Responding faithfully to the Coronavirus

In the US, according to a recent survey, 38% of citizens would not buy a Corona beer because of concern about the Coronavirus. (It is probably not true, but it is still not good news for the Mexican brand.) More seriously, fears about the virus have led to ‘ political and economic instability… xenophobia and racism against people of Chinese and East Asian descentand the spread of misinformation about the virus, primarily online. 

So it is perhaps worth offering some sobering reflection, from a medical, psychological, historical and theological point of view.


Medical: Dr Fiona Head writes:

As a Christian doctor and public health medic I have been watching the church response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak with some concern. As you might expect, professionally, and more importantly personally, I am no stranger to infectious disease. Historically, over the ages, caring for people has always involved personal risk. At the beginning of my medical training at an old, established London Medical School, we were ushered into an ancient lecture theatre and told starkly that had we been sitting there 100 years ago a third of us would have been dead from TB before we qualified as doctors. 

As it happened, by the time I had qualified and returned to work in the same hospital as a junior I had contracted TB—source uncertain, but most probably through exposure as a medical student. I went on to needlestick myself with blood from a highly infectious hepatitis patient, expose myself to measles whilst pregnant (the baby was fine) and I still at times develop viral infections that I suspect (but can’t prove) are related to patients I have seen in my GP work.

It’s a fact of life. People get sick. Sickness is often caused by bugs. If you spend time with people you may well catch their bugs as well. The more you care for people the more you are at risk of getting bugs.

We should obviously try to reduce the risk of infection. It’s important to protect people as far as humanly possible from the various risks they face as they go about their daily business. But each morning on my way to work I cycle past a picture of Li Wenliang on the pavement. Local Chinese people have surrounded his photo with flowers. Li Wenliang was a Christian, and a doctor. He died as a result of caring for people. What does being a Christian mean for each of us in this situation?

To be quite honest I find that the Church of England advice on coronavirus, issued initially on 13th February and revised on Tuesday (3rd March), is wide of the mark. A search on the (admittedly very small) academic literature on infection risks associated with communion reveals only one good study where the actual differences between sipping from a common cup and intinction are assessed in terms of the resultant microbial load. Whilst the risk of infection passing from person to person through sharing a common cup is very low overall, not surprisingly intinction produced less microbial load than sipping. I say “not surprisingly” as it is a much shorter pathway for a bug to hop from chest to spit to communion cup than for a bug to hop chest-spit-hands-bread-cup. The advice to avoid intinction as a way to reduce infection makes little scientific sense to me. 

However, by focussing on decreased personal risk through an emphasis on the mode of communion we miss the point. The NHS is planning and preparing at speed for coronavirus but I am not hearing plans from our church on how to scale up our care for those who are already vulnerable, the elderly and the sick – the people who will be disproportionately affected by this virus.

I listened today to the Chief Scientific Adviser in a press conference with the Prime Minister exhorting us that “central to this we protect the vulnerable”. And the Chief Medical Officer encouraging national “extraordinary outbreaks of altruism”.

If I am hearing that from my secular leaders, why I am not hearing that from my church? Caring for people always involves risk. As we prepare for more cases of coronavirus, as a church do we need to re-examine our priorities?


Psychological: Dr Samuel Paul Veissière offered this challenging reflection on the real impact of the virus in Psychology Today.

Ask yourself the following: Would you feel confident taking an over-the-counter medication if you were 98 percent sure it would work safely? Would you dare to gamble all your savings in a one-off scheme in which you had a 98 percent chance of losing it all?

The coronavirus is a similar no-brainer. As a generic member of the human species, you have about the same odds of dying of the coronavirus as winning in the gambling scenario. These are overall rates, meaning that unless you are already in very poor health, are very old, or very young, the odds for you are much lower. Or next to nil.

Why then are so many countries implementing quarantine measures, shutting down their borders, schools, and soccer games for something that is less likely to happen to anyone than drowning in a single year, or even being hit by lightning in one’s lifetime? Why is the stock-market crashing, and why are school and workplace mass emails, news headlines, social media feeds, and face-to-face conversations dominated by stories about what is essentially a new strand of mild to moderate flu?

