How a dangerous pandemic works for (God's) good

By Jon Morgan

In these difficult times, almost everything seems to about Covid-19. It is a pandemic that is already bad and looks like getting a lot worse.

However, many Christians feel almost contractually obliged to look for the good side of the pandemic, and this just ends up showing
the bad side of their religion.

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30 comments:

  1. Id keep your feelings about Trump out of it, your political agenda or position has nothing to do with your article..

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    1. I would agree. But it is nonetheless an excellent article and insightful and articulate. Minimally, a nine on a scale of one to ten.

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  2. Paul, I disagree (obviously, otherwise I wouldn't have left it in). I thought it was important to acknowledge that it was possible to see some good coming out of a disaster, and that the problem I saw with the Christian vision was not that they were looking for some good, but that the kind of good they were looking for is repugnant. And when looking for possible good I naturally turn to my readings and the opinions of my friends.

    However, though I wasn't particularly aiming for any of these points, it is relevant to the wider picture. Covid-19 is something of a natural disaster, but also something of a human-caused and magnified disaster. That's part of why I acknowledged that the current world isn't perfect. Different leaders in different countries have mishandled Covid-19 in different ways which have contributed to its spread, and I don't know that I would have done any better if I'd been in their place. Some of it was just a rapidly evolving situation and people were caught on the back foot.

    Trump is different, though. To a unique extent he shows contempt for the mere concept of truth or a reality he doesn't like, and that affected the way Covid-19 was handled. From where I stand (in Australia, but with US friends, so it's not affecting my politics but the people I know and care about), that's not a political statement, but a statement of fact. It was abundantly clear before Covid-19, but it is possibly even more damaging in the early US response to Covid-19. I knew the US was going to be in serious trouble a month or two before Trump suddenly pivoted to saying "100,000 deaths would be a success" after having downplayed it, apparently for his own political purposes. The word was out there, it was available to read, and some states (mostly those with Democratic governors) were acting on it while Trump was trying to downplay it. Again, this is not about my political positions, but about the real lives affected, including my friends, and the fact that Trump does not appear to care.

    Finally, though again this was not my intention, Trump is in power in large part because of Christian support. In my experience, Christians and non-Christians alike here in Australia look on in bemusement at how a power group which have in the past been very strong on morality and good conduct supported a leader whose past actions are so contrary to their teachings (commonly quoted number: 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump).

    The main article's author is from Michigan - one of the states which flipped to give Trump the presidency. I looked up what he wrote before the election, and he didn't endorse Trump. However, he did use some of the same talking points as were used by evangelicals who did endorse Trump. I don't know his actual position, but suspect his article was written so that both "pro-Trumpers" and "never-Trumpers" could read it and agree with it. Michigan has been much better served by their governor who acted early than by the president they helped elect who chose to publicly attack that governor - as in fact he chooses to attack most people who disagree with him. And I hope the voters of Michigan remember that in the coming federal election. Yes, that's something of a political statement and far off the original intention of this article, but Trump's actions affect real people, including friends I care about, and I am shocked by the support Christians have given him.

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  3. Paul, it's Jon's article on his own blog, and he is a publishing editor here, so surely he can write what he wants to? Before you ask,I have never been to the US,(and never Will), have no friends there, don't watch US TV shows, and have no idea how their politics work. In short I don't care about what goes on in the US

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  4. Thanks Joseph. Honestly, there are many weird things about the US, and I'd be happier in a lot of ways to go back to the time in past years when I didn't have to worry about life there or religion there, but I do. It does have some beautiful national parks, though. I don't regret the couple of times I've travelled there.

    On my blog, yes, I publish whatever I want. On here, though, I try to only cross-post posts I think relevant to an audience of Christadelphians and ex-Christadelphians. Sometimes that goes into more general Biblical interpretation (as this post was), but it's valid to call me out on it if posts go too far from that general goal. In this case Paul seems to be objecting to one sentence or maybe two in a 3,000 word post, and I'm comfortable the rest of the post is valid here.

    However, re-reading my comment from the other day, I see that I probably did go too far from my idea of this blog's purpose. It's relevant to the wider issues of religion and politics in the US, but doesn't specifically relate to Christadelphians or the Bible. That said, I must admit I didn't expect that a post I did on Brexit would turn into a discussion on coronavirus, then a post on coronavirus would turn into a discussion on US politics...

