Be prepared and seek the truth!
John 17: 13-19
“And now I come to you and I say these things in the world that these men may find my joy completed in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, for they are no more sons of the world than I am. I am not praying that you will take them out of the world but that you will keep them from the evil one. They are no more the sons of the world than I am—make them holy by the truth; for your word is the truth. I have sent them to the world just as you sent me to the world and I consecrate myself for their sakes that they may be made holy by the truth. (Phillips)
As I write, I feel like I am becoming like a scratched record, for those of you remember what that means! Or a damaged CD, perhaps, although when they first came out, they told us it was impossible to damage them! Put it another way … I am beginning to repeat myself. It must be my age, I guess.
For I can remember distinctly writing about the same topic of truth … and lies.
What I could not remember was the context, or even how long ago it was. In fact as I went back through previous articles I had penned, I was surprised to see it was only 6 months ago and of course now I remember: it was the aftermath of the infamous interview between Prince Andrew and Emily Maitlis and the question was “who is telling the truth?”
These days we hear little of that whole sorry episode and whilst I would not want to suggest that the Prince would have been glad to see the arrival of C-19, it certainly has taken the hot and uncomfortable spotlight off him, at least for a while. Six months on and we are left asking the same question. I guess by Christmas time, we may still be faced by a similar conundrum, though the characters may well be different.
During this strangest of times we have all been given opportunities to do things that perhaps we should have been doing all along: taking more care over personal and home hygiene, taking more regular exercise, doing those small DIY jobs that tend to get put off for weeks, months or even years. Maybe we have developed new skills, or perhaps adopted different bad habits. I have started to read again and have enjoyed watching historical documentaries. Amongst which was Dan Snow’s account of the raising of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s flagship which sank off Portsmouth on 19th July 1545. This is also something I have talked about before in one of these articles, though again in a different context. Apart from being one of the most important archaeological finds ever to be uncovered, it galvanised the scientific, technical and technological expertise in a way no other archaeological project had ever done before. The wreck had been discovered only two miles off Portsmouth in the 1960s, but it was not until 1982 when the remains of this jewel in the crown once again saw the light of day, 437 long years since it disappeared before the aghast King’s very eyes. There are many theories about why it went down, but the most likely is that it was a fatal cocktail of factors: poor weather, a severe blast of wind at the wrong moment, turning about having fired a volley from its cannon on one side of the ship and the sheer weight of arms and men, ultimately unbalancing the unwieldy beast it had become.
One of the most extraordinary things about the unbelievable achievement to raise the vessel was the level of planning and preparedness. Not only did the project leaders amass all the available expertise, but they had also developed the most incredible network of funding streams and most imaginative exit strategy. So when the time came, as they were confident it surely would, they were ready and knew exactly what to do. For this rarest of treasures, preserved for centuries underwater, could have been totally destroyed within months, but for the level of preparedness exercised.
“Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”, said Dwight D Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces on D-Day, 6th June 1944 for the Normandy Invasion.
This is not intended as a political point, for it applies to what seems to have been a lack of planning and investment over a good number of years and the responsibility of several governments of different persuasions, but it seems we were abysmally prepared for this eventuality. Indeed there is some form of epidemic each year, which sadly takes many lives and especially amongst the elderly and the vulnerable. In recent times we have had SARS and MURS, which have been much more serious and which have provided a much greater threat and perhaps even a warning. We are told that we have some of the best science and scientists in the world, the most efficient health service and yet all of us have been found wanting in a lethal vacuum of strategy and planning, or if not a vacuum then a confusion of the same. A report on the radio in the last few days revealed that some mass gatherings had been allowed to take place when all the indications from many other countries who were already advanced in draconian and restrictive lockdown should have triggered a more robust response. The examples given were the Real Madrid visit to Liverpool with an estimated crowd of 55000 and the Cheltenham Festival, probably with many more than that huddled together over a period of several days. No wonder then that there were spikes in infection in these areas.
So we have moved from tracking and tracing, to testing, to containment and now back to tracking and tracing, self-isolation and testing again. The strategy seems to have been driven more at each stage by the lack of sufficient facilities, equipment, personnel and organisation than “following the science”. Thus far the NHS has been protected, but this has come at a cost: in order to maintain space and capacity, some patients have been sent back to care-homes, others have stayed at home when they should have been in hospital and these factors have no doubt contributed to the overall mortality rate, as bad in the UK as in the worst-affected of our erstwhile European partners.
Now for this latest strategy to succeed and for a second critical spike to be avoided, it is essential that we track and trace and isolate effectively if we are told we must. This is one of the most worrying aspects, since it relies on the trust and commitment of all. The examples we have been receiving from people in high positions has lately been lamentable and has already resulted in several resignations. The latest and most serious questions are being asked of the behaviour of the Prime Minister’s Senior Adviser. In this situation and amongst all the stories, someone is not telling the truth about what actually happened, as was and is the case with Prince Andrew and his accusers. One can only sit back and wonder at the gall and the arrogance of this unelected man, addressing the nation from the Rose Garden of No.10 Downing Street and defending his actions, as if he were the Prime Minister himself.
The judgement of whether or not he was operating within the rules is not mine to deliver and I guess that time will be the one to do that. However one must ask how much damage this might have done to the message that the Government wishes to send to the people of this country.
Almost totally lost in this furore of claim and counter-claim is the real-life story of Sub- Postmistresses countless Sub-Postmasters who have lost their jobs and livelihoods and who in several cases have found themselves in prison, convicted of fraud and embezzlement by their employer the Post Office, that august institution which has provided essential services to the nation for over 300 years. The Horizon Scandal, the result of a faulty data/information system has allowed the Post Office’s own flawed investigators to ruin the lives of so many good and trustworthy people, but thankfully now the truth is out. An ongoing radio report this week broadcast a pitiful recorded interview with one victim, which brought tears to the eyes. People in high positions in the organisation were not telling the truth and, worse still, were standing together to defend their positions.
As Christians, we know where the truth is to be found. Jesus said himself:
I am the way the truth and the life.
No-one comes to the Father except through me
In Numbers, we read that:
You may be sure that your sin will find you out
Moses’ warning to the tribes of Israel, is echoed by Paul
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Gal 6: 7-10
When we are finally able to gain some perspective on the scourge that has been C-19 and we contemplate the “new normal”, may we always be alert and prepared and seek the truth:
Now we see but a poor reflection, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then shall I know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Cor 13:12
Peter Lambert – June 2020