Love thy neighbour as thyself

The Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship Church is at the centre of the ongoing outbreak in Auckland...
The Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship Church is at the centre of the ongoing outbreak in Auckland. Photo: NZ Herald
"I don't know, am I my brother’s keeper?" Cain, disingenuously, told God when quizzed about the whereabouts of his brother Abel.

Members of the Mount Roskill Evangelical Fellowship Church are not having to answer their maker just yet, but they are enduring an uncomfortable interrogation from public health officials as to their involvement with the outbreak of Covid-19 in Auckland.

The overwhelming majority of New Zealand’s team of five million are playing by the rules but this congregation, reportedly, would rather abide by its own canon.

As Health Minister Chris Hipkins put it, firmly biting his tongue in the process, "There are certainly some within the cluster that perhaps don’t accept or have not previously accepted the science involved here.”

For good measure, Mr Hipkins added that they had been "a challenge to work with" — some have evidently not confessed and forsaken their transgressions so as to obtain mercy.

Members of the Mount Roskill Evangelical Church, like all New Zealanders, are absolutely entitled to their personal beliefs, be they about faith or science.

However, Jesus exhorted his followers to love thy neighbour as thyself, and dogmatic rejection of the well understood workings of virus transmission is placing the congregation itself, as well as anyone it comes in close contact with, in unacceptable and entirely avoidable peril.

God was questioning Cain after he had slain his brother; given the globally demonstrated lethality of Covid-19 and the recent deaths in Auckland, it is not unreasonable to apply stringency to the behaviour of the congregation.

God, of course, knew very well what Cain had done.

District health board public health teams, however, are not blessed with omnipotent knowledge, and very much need the congregation to be utterly co-operative in revealing close contacts so they can then be traced.

It is all very well for these Christians to be Christ’s ambassadors, but when that visitation comes with coronavirus as unwanted company an uncomfortable ethical debate begins, with individual faith pitched against community wellbeing.

Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it has sinned, and surely in its heart of hearts the congregation knows possibly exposing its fellow Aucklanders to Covid-19 is not the right thing to do.

Thankfully church leaders seem to agree, having called on their congregation to all be re-tested for Covid-19.

To a benighted few, those congregants posing difficulties might be seen as heroic for their defiance of state authority.

This is not a matter of oppressive enforcement of unreasonable laws; it is a utilitarian situation where there is a readily identifiable and entirely understandable greater good reason for compliance with public health regulations.

For all that the Mount Roskill Evangelical Church is under scrutiny, only those without sin can cast a stone ... and there are few New Zealanders who can claim not to have failed to log a visit on their Covid-tracer app or mingled with others when not 100% well.

The congregation is entitled to forgiveness, in the expectation that it will mend its ways — as God said to Cain, If you do well, will you not be accepted?

However, if you do not do well Covid-19 is crouching at the door.

Covid-19 is one of those situations when we have all been asked to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters, be that by enduring lockdown or wearing a mask on public transport.

Complying with health rules is not acting contrary to faith, it is an expression of it, in keeping with teachings of charity and devotion to one another.

Comments

'Religare' means 'to share', but not in the way holdouts are enabling.

Some denominations still revere God before man. The worship of the state, enabled by the capture of religion by Luther, has been an unmitigated disaster for the Church. Luther could not control his lusts and neither could Henry the 8. Both established the Church as another Government Department. Reject state worship. Reject Covid tyranny. It is a sure, well trodden, wide path to hell.

Agreed. Luther kept the burnings going too. State, all the time State, apart from the Quakers.

The virus is the tyrant. Sometimes, we have to be Community, rather than 'You're not the boss of me' anti authority, for the well-being of the aged and vulnerable.

The virus is a nothing burger. But has been inflated by all the petty tyrants in the world. It has become their vehicle to tyrannize.

I don't know much about Quakers, but Luther stoked the fires with Sola Scriptura. Which made every man with a Bible the voice of God. From this period in history we get the explosion of religious sects. George Fox (Quaker founder) was jailed in 1649, where he discovered his fellow prisoners were largely "ranters who said they were God." Today, the state has largely taken on the role of "ranter" and "sole source of truth". And has plenty of willing acolytes.

We have been programmed to be fearful. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to this psychological attack as they have been programmed their entire lives. We need only fear God. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

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