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  5. There is a very good chance he will be re-elected. Not a 100% he will go back in but a good chance.
    I think if look back into history many different leaders have worked in favour of some people and not others..you got to remember they voted for him.

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  6. Paul, back in February with the US economy in relatively good shape I thought Trump had a reasonable chance of re-election. If the economic consequences of Covid-19 restrictions persist till the election, it will probably make it harder for an incumbent president like Trump to win re-election, though it would certainly be possible if he sold his narrative effectively.

    Since I'm trying to keep this thread from devolving into a US politics discussion that's all I'll say.

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  7. Fair enough. You will have to be like me and wait until the election to find out buddy.

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  8. Paul, can I just say that's a completely unhelpful comment? We cannot know with 100% certainty just about anything about the future. This isn't limited to presidential elections - it's true of everything.

    That doesn't mean we throw up our hands, give up, and wait to see what happens. Some things increase the probability and some things reduce the probability, and some of these things are things we can influence while others are things that we can't. In my view it is irresponsible to stop considering the future and what we can know or guess about it just because we can't be 100% certain.

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    1. We are all entitled to our political biases and viewpoints. It's just better not to try to promote them when the gist of an article is about the undesirable nature of biases, religious or otherwise.

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    2. Normally on here, when people are saying things like that, it's an attempt to shut down conversation. There are many reasons why someone may wish to predict the outcome of an election in advance, financial investment decisions for example, and diplomatic ones too, which may be some distance from politics. It's curious to me that people are so easily triggered by the sort of casual conversation one might have with friends in the pub.
      All those lurid "videos" produced by Christadelphians featuring images of world (political) leaders along with specious claims such as "Controversy, disturbances, rise and fall of leaders are generating uncertainty everywhere". From the inside, and the out, it's always been clear that at least UK Christadelphians, have a very right wing point of view, and the NSS complaint should have brought this home.
      If such harmless writing that Jon has produced offends you so much, then this may not be the place for you.

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  9. What we can be 100% certain of, is that whoever wins, it will have been "no surprise" and "expected" by Christadelphian Bible "students", and, since it will always have been in God's plan, any ideas that voting one way or another will have had the slightest effect, will be rubbished.
    Just like how God knew that the Chinese wet markets would not listen to the Christadelphian's efforts to impose the law of Moses upon them.

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    1. Leviticus 11:13-19 does indeed forbid the eating of bats, but at the same time it classifies them as birds. This is understandable for an iron age human author. Not so much a divine one. Of course they'll say God was simply explaining things in terms they would understand - but wouldn't that excuse work for every inaccuracy in every religious text? Isn't it interesting how this all-knowing, super-being always manages to sound exactly like an iron age human scribe?

      Meanwhile we have this handy tip in v20:
      "All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you" (KJV)

      So, can they give us an example of these 4-legged fowls? Other translations say "insects", which doesn't really help either.

      But it seems somewhere along the way they got tired of counting legs so they added this escape clause in v42:

      "Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all four, or whatsoever hath more feet among all creeping things that creep upon the earth, them ye shall not eat; for they are an abomination"

      Hope that's clear :D

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  10. When did i say im throwing my heands in the air and giving up.. you have a good imagination. I just said we have to wait until the election to see if he gets re-elected, after you quoting it will make it harder for him to be re-elected. Stand by what i say ,will wait and see.

