Jeremiah and the lockdown

Prophet Jeremiah 2


Can you remember where you were on March 19, 2020? That was the day our nation closed its borders and limited public gatherings to 100. That was the day it hit home for me – we are about to enter a full nationwide lockdown.  

I remember the feeling as I drove home from work that afternoon – sorrow and dread. I thought of all the lives disrupted, the jobs lost, the people left lonely and disheartened, the boredom and frustration, the domestic violence, the fear and hopelessness. 

As for me, I would be fine, with my wife and children, and a secure job. But so many others would not fare so well amidst the mandated depression. 

And I thought of the warning of the prophet Jeremiah: 

Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘If you will surrender to the princes of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. But if you do not surrender to the princes of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.’ (Jeremiah 38:17-18) 

Jeremiah lived in a time when Jerusalem was besieged by the Babylonians. Contrary to Jeremiah’s warnings, the city remained under lockdown for 18 months. But it all proved to be in vain when Babylonian soldiers finally penetrated the walls and stormed the city, overwhelming its famine-plagued and dispirited population. 

I had a bunch of crazy thoughtsWe cannot evade this virus forever, so why not face up to it? Why not surrender while we still have the strength and the resources to best deal with the aftermath? Why not let our lowest-risk citizens be exposed to Covid, while we isolate and protect the elderly and the vulnerable? Why simply hide when we can manage the spread and seek herd immunity with minimal losses? 

Fast-forward five months. Restrictions have tightened, loosened, then tightened and loosened again. Are we content with this level of uncertainty? Are we aware of the long-term fallout from each day that the livelihoods of our citizens are artificially disrupted? Are we placing all our hope in a vaccine? When will it come? How safe and effective will it be? In the meantime, can we find any effective treatments for the virus?  

Our refusal to question and to speak out will result in more suffering and hardship for the isolated, the vulnerable, and those in financial strife. 

I believe the time has come to start asking hard questions and discussing alternative strategies. Lets discuss with our family and friends, speak with our colleagues, write to our MPs, raise the important questions in our social networks, and in all sincerity let’s also place these questions before the Lord, asking him to guide our discourse, and give the strength and wisdom to enable us to put it into action. 

Nobody is exempt from responsibility, especially in a crisis. What part will you play? 

  • Dr Cameron Surrey works at the Auckland Teriary Chaplaincy 
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