There are very many reasons to regard this UK Government as a shambles, but the one I want to concentrate on is the decision to lockdown churches in terms of pubic worship. Despite many attempts to get the PM to explain the rationale, he has refused to provide evidence that this is necessary. Not only that, but it turns out he did not even consult the Archbishops before making his decision. We have an Established Church which has Archbishops and Bishops in the House of Lords, and the PMs refusal even to consult before making his decision is a shocking sign of the casual way he seems to treat his job. Lord North, move over, in the “worst PM” stakes, a position formerly held by Theresa May, we have a new winner, Boris the careless.
Let’s be clear here. There is no evidence that the churches have been part of the rise in Covid cases, though there appears to be plenty to suggest that the government’s subsidy for eating out was. The idea that going to church and receiving communion is not essential reveals a staggering state of theological illiteracy. As one very good article in the Church Times puts it, ‘The Church’s sacramental ministry is not an optional extra.’ My own Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Mosques and others, have all protested against both the manner in which the government has acted and what they have decided.
I have seen the argument ‘but you can still go to church to pray’ put forward as mitigation, and have had to explain to some friends what the Eucharist is and how, if we are to be conformed to Christ, communion is essential. Last time round we were deprived of this for three months, and for some of us, it was harrowing, but we accepted that in the face of the pandemic it was necessary. But we have put so much work in our churches to make them Covid-secure that it is maddening to have it ignored and to be told that our faith is an optional extra, like going to the pub or the cinema. It is a real sign of how religious illiteracy effects our public life. It took a Vicar’s daughter, Theresa May, to remind her party of the importance of our church, but Johnson did not even have the manners to stay and listen to her. Religious illiteracy we take for granted, alas, but discourtesy on the scale we have seen, is another matter.
As someone who did not vote for this shambolic government it may be I am biased, but when thirty four of his own MPs can’t vote for him, it seems I am not alone. I think Church leaders had led from the front here, it is a sad thing that our elected leader can’t follow suite.