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  11. Paul seems to be worried about Jon having or expressing an agenda or a political position. it seems to me unlikely that he has an agenda, but after years of repression as a christadelphian, to have a political position seems to be just part of the process of becoming a normal member of human society.
    I'm actually more interested in what exactly the Christadelphian agenda is. Two separate posts on bibleinthenews.com over the last couple of weeks have repeatedly focused on how the failure of the Chinese and Africans to follow Jewish dietary laws have caused this outbreak. The most recent of these has a strange line, close to the end.
    "And a lot of this can seem to us in the 21st century as obvious, but to some degree, this is because our western culture still has historical roots in Judeo-Christian values. And it is also true that there are some creatures which seem gross to eat that were permitted to be eaten, because they are actually perfectly safe, such as locusts and beetles. And equally, there are some animals like pigs, whose carcasses now have to be treated differently from the clean animals we eat today".
    For reasons that are not relevant here, I am very familiar with the pig slaughter and processing method, and I assume that the Christadelphians are referring to the scalding process employed immediately after bleedout, before dehairing and polishing, used to reduce bacteria levels on the carcass before cutting. What are they getting at? Does a pig become "clean" to them if it goes through modern slaughter techniques? Or is it just that Christadelphians eat pork and need some kind of excuse for doing so.
    A rapid trawl of what Christadelphians are writing at the moment seems to back up what Thom said elsewhere. They are enjoying greatly the suffering of mankind, and relishing the financial damage being wrought. As a means of hedging, they are now claiming this to be like "contractions" before the main event (birth). This is needed of course to protect their position later, when things do recover.
    With regard to the financial damage, with regard to UK Christadelphians, around 80% live on either private or state pensions, so they have little to be concerned about, their incomes are safe. Their Ecclesias are at least partly funded by tax relief handouts.
    Younger Christadelphians are now able to "homeschool", their children, probably for the remainder of this academic year. I wonder how many will continue this when the schools reopen? Are they taking full advantage of the situation to teach them as they should?
    Mark wondered elsewhere on here if many Christadelphians would fall to the "mancott factor", and having been freed from cult attendance for a few months, will never return. Will the young people dive into the baptism pool in vast numbers, or wonder what on earth their elders are up to criticizing society as a whole whilst claiming that Jewish diet laws and prayers are the way forward...will they abandon their upcoming college courses to go and teach the Chinese to eat properly I wonder?

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    1. Joseph, I think being influenced to become distanced from Christadelphianism by Christadelphians in any permanent way, to have an effect, the "Mancott Factor" has to contain two elements. Firstly, doubt, and secondly, a complete shut-off from CD influence. As to the first, perhaps there will be some who do have doubts. As to the second, as far as I can ascertain from friends who are still CDs, there seems to be some continuing contact and influence by means of technology, or by mail. This continuing contact will not bring about the second "Mancott Factor" necessary for an effective separation from the cult. In my own case, for some time whilst still attending I felt there was something not quite right about what I had been born into. So, I was having some doubt, but couldn`t at that time put my finger on the actual reason. Eventually, stopping attending all 'meetings', I did achieve the second of the "Mancott Factors". This enabled my brain to become unscrambled from years of indoctrination, and I eventually then spent many years reading and researching, and found that my doubt had been justified, and that Christadelphians certainly did not have THE truth.
      I do think that the young people within Christadelphianism, especially the older unbaptised, may find the separation in the main from similarly placed friends, will have more of an effect in allowing them to think differently from the constant stream of the ism, by which they have become unconsciously used to being bombarded.

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    2. Here in Australia I have quite a few young people as friends and still belong to several mailing lists. Young people's activities are still being organised electronically, and some of my more fervent friends certainly attend them. I have no idea how attendance numbers compare with more usual times or whether people will treat an electronic only version differently. Similarly, I'm pretty sure most or all of my family will be attending Sunday services electronically weekly, and probably other activities if scheduled.

      I suspect that anyone who does not have doubts, either existing or induced by how God could possibly allow a pandemic like this to happen, will be able to find sufficient activities to keep them involved and will feel it their duty to continue to be involved in those activities. Whether those who do have doubts will find it easier to slip away I don't know. Maybe.

      My personal experience was kind of the opposite - I grew increasing doubts while remaining an active member, and thus seeing that Christadelphians had nothing to counter those doubts. Though I did experience some of what Mancott described after having officially resigned: It freed me to question more of my upbringing more safely, and meant that I'm even more confident now than I was then that I made the right decision.

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  12. Paul, I made a probabilistic assessment based on the information we have to hand, and you responded that we couldn't know till after the election. How is that other than throwing up your hands in the air and giving up on trying to evaluate the situation in advance?

    Actually, it's worse than that, because the results of the election won't even answer the question. It could be more difficult for Trump and yet he still wins the election. Similarly, it could be easier for him and yet he doesn't win the election. In neither case is the prediction wrong, merely probabilistic.

    This is actually the mistake some made evaluating the predictions after the 2016 election. FiveThirtyEight, who in my opinion had the most accurate forecasts, gave Trump roughly 1/3 chance and Hillary roughly 2/3 chance. They justified this with models going down to the state level, showing their predictions and confidence level for each state based on polling data etc., and presenting several valid paths to the presidency for Trump. One of which he took. Trump winning did not invalidate their prediction at all, since they had predicted it to be less likely, but a perfectly possible outcome. It's like playing Russian roulette with a one in six chance of death - the model will predict that you are most likely to be alive after one shot. But its prediction is not wrong if in fact you get the one in six chance and die.