Our minds like to jump to threatening headlines with big, alarming numbers. As this post was first aired, a total of 80,000 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in 40 countries. To put things in perspective again, this is a mere 0.0001% of the world population. In comparison, seasonal outbreaks of influenza make 3 to 5 million people sick enough to seek treatment worldwide (up to 0.06% of the population) while many more cases go undetected. The seasonal flu results in 290,000 to 650,000 deaths each year — up to 0.008% of the population.

To grasp the full — and very real — power of the coronavirus, we need to enter the rabbit hole of evolved human psychology.

The coronavirus is quite simply, and almost exclusively, a moral panic. This is so in the most literal sense. Human bodies, minds, societies, systems of meaning, norms, and morality have co-evolved with pathogens. Determining who drove whom in this dark scenario is currently unclear.

To understand this strange dynamic, consider people’s blatant inability to make statistically correct inferences about actual risk in the current epidemic of catastrophizing about COVID-19. The human propensity to ignore basic probability, and our mind’s fondness for attending to ‘salient’ information is well-documented. The negativity bias is one of the most potent of such pre-programmed mental heuristics: Any cue that contains information about potential dangers and threats will jump to mind easily, will be easier to remember, and easier to pass on. In the lingo of cultural epidemiologists, we describe danger cues as possessing “high learnability, memorability, and teachability” — or high feed-forward potential in epidemics of ideas. There is a clear evolutionary advantage to this trait: We are better off over-interpreting rather than under-interpreting danger. In most cases, these instant associations work well. Cues that signal the presence of pathogens tend to elicit automatic disgust responses, so as to help us avoid dangers.  Over time, we’ve also evolved the ability to react instantly to a range of visual and auditory cues that convey a high likelihood of pathogen presence. This is why most of us are grossed out by the presence of mice, rats, or bugs, or by the sound of sniffling…

The bad news for you is that, if you live in a densely populated area, you are very likely to contract the coronavirus — if not this year, next year, or the year after as it undergoes its seasonal global migration pattern with its zoonotic cousins.

The good news is that you will almost certainly not die from it, and it may not even register that you are slightly more sluggish than usual for a week or two. Much more relevant to the terrible threat caused by our Pathogen Overlords, you can prepare to fight the yearly Corona invasions to come by resisting your own neuroticism, your own prejudice, and your own irrationality. As far as numbers games are concerned, our Pathogen Overlords are much more noble, and much more worthy of our hatred than our fellow human pseudo-enemies in political, religious, and culture wars.


Historical: Candida Moss notes, in a 2014 article at CNN, the impact of plagues in the third-century Roman Empire.

Cyprian, the mid-third century bishop of Carthage, provides us with the most detailed description of the plague’s terrible effects. In his essay “De mortalitate” (“On Mortality”), Cyprian wrote:

“The intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; the eyes are on fire with the infected blood; that in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction.”

In many cases, Cyprian went on to say, blindness and deafness would ensue.

At its height the epidemic is estimated to have killed 5,000 people a day in the city of Rome alone. Among them were two Roman emperors: Hostilian and Claudius II Gothic. The effects were just as extreme elsewhere in the empire. Sociologist Rodney Stark writes that as much as two-thirds of the population in Alexandria, Egypt, died.

Modern scientists may believe that the disease was smallpox, but to Cyprian it was a portent of the end of the world. Interestingly, this belief may have actually helped the spread of Christianity. Cyprian noted that Christians were also dying from the plague, but suggested that only non-Christians had anything to fear.

[In fact, Rodney Stark goes on to calculate the impact of plagues on the growth of Christian faith. Not only were pagans impressed by their courage and care, but Christians who got the plague were more likely to survive because their Christian relatives and friends stayed and cared for them, whilst pagans were abandoned.]


Theological: Church historian Eusebius recalls the response of Christians to the two plagues in Rome, according to the account of Dionysius:

The most of our brethren were unsparing in their exceeding love and brotherly kindness. They held fast to each other and visited the sick fearlessly, and ministered to them continually, serving them in Christ. And they died with them most joyfully, taking the affliction of others, and drawing the sickness from their neighbors to themselves and willingly receiving their pains. And many who cared for the sick and gave strength to others died themselves having transferred to themselves their death.

Truly the best of our brethren departed from life in this manner, including some presbyters and deacons and those of the people who had the highest reputation; so that this form of death, through the great piety and strong faith it exhibited, seemed to lack nothing of martyrdom.

