The Opium of the Peephole

In recent decades, it’s been said that we’ve been losing our religion. But now with the coronabug, we’ve found a new one.

The NHS.

It embodies the values of Christianity without troubling the epistemological concerns of non-believers. It has its own martyrs who will suffer for us, yet it’s about devotion in practice with tangible outputs. It’s undisputedly real.

Any criticism of the NHS, and you’ll be on the wrong end of a carpet-bombing from the Leftwaffe. It’s the new blasphemy. Mind you, none of them have ever been too keen on funding it even when in government. Well, that is how most congregations feel about collection platters.

While church attendance has evaporated in recent years, you have to wonder whether the Christian clergy really does believe in itself anyway. If concern and support for one’s flock is an essential element of the job – even activity of sorts – they’ve got only themselves to blame for the prevalence of stray sheep.

But they’ve been swinging the lead for a while now, more so than the incense. Churchgoing is characterised by three distinct groups: a small gaggle, or hard rump of believers to whom God speaks directly and for whom God has a plan. Yes, really.

Then the majority – the virtue-signalling ‘Christians’ who love to be seen to be talking the Christian talk – and spelling it out for you. These are the ones who have missed the point that your ‘Christian’ status’ is best judged by others through their assessment of your deeds. These are the ones who switch to Prada or Hugo Boss once they’ve lost the faith.

Finally, attendance is bolstered by OAP hedge-betters – those who spent a lifetime dedicated to shitehousery but who have opted to cover all the bases as their day of reckoning approaches. Their punishment will come either from God (who of course will have spotted their chicanery) or in the form of wasted days in the pews if it all turns out to be a load of old hogwash.

By and large, parish priests just play the numbers game. As long as the pews are filled, the church justifies its position in society – and in turn their position. They don’t challenge the motives of their flock, so they don’t work at getting their followers to lead more authentic lives. I mean, you can’t risk any self-righteous strops and out-flouncing that might mean further attrition, can you?

Outside the mainstream denominations, the same applies to all those poky outhouse community churches that are typically run by ‘leadership teams’. They wear their ‘leadership’ badges, like the self-righteous wear their ‘Christian’ moniker. These capos retain a ‘say’ or some involvement in all the mundane aspects of their congregation’s lives, punctuating their tedious input with intermittent strumming of Kumbaya and the limp dispersal of orange juice and Digestives.

What they all have in common is their love of the power and the self-definition that the context of the church provides. They have a central role in a crusade that has a purpose. Game, set and match. You see, that’s what religion is. It’s not about pure belief but a system for social control and the exertion of power. Moreover, it uses the carrot of salvation and the mighty stick of an omnipotent force who will strike you down for non-compliance. Pretty much the same as the modus operandi of the shrill pro-NHS tub-thumpers.

Many of them love the fact that there is an entity to which they can now cling. In doing so, all the warm glow of saving others rubs off on them in the comfort of their isolated front room. Some of them are glorifying in the death rates because it keeps their cause high-profile. And it ratchets up their social media following for the consumption of their wealth-accumulating activity.

But back to the mainstream Church leaders. They have been found wanting at precisely when their followers would need them most. This crisis has left them flat-footed. They have no answers and if anything, their irrelevance has been laid bare. They’ve simply battened down the hatches and are peeking out through the peephole in the vestry. It’s a limited vantage point.

How much morale-boosting or mobilisation have any of these characters achieved in recent weeks? You won’t be seeing people delivering a Clap for God once a week any time soon.

Of course, death and tragedy have always proved to be sticky wickets for those keen to bat for God. But at least they would have made sense of it in their own way. Now, they’ve all just run for cover. Declining attendance at the traditional Clap for God (Sunday mornings) paints the picture. And that’s a gig when the vicar preaches to the converted.

While the weekly happy clap has been painful, at least there’s some substance to the motivation of the masses. Valuing the NHS and a having faith in God are both to be respected. But the power groups that sprung up around them that should not be. Those who thrive on being part of a movement that cannot be challenged.

In the meantime, it cannot be disputed that medical staff are walking the walk. They are through their deeds making sacrifices. Unconditional love and action, not words. And nobody’s craving power and control. Nobody’s blagging as a fair-weather friend.

God couldn’t have planned it better himself.

unsplash-logoAkira Hojo

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