I am terribly afraid that what the coronavirus crisis is teaching us is that politics is the answer to people’s problems. That what we need is more state intervention, more state spending, more help to the poorest in society. That we can be the answer to our own need.
But as Christians, that should never be our answer. Ironically, I do believe that the state should take a proactive, people-helping, citizen-supporting role in society. But I don’t believe that that gets the church off the hook. I don’t believe that it means that politics is the answer to life’s problems whilst faith is the answer to death’s problems. I believe Christianity is the answer to both.
I believe that the church should be the conscience of the nation. I believe that we should be constantly ahead of what the nation does, constantly pushing for more grace, more generosity, more justice. We should be exposing the sin and exemplifying the answer. We should be meeting the need and pushing for change. We should be leading the way. Anything politics does, we should do better.
When crisis happens, it should be the church that is there. It should not be the local Momentum members setting up the local Mutual Aid Facebook page, but churches. It should not be the local council setting up foodbanks, but churches. It should not be the council telling the church to wait to see what develops and to give the council time to do something, but the church telling the council what the needs on the ground are and what is needed at a structural level. It should not be the church asking the council what to do but the council asking the church what to do.
We should have already been there. We should have already been in our communities, meeting people’s needs. We should have been the ever-present help in time of trouble, bringing God into our neighbours’ lives through our acts of service. We should have known every disabled person, every lonely person, every elderly person, every struggling person in our community so that when crisis comes we are already there, already in relationship, all ready to ask, what do you need now? how can we help you now? what do you want from us now?
We should have been the place to which people automatically turned when they needed help. Instead they turned to Facebook. They turned to their council and their housing association and their local union. They turned to whomever they could reach on social media, crying out to strangers for someone to help them or their son or their mother or their friend in their time of need.
When people look back on this time and ask, ‘who saved us?’, the answer won’t be the church. And when we wonder why no-one wants to know about God or cares what the church has to say, the answer will be staring us right in the face.
Because we weren’t there.
We didn’t care.
And we profaned God’s name among the nations.