When I last blogged, it was the end of November. Now it’s the end of December. Not only am I in a different Australian state, but Christmas has come and gone, and the New Year is on its way.
I left NSW when the WA border opened. A large chunk of my extended and immediate family live in WA. When we knew the border was coming down, I booked and went. Then I went faster when my mother became unwell. (She’s 92.) As a result, I was several days into my WA visit (mostly in hospitals at that point) when the border went back up again. Sydney had suddenly spiked a number of COVID cases.
Due to my arrival date, I wasn’t considered a COVID risk, so didn’t have to isolate at all, for which I am thankful. I’ve since spent valuable time with family, and hope to see a number of friends this week before I (hopefully) head back home to NSW. The logistics of that require a bit of thinking through, due mostly to the issues of transiting through Sydney to my rural home. That’s an ‘in progress’ thing right now.
But what a month. For about three days, Australia had no hard borders. Now we’re back with some.
I usually use my blog as a soapbox (sorry readers) and today is probably no different. As a resident of NSW for the last 18 months, I can be proud of the contact tracing team developed in that state over the last twelve months. At the same time, I can be frustrated that NSW has avoided stamping out COVID-19 when it appears we could have. As a previous resident of WA, I can be impressed by the months and months of COVID free living this remote state has achieved, but concerned about the disregard of social distancing that is so prevalent. (Not to mention that woman who escaped from hotel quarantine yesterday, or the issues with international aircrew in Sydney.)
But at the same time, I watched footage of the Boxing Day sales in Sydney – <i>where there is a current outbreak</i> – and saw people flood into city stores in crowds. What on earth possessed them?
At the same time, I am incredibly proud of the Australian people as a whole, who have, for the most part, put their heads down and got the job done this year. Victorians in particular deserve a huge shout out for enduring the longest, hardest, lockdown in Australia, and are now effectively COVID free.
And then I look overseas (to Australians, anywhere not Australia is ‘overseas’) and see the incredible struggles other countries are facing with COVID case numbers. At the same time, I see people who choose not to believe that COVID is real, or tout imaginary cures, or who feel that it doesn’t have a mortality rate we should be concerned about – even now, when over a million people have perished. Conspiracy theories have surfaced everywhere, and are all over social media, in some cases the normal media, and within groups of people who flourish while nattering away without considering that perhaps the experts are the ones to listen to.
It’s easy to be an armchair critic when you’re not the one making the decisions. I can see a chunk of the health picture, and I can imagine some of the logistical nightmares some of the decisions make (mostly courtesy of having run the odd cyclone or bushfire response years ago as an emergency services volunteer), but obviously, I’m not the one making any of the decisions, and the buck does not stop with me.
Most of all, I have been concerned with how some churches and Christians have responded to the challenge of the pandemic. You’ll know that if you’ve followed this blog for a bit, that I am a church attending Christian.
I have been distressed to see some of my fellow believers throw reason and compassion out of the window to flaunt what they describe as ‘rights.’ When Jesus was on earth, he responded to a question about greatest commandments with this (Matthew 26)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Love your neighbour as yourself. How can I love my neighbour if I am not prepared to put up with some inconvenience in order to assist them? (ie. stay at home if required, wear a mask if required, social distance if required, leave my details if required.)
I am not frightened that the government is ‘using the fear of the pandemic’ in order to prevent me worshipping my God. Instead, I recognise that if I truly believe, I do not need a building, or a physical presence in one particular building in order to do so. Although I love to sing in a congregation, I do not need to sing <i>with</i> my fellow Christians in order to worship. I can do this at home. Alone. Because if I truly believe, I am never alone, and never abandoned by my God. This is the truth that so many Christians throughout history and who have lived in much darker places and much darker times have demonstrated.
So, if you’re a Christian reading this – and these words are for Christians – do as Jesus said. Love your neighbour. It’s not about supposed rights. It’s about demonstrating Christ’s love for your fellow human beings. And it’s pretty hard to do that if you’ve given them COVID-19.