A Plague Doctor in Rome, circa 1656.

News & Commentary, Non-Fiction

A plague on their houses who have no pity for the victims

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All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it’s up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences.

The Plague, Albert Camus

Camus, whose work had as a central plank the idea of living without God, also wrote that the most appalling vice was “the ignorance that thinks it knows everything and which consequently authorises itself to kill”.

In other words, the victims deserve everything they get. The coronavirus pandemic has brought a sickness into the open, just as it did during the AIDS epidemic last century, just as it has through the centuries when religious crusaders invoked the wrath of God for the maladies of the earth. It’s not physical; it’s of the heart and mind. It’s a bigotry stoked from a hatred of others.

How can people have so much hate in their hearts? How can they believe that it makes them stronger? This cry from the heart is not the most sophisticated question. It’s the sort of wide-eyed question you would expect from the mouth of a child; one to which adults sigh and reply, human nature is a complicated thing.

Yet its simplicity goes to the depths of a well from which people have drunk for millennia. Hatred does not have to be physical. Though we are such a genius at it we created a word for it in extremis: genocide. It does not have to be murder or assault.

It’s a rank mind that revels in the anguish of others, and takes heart in the philosophical structure of supporting such anguish.

Hatred can be words, and words can wound. Words can fly across borders. It’s a rank mind that revels in the anguish of others, and takes heart in the philosophical structure of supporting such anguish. It is a justification of creed, and the hallmark of fundamentalist evangelists. One could write it off as idiocy, which it is, but there runs a malevolent bigotry, too.

Introducing Ralph Drollinger. Pastor Drollinger, founder of Capitol Ministries in the US, leads bible and prayer study groups for Donald Trump’s cabinet in the White House.

Last month, Drollinger posted that the coronavirus was the wrath of God, not an epic act of wrath like an Old Testament flood, but a “sowing and reaping wrath”. In short, whoever got it, deserved to get it, especially society’s misfits, in his eyes. Round up the usual suspects: gays, for instance.

In February, US President Donald predicted that like a miracle, the coronavirus pandemic would disappear. Trump often invites evangelical pastors to the White House to pray, and lay hand on him. At the time of writing, the death toll in the US stands at more than 21,000. Sure it will vanish – when those deserving to get it are all dead.

Western fundamentalism isn’t alone here: ISIS and al-Qaeda have also claimed the pandemic was God’s wrath upon the West. This, of course, is quite different to those Christian believers who simply pray for an end to the pandemic and who genuinely feel compassion for those afflicted.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that everyone is in his prayers. Whatever might be said of his policies and beliefs, in this he is sincere. It’s nice of him to say, for the little good it will do. It’s true also that believers find solace and comfort in their faith in times of crisis.

Some find even a little bit more. For instance Margaret Court and her brethren at the Victory Life Church have the shield of invincibility around them.

“We are in agreement that this COVID-19 will not come near our dwelling or our church family,” a church statement reads. “We are praying daily for you, knowing that we are all protected by the Blood of Jesus.”

And just to have a bet each way, “For your convenience, hand sanitiser readily available at all our sites.”

As John Lennon once sung, ‘‘Whatever gets you through the night.’’

This Easter, Christians took solace and comfort in believing that their saviour, executed on a cross, his body taken to a cave, then vanished, reappeared a bit later, and was thus resurrected. A second coming awaits, somewhere in the night sky of eternity.

As John Lennon once sung, ‘‘Whatever gets you through the night.’’

Samuel Johnson once said that the threat of execution concentrated the mind wonderfully. It can be equally said this pandemic is blindly concentrating the mind, too.

The Victory Lifers, from the Psalms, take this comfort: “No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.”

Camus wouldn’t be surprised at their thinking. Nor at their blindness, which couldn’t be blamed on plague or pandemic. He could have written that where some see divinity, others see disease. 

One response to “A plague on their houses who have no pity for the victims

  1. All what I read here shows me you feel the same as I do and that faith is all about heading ones life to something else to handle, to me it is bizarre that people can be so stupid, I just try living ,surviving and trying to make my own little Heaven on Earth, because I do not think there is another one , The thing that keeps people in the Churchs is that they cannot cope with the fact that /This is all there is Baby!! so all the best Warwick!

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