in the America of the 1960s and 70s, when most of us went to churches led by people who could still tell good from evil and weren’t afraid to say so out loud, it seemed to me that the church would be ever thus. I struggled to comprehend how the end times that Christ described in the 24th chapter of Matthew could ever come to pass, when “shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Surely we would be too smart for that. Surely our faith would be too strong. Surely the zeal of our bishops and priests would never waver. Surely they would see the enemy coming.

I was wrong. Christ was right. No news there.

Today most of the bishops and clergy of the Church of England and many in the Catholic Church stand at the barricades, but they are the wrong barricades in the wrong fight. They have done what Christ refused to do, which is to become footsoldiers in battles for political change, marching shoulder to shoulder with like-minded useful idiots who are oblivious or indifferent to the real danger. From their tufted battlements they snarl menacingly in readiness to fight—not for Christ’s gospel, but against Brexit or for the lunatic policies of climate alarmism or in political proxy wars alongside the armies of Neo-Marxism. They rail against the straw man of systemic racial oppression in modern Britain, by any measure one of the most racially tolerant countries in the world. And all the while the real enemy slips in unnoticed, literally stealing the flock out from underneath them. God help us.

And He will. Which is the Good News, and very good news it is, indeed.

In the parable of the sower, Christ’s servants plant the seeds of faith but wake the next day to find them overgrown with weeds. The servants ask whether they should rip out the weeds, so that the seeds might grow unimpeded. But Christ tells them no, let the weeds and the wheat grow amongst each other, until the harvest.

What we are experiencing now, with the government’s hapless and ineffectual reaction to this virus, the public’s resulting hysteria, and the abject cowardice of our clergy, are “the weeds.” If you’re like me, you find your faith being choked off and struggling for nourishment by the banality of Zoom liturgies or masked, socially distanced and intimacy-free church services led by clergy who pretend to gaze at heaven while casting an ever-watchful eye at their treasure here on earth. But to despair over this would give the enemy the victory he most desires.

Let us return to the 24th chapter of Matthew and reassure ourselves with these words from the Son of God: “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” In other words, now is not the time to lose faith, but to strengthen it. I know of no better tool fit for purpose than the Rosary.

Regarded by a long line of saints as a powerful weapon of spiritual warfare, the Rosary is a way for small groups of the faithful to defy the prevailing culture of fear by meeting in each other’s homes to pray communally for strength and faith to “endure unto the end.” Anyone who would like to pray in person with me is welcome to contact me at mike@mchurley.com. I encourage you to make the same invitation to others.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was right about one thing: the church is not a building. But the near equivalent of communal prayer and worship is not to be found by staring at others engaged in prayer and worship on computer screens, as if church were a kind of performance theatre for spectators instead of a celebration that demands the physical presence and participation of the faithful. St. Paul warned the early Christians against “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is,” at a time when following Paul’s advice posed a marked risk of something far more dangerous than flu-like symptoms for a far greater number of Christians than the tiny fraction of persons infected with Covid-19 who, according to the CDC, succumb to the disease.

The Church of all institutions had a duty to question and resist the false narrative, promoted by a largely atheist scientific, media, and government establishment, that Covid-19 is the second coming of the plague and the unproven theory that the enormously destructive policies of lockdown, social distancing, and face-masks can somehow “eradicate” or “defeat” a microscopic, airborne cold virus. Instead, leaders of the Church have cooperated in an unprecedented infringement upon religious liberty fueled by social hysteria and enforced by a secular establishment that openly mocks religion and values safetyism and social control ahead of individual liberty and faith. Make no mistake: “An enemy hath done this.”

The frail elderly and the unwell, who are at an elevated risk of complications from Covid-19, should by all means be sheltered and protected, just as they have been in the past in the case of seasonal influenza and other airborne viruses. This is not complicated or hard to do. But let the rest of us gather together—and touch one another, and kiss one another, and embrace one another, and feed each other bread and wine, and pray and laugh and cry and question together.

They can lock the churches, but they cannot shut the Kingdom of Heaven, for as Christ teaches us, “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” Boris Johnson has no jurisdiction there. Thank God for that, and be of good cheer. The victory has been won. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

(C) 2020 by Michael C. Hurley

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