Church of England Diocese of Winchester Barton Stacey and Bullington

Coronavirus denial is a real threat...

26 Jan 2021, 8:15 p.m.

The Revd Writes…

Ever since the ten commandments and before, whenever people have tried to live by a moral code there have been tensions between the rights of the individual and the rights of the community as a whole.

From early childhood, our parents strive constantly to promote maturity and independence within us so that one day we will be able to make our own way in the world. This quest for autonomy is hard-won and it is no surprise when great lengths are taken to defend it. The integrity of the individual adult stands supreme. It is the ‘I am’ that is the bedrock of our personality. This is my opinion, and it is my opinion that really matters to me. And I acknowledge even if it is painful, that you and I may well hold a difference of opinion. So be it.

Within western Christianity, the rights of the individual have been a primary foundation stone particularly so within the puritan evangelical tradition. The place of the individual soul, each loved as a unique creation by the personal Saviour manifests the responsibility that I must do my best not to fall into sin. And when I do it is to know, that above all else, my Saviour loves me and redeems me from myself. The contrast to this faith position comes from within the more catholic tradition that subscribes to the view that God redeems His people, not just the favoured disciple. God’s people journey together, and it is their investment in each other that is paramount. As such, at times, the rights of the individual become subservient to the needs of the common good. This juxtaposition has often led to deep and bitter conflict within the Church and within society. What to do when conscience cannot subscribe to the demand that the individual’s freedom must be curtailed to uphold the will of the majority? And let’s be honest, the majority has on more than one occasion been found wanting.

Lockdown and the restrictions imposed have impacted all of us in the name of the common good. Given the devastation and tragedy caused by coronavirus, most of us recognise the necessity, despite the hardship caused, that the needs of the wider community, in this instance, are more important than anyone individual’s cry for freedom. This is the view of most people. But not all. Those who cannot concede are left with the only option and that is to deny the pandemic threat altogether.

Coronavirus denial is real and is itself a threat not just to the individuals who espouse this view but to everyone. Recent attempts to portray empty hospital corridors as evidence that the NHS is not at risk, and that the pandemic is nothing but a hoax, is at best unhelpful and at worst a moral outrage. This lays a certain burden upon us all to be vigilant against such views within our own village communities. We would not tolerate the view of those who deny the Holocaust. Neither should we give space for the view that coronavirus isn’t a global threat to humanity.

Both the rights of the individual and the common good demand it.

God Bless Revd Mark Bailey