What Are Your Hopes For The ‘New Normal’?


Despite the fact that, at the time of writing, we have the second highest infection rate in Europe (Sweden is first) bringing with it fears of a potential second wave of coronavirus infections, it certainly appears as if the government is slowly and determinedly bringing us out of lockdown! Thousands of non-essential shops can open as of the 15th June, along with zoos and safari parks, and churches have been told that they can reopen for ‘private prayer’. People may meet outside in groups of 6 as long as social distancing is observed, and single adults may form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household. However, as previously mentioned by the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, the restrictions will continue to ease in slowly and people will have to get used to a ‘new normal’. So what will life be like post this coronavirus crisis, and what are our hopes for the ‘new normal’? Well for some the new normal will be very painful as they miss loved ones who have sadly died, but others have expressed a hope and a desire that we might move into a new kinder, gentler society, where people of all persuasions, classes and colour are valued for who they are and adequately rewarded for the work they provide. Indeed, this terrible experience has shone a light upon the status of those who were previously considered to be in low paid, menial employment but whose roles have now been properly recognised as being essential to the wellbeing of the country. This was illustrated by the ten week period of ‘clapping for carers’, which initially started off as being purely for the NHS, but rapidly expanded to cover carers, ‘key workers’ and other essential services as people’s awareness and appreciation of one another grew. This kindness is certainly a lesson that we will need to carry on into the new normal, as no doubt there will be many more in need of such kind consideration as they struggle to make ends meet due to the loss of jobs and the nature of a weak and fragile economy.

The Christian will be reminded of the famous words of St Paul who, when describing the young church at Corinth reminded them, “That the body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all it’s parts are many, they form one body….the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you! On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Corinthians 12.12,21-22). Of course, although this lesson was aimed at the Christian church, it is equally applicable to any Christian in society, indeed it’s a mark of good neighbourliness, care and concern. It encourages us not only to not take one another for granted but also demonstrates that we are all important and that we all have a role to play. I think this is fairly well summed up in the song that we so often hear the children sing in school:

When I needed a neighbour

Were you there, were you there?

When I needed a neighbour were you there?

And the creed and the colour

And the name won’t matter

Were you there?

If we can confidently sing the last verse ‘wherever you travel, I’ll be there’, then perhaps the ‘new normal’ will be something that we can all look forward and aspire to.


Love the Lord your God with all your heart. The second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12.30-31


What Can The Coronavirus Teach Us About Human Kindness?

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Today, we learnt that Sally and David Abel who were among 74 British nationals quarantined on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Yokohama, Japan had tested positive for the Coronavirus. Their frustration with the British Foreign Office for not being able to get them off the cruise ship and home was obvious, particularly in the light of the fact that American passengers had been repatriated only the day before. The sudden appearance of this hitherto unknown virus remains something of a mystery, but its ability to spread quickly from person to person before symptoms became obvious was alarming – hence the need for a recommended 14 day quarantine period. The problem is that while the vast majority of people will only experience a mild illness, a few (currently 3%) can become critically ill, usually those who are already elderly and frail with respiratory problems, or health workers who have been exposed to the virus over a lengthy and sustained period. Despite the draconian measures, the Chinese have been largely praised for their handling of the situation and even here in the UK, Parliament has passed measures allowing the Police to force those at risk of coronavirus into quarantine, with the Health Secretary warning that the spread of the virus is a ‘serious and imminent threat’ to the British public. So should we be alarmed?

Well yes and no! We shouldn’t be alarmed i.e. panic, but we should be concerned – and our response should be kind, careful and considerate. Should it become evident that we have the coronavirus within our community, we shouldn’t be alarmist, but we should take care not to cough, splutter and sneeze over one another. We should be disciplined when it comes to our personal hygiene, washing hands etc and sufferers should be willing to self-isolate themselves and contact their GP by telephone as soon as they feel poorly.

In many ways these simple but profound measures may be viewed as wise and prudent acts of kindness which demonstrate a natural and loving concern for one another as well as for one’s self. Whereas the situation could be so easily exasperated if we mistakenly think that we are somehow immune to the illness or that it’s someone else’s problem. Christians will immediately see the significance of the Biblical command to not only love God but to love one’s neighbour as one’s self (Luke 10.27) in such circumstances, because it’s only by paying due regard to each aspect of this command (neighbour and self) that we can truly look after each other and protect our communities.


Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the Lord delivers them in times of trouble. Psalm 41.1


‘In God We Trust’ – Or Is It The American President?

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In the light of Brexit, one of Prime Minister Theresa May’s most notable remarks was that ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’, but now that President Trump has pulled the United States out of the Iranian nuclear deal, we are all left wondering whether a bad deal is actually better than a broken one? Naturally, the complexities of the issue are immense and the implications of pulling out of the deal with the Iranians very serious indeed, especially as it was generally believed that the Iranians were in fact ‘keeping their end of the bargain’. This was underscored by the vain attempt of several national leaders to keep Donald Trump ‘onside’ prior to his announcement.

Now of course, it’s very difficult for the common man to get any sense of what’s really going on behind the scenes or the ‘inside track’, but boldened by his recent success in North Korea, it appears that President Trump is playing a tremendous game of brinkmanship in an attempt to force the Iranians once again to the negotiating table in order to generate a new, better, more wonderful deal than the one previously negotiated under President Obama. Of course, if he succeeds then he will deserve the world’s plaudits, but if he doesn’t, then we will all have to girder our resolve as we come to terms with the consequences.

However, on a simple level one is left wondering ‘what do these events say about trust?’ How can we expect Iran (or any other nation state for that matter) to trust America if it can tear up its agreements at a moment’s notice? It’s slightly ironic that one of Donald Trump’s campaign slogans was Trust me! I’m going to make America great again!’. No doubt the President believes that this is precisely what he’s doing in keeping with his ‘America first’ approach but surely it will become much harder for other signatories or nation states to be so confident about US policy or the trustworthiness of its President!

Perhaps the US, which takes such pride in it’s Christian heritage, should pause and reflect upon its national motto which is stamped on the back of every two-cent coin, the simple slogan which reads ‘In God we trust’! The Spiderman movies may have brought to the public consciousness the thought that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, but the Bible also has a lot to say about the folly of those who look purely to their own strength, wealth and resources to get things done (see Psalm 52.6-7), whereas the godly man humbly appreciates that he can’t do everything in his own strength, but only with the wise and prayerful backing and support of others, trusting God as he does so. For trust needs to be cultivated and encouraged – it can’t be demanded. If you want people to trust you, you need to give them reason to do so. Christians will recall how Jesus encouraged his disciples to ‘Trust God and to trust also in me’ (John 14.1), but this wasn’t a blind sort of trust, ‘a stab in the dark’, it was a reasoned trust based on what they knew God had done for them in the past and what they could see Jesus doing for them now. His deeds gave his words authenticity. His whole life was one of integrity. People may break their word, but God never does and now, through the person of Jesus, God was keeping his Word, and fulfilling every promise, agreement and covenant that had ever been made. Let’s hope that in the fulness of time the American President will win a fulsome victory, but will it also earn him praise, respect – and fulsome trust?


“He who was seated on throne said, ‘behold I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” Revelation 21.5


 

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