Grace Communion International

…and another thing  by John Stettaford


One thing that this wretched virus has clearly demonstrated is human nature. It begins with self—what’s best for me, personally. But it goes so much further.

It’s very clear that the current surge in cases is due, in the main, to younger people. Since, it appears, most under 50 years of age can weather contamination with Covid-19 without developing too many adverse health issues, they want to party as they did before, if not more so—especially having been denied for so many months. Often the feeling is that somehow they have been penalised, unjustly, by the government contrary to their ’uman rights. Too bad if granny and granddad suffer. They partied in their time, and now it’s my time and I will not be denied.

But then we go further. Those on holiday abroad suddenly find that the rules have been changed, and they must now rush home to avoid the isolation quarantine. Arrive one minute to the deadline, and you are free; but arrive one minute later and now you are forced to isolate, to remain in purdah for two weeks. That’s human nature for you: How close to the rule can I get without invoking penalty. And human nature says, as close as possible.

For the Christian, this human tendency often means that members too sail as close to catastrophe as they can without sinning—and think that this is how they should or are permitted to act. But surely the Christian is learning to stay as far from the edge as possible? Were this extended to the human condition, those arriving home minutes to the deadline, would still isolate as if they had arrived beyond the time limit—not for their own benefit, but for the health and wellbeing of the granny and grandpas of this world. Yes, I appreciate that for some the concern is a work issue. Isolating for an additional two weeks can mean two weeks without pay. Or two weeks where my absence will mean a greater burden on others, especially if NHS or care issues are involved.

But the selfish human tendency was also clearly shown by some through the £10 off meals during August. It was introduced to encourage recovery for the hospitality industry. But for some, who probably didn’t eat out that often before, they were out every day. Hang the social-distancing rules, we can get freebies of up to £10 a go, curtesy of the government, so let it rip!

One more aspect of human nature is going to come to the fore shortly, when the government begins to assess those who have abused furloughing and other benefits, hoping, once again, “to get away with it”.

And there are more subtle ways our human nature intrudes. For instance, if I go to a supermarket, I often have to queue. But if I go with my walking stick, often I’m waved in ahead of any waiting. And I gratefully accept! Occasionally I have a twinge of conscience. But then I reason, it will be too complicated to explain and rightfully join at the back of the queue.

There’s also a tendency to ignore the rules as they change, because they change. It’s obvious that governments, without any previous experience in our time, are struggling and reinventing the rules as they go along. The ‘best advice’ changes almost on a daily basis. Human nature tends to dismiss rule changing, rather than appreciating the reasons why they change and becoming more amenable to obeying the changes with good humour and recognising that were we in any similar position, we’d be making the same mistakes too.

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