FACT AND FAITH – SOME EPISODES
Even in a comparatively sane land like Scotland, there are a significant number of people who have refused or will refuse vaccination against the COVID virus. Some of these have reasonable fears based on their own medical condition and past experience, but many of them have been influenced by entirely spurious assertions on social media, that the vaccine will make them homosexual, infertile, Muslim; or insert nano-chips into their brain so that they will be controlled by aliens / socialists / transvestites / atheists / Rangers Football Club. I am exaggerating slightly but not much. Of course, much of this nonsense is fuelled by loonies in the USA whose destructive nonsense fills the internet. Their manner of expression, which is frequently violent, gives the game away: these are not poor bewildered souls but vicious adherents of a cult which denigrates anyone who thinks or acts in ways of which they disapprove. They are part of a large movement of pseudo- populist propagandists, in the USA, Russia, China, UK, who seek to define reality according to their desires, and to exercise power on that basis, whether chaotically like Trump or remorselessly like Xi. Part of the collateral damage of this movement will be those who by refusing vaccination bring about their own deaths or the deaths of their loved ones.
Consider this passage from The Gospel of Mark chapter 3
Then Jesus went home; 20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Jesus had aroused public interest by healing people, such as lepers, paralysed people, a man with a withered hand. Their illnesses were thought to be caused by evil spirits, and Jesus’ healings were seen as a form of exorcism. But the results of what he did were clear: people were restored to personal and communal life.
The religious establishment, here called “scribes” saw Jesus as liable to challenge their power, and took the chance to define his healings as empowered by the evil spirit they called Beelzebul. Faced with someone doing obvious good, they encouraged people to trust an alternative reality in which it was seen as evil.
At first, Jesus made fun of their criticism. Surely the kingdom of evil is in a state of collapse if it is fighting against the illness it has caused! He calls the Evil One the “strong man” and claims that in order to “plunder his property” (the sick people) he has had to “tie him up.”
But then he gets very serious, and warns that those who slander the “Holy Spirit”, namely the power of goodness, are endangering their eternal souls, because in the alternative reality which they are creating, they will refuse to admit their evil, or to ask forgiveness. Trump will never admit the evil of his violent refusal of political fact, and will never ask forgiveness from those he has harmed.
Jesus was looking at the power of human beings to define reality by their lies, and meeting it with the most serious warning he ever issued: to choose, for the sake of power, a reality of your own making rather than the one God is making, is to put yourself beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness. God’s persuasive love is very terrible; he will not force people out of the hell they’ve chosen.
Jesus’ warning applies to the malicious pedlars of an alternative reality that denies the goodness of doctors, nurses and vaccines.