Jesus is going to die

True, I said that I wasn’t going to Idleblog this week, but today, Maundy Thursday, the 44th anniversary of the moment when I became a “born again” Christian, I will dispense a few more words.


This year, I am one of the world’s 7.8 billion coronavirus bystanders.

I arrived at this number by taking the total number of media-reported covid-19 infections, multiplying by ten, then subtracting the product from the UN’s current estimate of the world’s population. (Which is 7.8 billion.)

Were we instead to go by the death count, the number of non-bystanders would shrink. As we now know, the proportion who die from the disease is less than 1 percent, and it falls as testing increases. But as most of those victims are elderly, and enduring other life-terminative conditions, the published numbers still overestimate the toll. The conventional winter flu pneumonias would have carried many of them away, had there been no coronavirus.

For my sins, in earlier life, I acquired a fascination for “policy wonk” topics, and continue to suffer from that today. I am morbidly interested in the demographic questions, in the disclosures of epidemiology, in the economic ramifications of moral action on both large and small scales. It is an addiction.

Even before I became a Christian, I was curious about the social implications of Christianity in its various forms, and likewise about the other religions. (I lived in Asia a lot.) What are, or what would be, the fiscal effects of living with belief? What are, or would be, the effects on public health?

Add what we call “secularism” to the list of religions — in its mild “agnostic” or stronger Atheist modes — and a murky but grander picture emerges. The phenomenon that we call, vaguely, “globalism,” comes into play.

What is globalism? I define it differently from most avowed globalists, or those who accept it as an irreversible trend. It involves, according to me, the attitude that the world may be judged by numbers. It is post-godly “secularism,” or a thoroughgoing worldliness, writ on the largest scale its upholders can imagine — “world-class worldliness,” as it were. It is a universal reduction of moral realities to “value-free” numbers, and thus implies obedience to those who manipulate them.

Whether these numbers are gathered and applied by “socialists” or “capitalists” is not important. The mud-wrestle of power determines that, as to some degree it has always done.

But as Red China has been proving (I hope for not much longer), the two systems — totalitarian dirigisme and crass wealth-seeking — are perfectly compatible. Scientistic numerology is their common language, and its opposition to the humane and religious becomes more and more explicit, everywhere. (Even in the Vatican the pope speaks in the “globalist” bafflegab.) It is the “trend,” verily, and in the world of numbers, trends have replaced God. The current pandemic has provided it with an unprecedented breakthrough. For the first time in all human history, the whole world can be “locked down,” and religious activities globally suppressed.

The “covid crisis,” to choose a label, might have spread gradually from a wet market in China under any system. We did have pandemics in the low-tech past. Once, they took longer to travel the Silk Road, cross the Sahara, float shipboard or (in the case of the Spanish Flu, apparently) come from Kansas.

But war, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts have been with us for some time. To the mind of the religious of almost any persuasion, they are facts of life, and quite possibly a poignant indication of the displeasure of the heavens.

To the “globalist” mind, however, they are a technical problem. The modern, progressive, habitually liberal mind can’t imagine a catastrophe as anything else. Its first instinct is to put a Dr Fauci on the job, and appoint a Dr Birx as Chief Nanny. This is also its last instinct.

I have nothing against either Dr Fauci or Dr Birx, by the way; nor against any of this world’s technicians. I am generally pro-life, and in the habit of granting breathing rights even to technocrats; even when their explanations of everything are in the habit of proving radically incomplete, or more simply, wrong; and even when they pull at the heartstrings of our empathy to engage our cooperation with their orders.

For these are true believers in the messages they project: a belief so sincere that they are willing to provide false and misleading information to clinch a point — such as reclassifying death certificates from the factual “pneumonia,” to the speculative “covid-19,” even when it hasn’t been tested for, to inflate the numbers. This is done almost without thinking, for to the modern almost unthinkingly, “the end justifies the means.”


The giving of comfort is a more complex thing. It takes us from statistics to their opposite, Love.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta was sometimes criticized (by Christopher Hitchens and others who considered themselves, like Trotsky, “on the side of history”) for her ministry to the very sick and dying. While her nuns provided medicines, whenever they could, their approach was not essentially pharmaceutical.

Perhaps most scandalous, to their critics, was their acceptance of the fact that people are going to die.

Jesus, too, was going to die, and among the most powerful and moving statements I find in all literature are the words Mother Mary addressed to Him along the Via Dolorosa:

“I am here.”

This is not what the high-pressure ventilators say, within which the dying patient is segregated from a nurse, or his family, or from anyone. Within all the expensive equipment that contains him, he is left to die alone and unblessed. The priest for whom he might have called, for last rites — administered, we imagine, from outside the machine — may not even be admitted to the hospital, unless he is seriously ill himself. Perhaps he is in another ventilator.

Context is rather important here. We can see this from the fact that church services, Masses, are closed by the public hygiene officials as, usually, their first step. While the coronavirus was merrily cavorting through the high-class shopping venues of Milan, its churches were already sealed off. Those who think the presence of Christ is more important than their very lives, are not indulged. After all, they might become living vectors for the virus. (“Statistics have shown.”)

That testing, contact tracing, and the quarantine of likely cases should be done, I take for granted. The quarantine of everyone is an innovation, however. In the past, people needed not even to be told about social distancing; they figured it out for themselves very quickly. (Read Thucydides on the plague at Athens, &c.) Such obvious points, as that crowding speeds infection, have been grasped since time out of mind. That cities tend to host contagions has been known since cities were invented. That travel is dangerous is not a new discovery, either.

When they do not have a cure, the “experts” do not have a cure. The best they can do is try to find one, or a way to reduce pain, failing that. But despair is not something that technocrats can “solve.”

I think of Mother Teresa and her nuns, going into the leper colonies. They took whatever precautions they could, but as their saintly mistress herself had said, “I wouldn’t touch a leper for a million dollars. I do it willingly for the love of God.” (She lived to age eighty-seven, incidentally.)

Beyond this, the facts of life continue to obtrude. Our medical experts cannot account for the ways bacteria and viruses disport themselves, often even in retrospect. They are constantly taken by surprise in sudden outbreaks: the where and why and intensity of them.

The hygiene authorities are actually trained to discount the power of a human soul to resist afflictions. The extraordinary efficacy of placebos demonstrates this narrowness again and again. That people are more likely to live, when they want to live, is shown in diminishing life expectancy in the most technologically advanced societies. Opiates announce this. In the West, suicides still outstrip “covid” deaths, defining suicide in the strictest, most immediate way. (Check the numbers; the hygiene specialists count it as a disease.)

Yes, covid-19 is a killer. It is one of many, and they all work. Death is almost unique in our world, in being 100 percent efficient. Perhaps that is why, at some level, we worship, propitiate, and appease, death.

But Christ not only died. He died for us, on Good Friday. For, having descended from heaven to earth, He then went farther, down into Hell. And was raised — Resurrected. And was dead, and behold, is alive for evermore. And has the keys of Hell and of Death.

For this is the Truth that, in defiance of the technocrats, we must shamelessly proclaim: that in light of these unalterable facts, death shall have no more dominion.