It is a universally acknowledged truth that when epidemics strike, men and women turn to God.
In this latest of epidemics, most churches the world over have been closed and their worshippers have been directed to websites where leaders hold virtual ceremonies. There have been reports of crackdowns on Christians attempting to worship in the flesh, such as in Louisville, Ky., where the mayor ordered fines for Christians listening to a service in their cars. Christians seem to be easily ticketed, while Muslims cramming into mosques are ignored. Avoiding Islamic unrest is par for the course in today’s West.
For those of us who think it’s hard enough to keep the faith while living within a secular Europe, the fear isn’t the lockdown, but what will follow. Perhaps the hiatus will convince people to totally stop going to church. Perhaps the physical worship of God will become redundant. Perhaps the Christian faith will become as rare as a movie without the F-word. Religious institutions previously played a vital role in communities, but church attendance in America has declined precipitously over the past half century. It’s even worse in Britain.
All I can do is repeat that old saying that the ex-head of the Catholic Herald, Luke Coppen, invoked in The Spectator’s Easter issue: There are no atheists in foxholes. Not exactly an original saying, but certainly a true one. Coppen speculated the phrase was coined in 1942 by a Christian chaplain during the Battle of Bataan. It’s a funny thing; the Japanese fighting the American boys believed in ancestor worship, whereas the Americans trusted God and our Lord Jesus. Both were right in their own way, and both were gallant—I only wish Japan had been allowed by that dastardly Roosevelt to turn China into a Japanese province! Too late now to cry over spilled milk.
Not an atheist to be found in those foxholes. I’m reminded of the scene in Tolstoy’s War and Peace in which the peasant priests bless the troops and their resplendent officers just before the Battle of Borodino. I also remember well the 1940 newsreels during the coldest winter on record in Greece. Our Greek troops were in the Epirus mountains on their knees, kissing the cross and sprinkled with holy water by peasant priests riding on donkeys. This was just before our two great victories against the Italians in Korytsa and Tepeleni.
But back to God and this modern pandemic. For those who foresee a Christian renaissance triggered by the Chinese virus, there has to be a lot more death involved—we really have not seen mass death since 1945. Back then, a religious boom followed the end of World War II, and it lasted well into the mid-’60s, when scum secularists and scummier hippies aided and abetted by the media managed to declare God dead.
If a Christian revival does take place, I hate to think what The New York Times columnists of this world will do for an encore. They’ll probably declare God racist and his flock a bunch of bigots. They’re already writing narratives like these, so what else is new? The Times writers and reporters’ barely concealed glee at the pandemic’s damage to President Trump is almost worth the price of three dollars.
Mind you, there’s also a downside to all this. Weeks or months without attending church can nudge people out of the habit. For Catholics, missing Sunday Mass is a sin, but now bishops have assured us that the obligation is lifted, temporarily. We shall see what we shall see.
As I write, there are just over 200,000 people who have died from the virus worldwide, about the amount that died in the battle of Okinawa, or half of the casualties at the Battle of Normandy, while Stalingrad ended with over 1.3 million deaths. More died during the World War I flu epidemic (probably started in Kansas but called the Spanish Flu), which followed the slaughter of 10 million on the battlefields of Europe. Tens of millions died during the troubles from 1939 to 1945. The Chinese virus is way down the line as far as disasters go.
And another thing: Christianity has been declared dead and buried by sages such as Voltaire and Rousseau and others (all rotting in hell as I write) but has managed to return each and every time. Isolation breeds spirituality—not a bad thing in today’s horrible secular world.
Small city-states able to defend themselves with walls survived the overextended Roman and Byzantine empires. Today Singapore, Taiwan, Greece, and South Korea are good examples of how to defend against the plague. Both America and China are too big and too widespread to do likewise. China has the advantage of being a dictatorship, yet I am an optimist and believe that Uncle Sam will not come in second best in this contest. Wash your hands, don’t look at the garbage on television put out by Hollywood hucksters, keep away from crowds, and keep worshipping God, and you’ll be fine. If anyone challenges the remedies suggested above, tell them Taki said it’s so.