    The reason I go into this at length is because it's not about US politics, but about how we see and interact with the world, and that is something that leaving Christadelphia gave me a different perspective on. You may or may not have been intending this, but your comments sounded a lot like Christadelphians saying "Just wait until after your dead, and then we'll see whether you're right or wrong about there being no judgement". And technically, they are right, we can't possibly know with 100% certainty what the outcome is until after it's happened. But that's too late. We need to make assessments now, and we can't make those assessments based on certainty, only on likelihood. And in that case, I see the many problems with the Bible as a sign that it's unlikely to reflect truth, and similarly I see the many past predictions of Christadelphians that the Signs of the Times are being fulfilled and the return of Christ is just round the corner as a sign that their next prediction is unlikely to be right.

    I can't be 100% certain, but I do have reason to make a probabilistic assessment that it's close enough to certainty as to make no difference, and to judge my actions accordingly. And, in the unlikely case that Jesus does return or that I wake up after death to stand before the Judgement Seat, I consider myself perfectly entitled to say "It's not my problem that you gave me no reason to believe, and ample reasons to disbelieve".

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  13. Thanks Joseph. I think it's abundantly clear from a couple of my comments that I do hold a partisan position on US politics, but was surprised to find a single sentence expressing that position in a largely unrelated article got such attention. No hidden agenda there.

    I've probably said this many times before, but I believe any reliance on the OT law is theologically weak (and particularly bad, as you say, if they want to stress some parts of the dietary law while ignoring others). One of these days they might actually annoy me enough to write the article about this that I've been promising for at least a year and maybe two years.

    Also, as Thom says, even if you decide to admit the dietary laws from the Law of Moses, those laws themselves have things that don't hold up to scrutiny. It's cherry-picking to say that some parts of the law, if followed, would have prevented this happening if you're then going to ignore the parts that are embarassing or you don't think apply. Finally, at least some of those health laws specifically talk about holiness or such-like being the goal, not good health. To me it's a hard sell to take a law about spiritual cleanliness and say that its real intent was physical cleanliness. As with the other one, Christadelphians haven't yet annoyed me enough talking about health laws, but if they do I may write specifically about health laws and Covid-19.

    And Signs of the Times is just rubbish. As I just said above, I can see every prediction based on it has failed so far, so I have no reason to believe the current predictions will succeed. I expect them to take whatever troubles the world and call it a Sign of the Time, but that doesn't make it so.

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  14. I stated a fact. Wait until the election and you will wait. It was not meant to be helpful. You spoke about Trump .. and said wait and see. Don't need a big long lecture about it. You sound like a preacher determine to get your point across.

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  15. "Wait and see" is a common phrase used by christadelphians, to excuse their failed prophesies. "It hasn't come to pass this time but wait and see, it will happen eventually, we know it will." Then when a prediction does hit the spot, as random guesses sometimes do, it will be held aloft as proof.
    This excuse can be used time and again for any failed prophecy until the dwindling members eventually lose patience. (That's my prophecy, just you wait and see!) ;-)

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  16. Paul, I know you were talking about an election, but I found it revealing that you used the same apologetic phrases trotted out by countless CD speakers.

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    1. What phrase am I supposed to say about an election ?? Wondering about about the result? Please tell me..wait ill the election??

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    2. Would wait until the election be better??

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  17. True, true oh so true you just wait and see you'll be the sorry one. That's what that cult says.

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  18. A quick check over on "The Christadelphian" reveals that one of the "silver linings" of the pandemic, is the fact that "Encourage collections to be by bank transfer. The treasurer will be able to divide out sums according to any instructions given".
    It also means that collections are not anonymous, and the treasurer, RB, auditor etc, will not only have a full record of who has been attending, but also who is contributing and how much. How very convenient that is.
    Now I'm a nasty old cynic, but could it be that after two months of no meetings, they are beginning to feel the pinch of there being no collections either?

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  19. There is a Zoom Meeting monthly for people who have left cult groups and other high-control groups. I can provide the meeting information if someone would like to take it.

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  20. Hi Elaine - as an ex Christadelphian who has quite a few scars from being a member, I am interested in this Zoom Meeting.

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  21. Let me ask the facilitator how to create a contact point for you. Thanks for your patience.

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