Ah, the great British blitz spirit. Long gone, apparently, in certain sections of our population. The TV-drivel-fed, media-influenced hordes nowadays seem to have no will to engage their brains before acting like lemmings in supermarkets and pharmacies.
Who knew that the go-to items to buy in the face of the Black Death would be loo rolls (that’s toilet tissue for non-UK readers) and pasta shapes? Is there are connection between the two? Are we to resort to lasagne sheets in the bathroom when the tissue runs out?
Whatever happened to just taking what you need and showing a bit of British restraint? In the last 70 years we’ve survived the war, the cold war, the Millennium Bug, the crash of 2008 and now Brexit, but the coronavirus appears to have brought on a collective madness.
I have been to the supermarket today to shop for myself and my elderly Dad (86 going on 30). As Dad’s supermarket is in Skipton rather than a big city, the locals did seem to have shown some level of restraint, but even so there were empty shelves for some of the usual panic-buys. Earlier this week, my best friend had to go to three supermarkets in Bradford to get what she needed for herself and her elderly Mum, as had my son in Manchester at the weekend. My son paid £7 for nine loo rolls while his friend had paid £14 for the same number. Personally I would rather use newspaper than pay £14 for a pack of loo rolls but perhaps I am just an old biddy when it comes to shopping.
What on earth is happening in the UK today? How would we have won the war if this was the normal behaviour then? Where is the resilience that comes with having to ‘make do and mend’, ‘make the best of a bad job’, ‘just get on with it’ or accept that ‘that’s life’? What we seem to be seeing is a mix of bad behaviour (some older folks who should know better) and an inability to engage the brain and think what the situation really is (some younger folks who like to live on Facebook, Instagram and the like, who talk themselves and their friends into a panic). Am I being cynical?
Our food supplies are stable. Supermarkets are still getting regular deliveries. So are pharmacies. We’re not awaiting Atlantic convoys to bring us milk, bread, pasta, loo rolls and paracetamol. German U-boats are not out there torpedoing our trucks on the roads. I heard from a relative today that online shops have run out of freezers as so many people are buying them to ‘stock up’ – for which read ’empty the shelves before the rest of us get there’. Fine if you have babies, or elderly relatives to care for, but for the rest of us who are mobile and active? The ‘I’m alright, Jack’ spirit is alive and well.
This is all happening as the Church of England closes down for Sunday services for the first time since 1208. As if we don’t have enough problems in society without our national church shutting its doors for worship. Our parish church just outside Bradford is apparently going to be used as some sort of community hub during the shut-down, which sounds like a great idea. But what are the repercussions of stopping public worship? Isn’t it more important than ever that we can meet together to pray, worship and take Communion as the church family? Yes, I can see the point of avoiding large crowds but it’s such a shame. Our vicars may be having Communion on our behalf and some are even streaming this online, but what about those who don’t have computers and those who just want to have Communion themselves? (Me included).
So where does this ecclesial isolation leave us with the panic-buyers and those in their wake who can’t get a loaf of bread or a pint of skimmed milk? It would seem that the loss of influence of the Church in general over recent decades is now showing up big-time. No longer is it the norm for much of our population to ‘love others as yourself’. To put others first. To share and share alike. No. Now it seems that the new norm is ‘every man for himself’ (other genders are available). Is this what a post-Christian society looks like?
This is a great opportunity for the Church to take back some influence by practical and spiritual leadership. That’s leadership from the parish level, rather than the archbishopric level, of course. Can we hope that the Church will be broadcasting a message of hope around its respective parishes anytime soon? Does God supply His people? What does the Bible say about our supply?
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb. 11:6)
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19)
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Ps. 84:11)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Mt. 6:33)
The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. (Prov. 10:3)
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Ro. 8:32)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! (Eph. 3:20)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor. 12:9)
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. … (Mt. 6:25-34)
I hope some parishes will put these and similar verses up on their websites and notice boards. It’s in times such as these that we need a practical application of the Bible to be very visible. Otherwise the Church risks becoming just another social club. Thank goodness our churches can be used to help our communities in this crisis but it’s to be hoped that we will not forget to ‘advertise’ the faith as we set up hubs to help people. Sharing what we know to be the truth is just as vital as sharing out supplies – and the Bible tells us all about God’s supply and help towards us. Let’s not be ashamed to shout about it. Some people will be listening.