And they took the bodies of the saints in their open hands and in their bosoms, and closed their eyes and their mouths; and they bore them away on their shoulders and laid them out; and they clung to them and embraced them; and they prepared them suitably with washings and garments. And after a little they received like treatment themselves, for the survivors were continually following those who had gone before them.

But with the heathen everything was quite otherwise. They deserted those who began to be sick, and fled from their dearest friends. They shunned any participation or fellowship with death; which yet, with all their precautions, it was not easy for them to escape.

Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 7.22.7-10


So how should we respond? Wash your hands, and recite the Lord’s Prayer as you do (it is better than singing ‘Happy birthday’ twice). Trust in God, care for the sick, and share your hope of life beyond death. Remember Ps 91:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
They say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 
You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 


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28 thoughts on “Responding faithfully to the Coronavirus”

  1. I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead franchise and enjoy watching ‘pandemic’ films and TV programmes (e.g. Outbreak, Contagion, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and I dare say many, many others do, too. I wonder how far the scenarios presented in these sorts of media have infiltrated and so affect the way we respond to real-world situations like Covid-19.

    (I watched Outbreak in the cinema with a streaming cold!)

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  2. Wise words.

    One beneficial side effect from the panic for us the sick and vulnerable is that suddenly our carers are being hyper careful about things they should have been more thoughtful about all along, especially hand washing and not coming to work sick – they’re so poorly paid they often daren’t take a day off.

    I think Leviticus, although no longer de rigueur us being no longer under the law, has some vital principals when it comes to public health. Washing with clean water and quarantine seem to be key elements since time immemorial. As is adequate pay for public health officials to enforce the contagious diseases rulings – for which whole freshly slaughtered meat is a suitably attractive remuneration. (splashed diluted blood droplets, disinfected with hyssop is also a useful publicly visible sign to certify a house free of contamination – wonderful the things they used to think of)

    I like the emphasis in this post on the value of caring and not abandoning the sick. I’ve long wondered if much illness would be less damaging, both physically and emotionally if the social isolation/feelings of abandonment element were removed as per NT commands.

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  3. A very thoughtful compilation, and a timely correction of perspective.

    Could do without all the adscititious evolution stuff, though. We are psychologically what we are, and Darwinian just-so-stories are simply the outworking of their evolutionist presupposition. A different presupposition will lead to a different explanation of why we are what we are.

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    • Ok, Steven, please give your explanation based on your presuppositions for the behaviour described of overreacting to potential threats?

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  4. “…Darwinian just-so-stories are simply the outworking of their evolutionist presupposition.”

    Steven: it sounds like you are pouring scorn again. Evolution is the predominant theory, even among Christians.

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    • This time it’s stating the fact of the matter. Veissière is forthright in gratuitously pushing his Darwinian ideology, an anti-theology wholly foreign to the biblical world-view. As for Christians following a fundamentally atheistic explanation of the world – where there is no spirit and God is merely tolerated as an optional, non-functioning extra for the religious – that’s up to them. The Word of God says, “Make up your mind. If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” “The wisdom of the wise is folly with God.” “See that you don’t become prey to philosophy and empty deceit.”

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      • While evolution may be a dominant scientific theory (and a matter of debate amongst Christians), evolutionary psychology such as that quoted above is more or less pure speculation – it’s not as if there is a fossil record of psychology! I also found that the contribution from Veissière was totally lacking in empathy for the most vulnerable for whom coronavirus is a dire threat.

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      • That’s a false choice. Saying that evolutionary theory is ‘fundamentally atheistic’ is like saying the laws of physics are fundamentally atheistic. They both describe mechanisms, ie how things work.

        Peter

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        • I don’t follow your comment here. Evolution is a theory of origins, and as is noted here, it has been extended to “explain” human psychology on the same basic principle of survival and what aids that. The laws of physics, on the other hand, are not about origins but observable facts of how matter in motion behaves (that’s basically the definition of physics). AFAIK, it doesn’t offer any explanation of where these laws come from: they are just there.
          For what it’s worth (not much, as I’m not a scientist), I have become increasingly dissatisfied with evolution as an explanatory theory of life. The more I have read in the past ten years about the Cambrian explosion, the fossil record, cellular structures, the unimaginable complexity of DNA, stochastic statistics and origin of life studies, the less I have been convinced that Neo-Darwinism can provide a credible pathway of explanation. My recent reading in the problem of mind and consciousness has only deepened my doubts. Of particular interest was reading ‘Mind and Cosmos’ by the atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel. Increasingly I suspect that biologists (especially atheist biologists) hold on to nurse for fear of something worse.

