Covid-19, the Rapture and the Mid-Ulster prophet.

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from god; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” -1 John 4:7-8. 

Anyone particularly au fait with the bible may know the above verse and recognise it as one of the book’s teachings about the supposed enormity and pervasiveness of God’s love proffered in the scripture. Somewhere along the line however, for some individuals who proclaim their Christian faith, this all-encompassing love of humanity as it is created in god’s image supposedly, is forgotten. And for some, these teachings of love I would argue are more than forgotten, they are outright disrespected in favour of the adoption of a more, how should I say, inciting interpretation of scripture. 

At this point, I will confess, I am not an expert on Christian scripture, that bible verse was found after a 30 second google search. I am of no creed (hence my use of the word supposed,) but I do not disrespect the views of those who are, unless, and this is important, unless they are twats about it and display an ignorance of their own teachings to which they are acting the twat in the name of. Before I progress to the brunt of this story, I am not here to attack any one’s religion, and I will not be mentioning even the star of our show by name or identifying party affiliations. I am going to try and focus solely on the fundamentals of the story, and the reflective qualities these fundamentals provide. 

Earlier this morning, on a popular Northern Irish talk show a member of a council in the mid-Ulster area (I am being purposefully vague about this) implied that the recent global Novel Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic was the ecclesiastical divine retribution for the North’s adoption of liberalised abortion policy and the legalisation of same-sex marriage. The story is widely reported on and will be easily found on most regional media and social media platforms, if you don’t take my word for it. 

I recently had a satirical twitter thread in which a friend and I laughingly joked that there might be someone out there who thought the Coronavirus was the rapture delivered in response for our profaned liberal sins. I emphasise that we laughingly joked, because even while this country has some particularly god-fearing parts, I didn’t actually think someone would believe this. Nay, I couldn’t even begin to fathom that anyone, never mind someone holding public office, would publicly proclaim the global rapture the result of Northern Irish social and healthcare policy. But apparently, as I often am, I was wrong. It turns out I once again proved my naïvety when it comes to the wackiness of some proclamations you may hear in these six little counties. 

The comments have been met with fairly strong backlash and distancing (and of course with social distancing, we should all be at least 2 metres away from these comments anyway.) But while I have been somewhat facetious about the religiosity of parts of the North, I recognise that for many people, religion, the church and a belief system is hugely important and I reiterate that this should be respected. But respect is reciprocal. And religion is not a shield which should be unquestionably tolerated to mask discrimination and the marginalisation of women or the LGBTQ+ community. While, in this particular instance, the remarks of this particular councillor were just remarks. They represent something else, a much more sinister discourse, and they reinforce a tone. They represent the values and language which accommodated years of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community and many women. A taint on our society is the strife that so many faced in the pursuit of basic compassion and bodily autonomy. This odd little corner of the world has come on leaps and bounds from the days of the Reverend Paisley’s “Ulster says No to sodomy” campaign, or politicians professing faith in gay conversion therapy and calling people an abomination for their sexuality, it really has, times have changed. Social perception has changed in the north and these comments aren’t well received. But they act, somewhat unfortunately, as a reminder of how compassionless society can be, and indeed how compassionless it was here in the North for so long. 

And so, no the rapture is not coming. Covid-19 is not it, nor was it sent by god. It’s a virus, a pretty fucking horrific one at that, but the world is united. We are doing well. Human love and compassion – you know those things the bible talks about when you don’t pay fastidious attention to the parts telling you to stone other men if they lie with other men? Yes, well it’s flourishing, as strangers help each other and hundreds of thousands volunteer to aid and man the front line in any way they can. These sort of remarks are reflective of an ignorance and hatred, which now in the midst of this, seems more ridiculous than ever. Shame on them and what they represent. 

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