“Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18)
Once upon a time we would go to war, believing that it was worth sacrificing millions of lives, if necessary, to maintain our freedom. Now we do exactly the opposite. We sacrifice our freedom for the sake of preserving lives.
When I was entering my teens, the Vietnam war was still going. I assumed then that it would go on indefinitely and that when I turned eighteen my name would go into the lottery and I too might be called up. I dreaded the prospect, though, even then, I could understand the rationale of conscription and why my dad supported it so strongly. Our society had been built on democratic principles that enshrined fundamental human freedoms. Those freedoms were under threat from the godless ideology of Communism (or so we had been told) and so it was right and proper that we stand together to defend our country and protect those freedoms, even if it meant that countless numbers of our young men must die, perhaps including me!
Times have changed. I thank God that I did not have to go and fight in Vietnam, and I am now unequivocally opposed to the practice of conscription. That’s because I no longer believe the way wars are sold to us by governments - as noble causes. The ‘domino principle’ that was used to justify the war in Vietnam turned out to be vacuous. We had no business being in Vietnam any more than we did in Iraq or Syria. I no longer believe in conscription because I don’t trust the government. Even so, I accept the basic principle, that there are things worth dying for, and that we should be ready to pay a cost to defend our freedoms. So … what happened?
I remember when lockdowns were first announced, I posted a video on Facebook, expressing concern and suggesting that we should think about where we draw the line. If we accept social distancing and stay-at-home orders, is there a point where we draw a line? When we’re no longer allowed to embrace our children – is that where we draw the line?
I posted that in March 2020, and received an immediate call from my bishop, asking me to take it down. He said, “nobody is saying that we can’t embrace our children”, as if I had ventured into the absurd. I took the video down. Within a few weeks of that phone call I watched news footage of a man disembarking his plane in Darwin where his young son ran up to embrace him. Dad stepped back with both hands in the air. Lockdown rules had come into effect while he had been in flight and, indeed, the father was not allowed to embrace his son.
Not long after that my position as parish priest was terminated – a position that I’d held for thirty years. At least that meant I could repost my video. Yes, I’ve been able to speak freely ever since, though no doubt many had hoped that by denying me a pulpit, I’d be left preaching into a void.
I have never accepted, and I do not accept now, that what is driving our government’s response to this ‘great pandemic’ is purely a concern for public health. I cannot see how the statistics justify, or have ever justified, the level of totalitarian response that we have endured.
Yes, people have died. Indeed, a good friend of mine died from COVID 19. He died in Syria and not in Australia, but I don’t deny for a second that the virus is real and deadly. Even so, there are a lot of things in this world that can kill us, and while governments do have some responsibility to protect us, but it’s a matter of balance.
The roads can be deadly. People die every day from car accidents but we don’t reduce the national speed limit to 40 km/hour, even though we know full well that this would save more than a thousand lives each year!
We know that by allowing families to build in-ground pools in their backyards that the number of domestic drownings will inevitably increase. We still let them do it.
We know that by banning the sale and consumption of alcohol, as the US did for a full thirteen years (between 1920 and 1933, road deaths would be dramatically reduced, domestic violence cases would decrease, and there would be way less brawling on the streets. Even so, not only do we not ban the sale of alcohol but, even in the most serious lockdowns, the sale of alcohol is considered an essential service!
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