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      • I have to agree and disagree here.

        I personally can’t bear so called Darwinian ideology, which went on to ‘evolve’ into much that even Darwin wouldn’t have been at home with and has a very patronising and destructive feel to it, at least in the social sciences. When I was in Hamburg in 1990 there had been a conference where I think theological colleges were apologising for their role in perpetuating certain linked theories.

        However, my reading of Genesis allows for wide interpretations of how God actually might have done his creating and it’s salutary to note that merely within my lifetime there’s finally been an acknowledgement of a role of UV light in our origins and the concept of continental drift which are both so clearly encapsulated there. Let alone what “God said … and the earth brought forth” might be referring to.

        I am 100% into God creating the world and value modern science but I think the “creationist”and “evolutionist” approaches to the Genesis documents are not just insulting to modern science but especially to what incredible sociological and anthropological resources they are. Some of our so called debates descend into the down right ridiculous.

        For example in respect of the oral record represented there, (so cleverly preserved by the system of numbers so if you haven’t got 7 each of this and that you’ve remembered wrong, wow!), there has been a huge move in anthropology in the light of quite recent Australian evidence that folk stories can contain very deep memory. The acknowledgement that there were actually mega fauna for example, giant kangaroos roaming in now lost hunting grounds through global warming and flooding that finally finished about 8000 years ago mean that oral memories can go much much deeper than previously thought. Likewise the discovery of a 4000 yr old meteor crater in a forbidden territory which matches with folk tales from the area, although the disaster is attributed to a vengeful being rather than a natural phenomenon.

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    • Evolutionism may be whatever you think it to be, but the one thing it isn’t is Biblical. Nor did Jesus believe anything but the Biblical creation narrative. It is therefore simply NOT Christian.

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      • Biblical? I don’t read anything about the coronavirus in the bible actually. Can’t find the sword anywhere! Maybe it evolved from one of the other viruses the bible mentions? 🙂

        Can’t find anything about antibiotics in the bible – but I’m glad they were discovered nearer to my lifetime. Can’t read anything about electricity either. But here it is, working pretty well…………….but Jesus didn’t know about either of them.

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        • Andrew, I’m a bit surprised by this comment. You castigate me for appearing (in your eyes) to pour scorn (comment above), but heavy sarcasm on your part is OK?

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        • Like you, I’m at a loss to understand this antagonism to the process of evolution, Andrew.

          But as someone who many would called a conservative evangelical, I have not the slightest problem with recognising its role in God’s creative process. How, when, if or whether he stepped in and used direct creation at certain times is not a question that keeps me awake at night. Perhaps he did; what’s the problem?

          Personally, I tend to think that a creative process that takes either eons or microseconds is one and the same thing to God who is not bounded by time in any way. So Christians who try to set Bible against science are missing out on a revelation into the mind and greatness of God which enhances both wonder and faith. Who wouldn’t want to know more about a God who orchestrates time, space and matter in ways that just blow the mind?

          It’s time to read (or better, to sing) Psalm 19 again, and perhaps to go outside and take a bit more notice of the created world!

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          • Hear hear, Don. And we allow to ourselves a ‘dynamic’ God who talks to people and but we can’t credit him with having created a dynamic world which can adapt and develop rather than a static one. I’m humming along with you.

          • What’s the problem? It’s that Darwinism postulates an entirely purposeless, undirected cosmos in which life “”happened” by chance (how?) and has no purpose other than “stayin’ alive”; and that homo sapiens is simply one speciated branch of a supposed tree of life and one that will evolve into another species (why should it not, if we all came from the same initial germ?); that consciousness is only an illusion and is nothing other than biochemical reactions in the brain; and that thinking, morality and all the rest are reducible to that fundamental (but impersonal) life-force. In other words, Darwinism is a materialist doctrine, whereas the Bible (and Christ) describes human beings as body-soul dualisms. What theology calls a ‘soul’, evolutionary psychology calls developed and inherited responses aimed at protecting the survival and reproduction of the species.
            If you want to argue that macro-evolution is the mechanism that the Creator chose to produce human beings (which I think is the current Roman Catholic position), you also have to reckon with the wastefulness and inherent violence of evolution, as well as postulating moments of miraculous intervention (e.g. the creation of minds and souls). But that is not Darwinism, and it’s precisely this view of humans that people like Stephen Pinker and Patricia Churchland are trying to overthrow.

      • If God is the Creator and is behind the mechanism of evolution, can one not still say that God is the creator of the universe and life?

        Peter

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        • A very common thought. There are three reasons why the answer is No.

          (1) ‘Create’ means doing what nature of itself cannot do (hence scientists in this field of natural philosophy do not use the word). The evolutionist (NeoDarwinist + Big Bang cosmology) explanation deifies Nature/Evolution by saying, in effect, that Nature created itself.
          (2) In addition, the biblical account expressly says that God brought the habitable world into existence ‘in the beginning’ – he finished his work of creation in the beginning. This is quite different from saying that the world has been progressively forming itself over billions of years, from the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago onward, and still is.
          (3) According to the biblical view, animals are both body and spirit, and to make a living animal there needs to be God to breathe his spirit into the embryo. Evolutionism does not recognise the reality of spirit; the ‘mechanism of evolution’ is purely physical.

          In addition, the consequence of thinking in the way you propose is that you have to ditch Genesis 1-3. You can still persuade yourself that it is a nice myth, but if the myth came from God, you have to say he didn’t take much care over ensuring that its mythic purpose did not unnecessarily contradict what the wise men of today tell us happened. It would have been easy enough for him to have said that the Earth was created after the Sun.

          It is in fact the evolutionist story that is mythic in character. It bears little relation to the geological facts bearing on the question (I write as a geologist).

          These are the reasons why, to respond to your other comment, evolutionism is fundamentally atheistic. To say that ‘evolutionary theory’ is like the laws of physics is similar to saying that ‘scientific Marxism’ is like the laws of physics. You are confusing physics with metaphysics and accepting a worldview where even metaphysics (or human psychology) is merely a product of highly organised atoms.

          Going back to Veissière. He uses the word ‘pre-programmed’ at one point – that is not a Darwinian concept. And when he says, ‘There is a clear evolutionary advantage to this trait: We are better off over-interpreting rather than under-interpreting danger’, the word ‘evolutionary’ is otiose. One might delete it without loss, and the believer in creation assent to the point (true or not) without compunction. Veissière is indeed ‘over-interpreting’ the trait.

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      • You must remember that there is a difference between evolution and evolutionism, just as there is a difference between science and scientism.

        Evolution in general means simply ‘change with time’. There is lots of evidence for biological evolution – i.e. change in living creatures over time. The basic idea is really quite reasonable. The assumptions are that:
        a) some characteristics are passed on to offspring
        b) variations of characteristics can arise
        c) some characteristics are more helpful than others, and so are more likely to be passed on.
        d) a change in environment can alter the characteristics which are helpful

        If a characteristic is likely to enhance survival, then it will tend to become common amongst individuals of a population simply because those without it are less likely to survive!

        It is clear that in the animal kingdom behaviours are passed on in this way. In my garden at the moment I see birds pairing up (robins, tits and goldfinches). I don’t think this is learned behaviou (at least one of the robins was born last year, and its parents did not survive).

        Of course human beings are much more complex than birds. The human brain is extraordinary in its plasticity and ability to adapt and learn. However, even for us there are behaviour patterns which are more instinctive and not learned. For this one need do no more that see how new born babies behave and react. ‘Pareidolia’ – seeing faces in things – is another example.

        So, it is not unreasonable to suppose that a tendency to see a threat when there is no threat can develop rather than a tendency to see no threat when there is one.

        Nor did Jesus believe anything but the Biblical creation narrative.

        I’m not sure exactly on what you base this. It is presumably a reference to Jesus quoting Gen 2.24. That is an interpolation by the narrator into the actual narrative. I don’t think it provides evidence that Jesus understood the whole narrative in the same way that you do!

        Remember that doubts over a naive reading of the first chapters of Genesis were around long before modern science. Read Augustine’s commentary.

        I’m currently reading “Covenant and Conversation” by Jonathan Sacks (the former Chief Rabbi) which is a series of reflections on Genesis. It is very good, and shows the deep riches to be found in this book, often flowing from its careful literary construction. For example, in the strophic refrain of “and there was evening and there was morning, the N’th day” (not present, of course, for the seventh day – is that a day which does not come to an end?) the Hebrew words ‘erev and boqer are a commentary on the process of creation, in a way that ‘night’ and ‘day’ would not be.

        The danger of insisting on a certain interpretation of the text which is clearly at odds with the what can clearly be understood by observation of the world is that people will reject the text and thereby not gain the deep truths that it contains.

        But this is getting rather far from our response to the corona virus…

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  5. ‘Whilst the risk of infection passing from person to person through sharing a common cup is very low overall, not surprisingly intinction produced less microbial load than sipping. I say “not surprisingly” as it is a much shorter pathway for a bug to hop from chest to spit to communion cup than for a bug to hop chest-spit-hands-bread-cup. The advice to avoid intinction as a way to reduce infection makes little scientific sense to me.’
    I am a little puzzled by this analysis: as we are being encouraged to wash our hands to prevent infection, is this not to prevent contamination of our hands from public surfaces rather than infection from our own bodies? As a recent survey showed that around 25% of people don’t wash their hands after using the toilet, this is also a source of other unwanted contamination to be avoided!

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    • Yes, I was puzzled by that comment as well, as hands usually make contact with the cup during intinction – as they also do when the cup is handed to communicants to drink from. Perhaps we evangelicals who don’t have communion very often have the safest approach!
      As for intinction, I dislike the practice as bread often ends up in the cup.

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  6. On the subject of intinction – which I assumed represented a very low risk – I exchanged emails today with a working clergyman of long experience. He says: “Over the years, .. I have been amazed at how many ‘intincters’ do actually dip their fingers well into the wine.” Ugh.

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  7. ‘Responding faithfully to the Coronavirus’

    Perhaps part of the issue is raised by this title. Nearly all of us will be responding to the media’s presentation of the issue rather than any personal experience or knowledge about the virus itself. That’s inevitable and the media cannot be blamed for it; but we all know that they are at least partly driven by the need to attract attention just as much as any self imposed duty to inform. And of course there is also the issue of agenda colouring the choice of story and presentation of data. At the current time our knowledge is pretty limited and the degree of risk, as well as the timing and extent of spread, veer wildly almost from hour to hour: speculation is rife.

    With that caveat I’d suggest that the Christian response should be no different from what it is to the way we view and react to the world around us in general. On the one hand we have our eternal perspective, and that is a comfort (a strengthening certainty) as well as a challenge; on the other we are fully involved with earthly concerns both for our own well-being and also to love our neighbours as ourselves. So we should be calm but concerned; and the concern must surely be expressed in deeds. We will want to do the right thing both as individuals and also as members of community. We will recoil from the notion of stripping supermarket shelves but observe the common sense advice for hand washing and reducing the chances of droplet infection. I think we should be particularly aware of people who will be experiencing dire financial insecurity as a secondary consequence of the virus – the worry will be huge.

    My own view of taking communion is that it must carry a greater degree of infection spread than if it were not to happen. On a purely pragmatic basis I would suggest that it should be foregone at least until we know more or that the disease has run its course (become endemic) or that a good vaccine has become available. The way people pass on bread or wine will make some difference, but any close personal movement and passing on of physical objects will carry some risk.

    It may be argued that many people cannot avoid similar kinds of contact in their daily lives (shop workers are an obvious example); the point is that communion is not necessary to daily life or the earning of one’s living, and many of us would hold that it is not spiritually necessary on a weekly basis either (other views are available!). Christians should not be about virtue signalling, but foregoing communion for a while would demonstrate self denial for the common good. It might possibly save a few lives across the nation in congregations that are elderly – who knows?

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    • All fair comments. But a bit tough for those high church parishes where weekly eucharist is the norm – not something I’ve ever cared for, as the communion service is not particularly ‘seeker-friendly’.

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  8. Disappointing article

    The psychology response is failing to understand the disruption caused by the illness, even if you survive. The prospect is that health services will be overwhelmed by the demand if we fail to prevent, or at least slow, the spread. This will lead to far more deaths. And 2% is still pretty serious.

    But the real failure is to not use Jesus’ response to a two disasters:

    Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’

    (Luke 13)

    The point being that we need to be using this to make people think about where they are with God; if it was Jesus’ response, why isn’t it how we are responding?

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