My friend and colleague, Canadian theologian Doug Farrow, gave a powerful response last week to my lecture at Regent College, where I spoke on key themes from The New Abnormal. Doug just published his remarks as an essay on his Substack. With his permission I’m reprinting the first part of his essay here, with a link at the bottom to the entire piece. His remarks will resonate with all those who were disappointed by the response of religious leaders and clergy during the days of covid.
My own talk at this event was audio recorded, and I’ll post it soon once it’s available.
detail of Grünewald’s Isenheim altarpiece
Note to the reader: This is the text of a talk, lightly revised and a little expanded, given in Vancouver on 16 March, 2023, during an event sponsored by the Houston Centre for Humanity and the Common Good. The event was focused on Aaron Kheriaty's book,The New Abnormal: The Rise of the Biomedical Security State, and my remarks (for which I alone am responsible) were made pursuant to his. An interview with the two of us, conducted by Prof. Zimmerman, will be posted here and a longer podcast here.
I am grateful to Dr Kheriaty for his courageous stance, and for the trouble he has taken in his very fine book to explain to us that the biomedical security state is coming into being on the back of the pandemic we have witnessed, and of pandemics we are told we will witness. Pandemics, from time to time, are natural, but they can also be contrived. The evidence is convincing that this one was contrived; that it was orchestrated so as to advance the interests of those who are invested in creating a new abnormal.
My own awareness of this began three years ago now, almost to the day. Having just returned from Washington, where I had delivered a public lecture for First Things entitled "The Secret of the Saeculum," I received a call from the editor about the palpable fear he was witnessing on the streets of Manhattan. Where are the theologians, he asked, and why are they not saying anything?
Three years on I still don't know the answer to that question. But at his request I wrote a short piece, reflecting on the decision to close the churches and keep them closed. Thus began my own covid odyssey, examining the medical, political and, especially, the theological dimensions of the pandemic response. By Christmas of 2021, I had more to say than I could say in such journals as were letting me say anything, so I began a Substack page named for one of my books, Desiring a Better Country. There are presently more than 100,000 words on that site, but I have only a few minutes to distill for you an answer to the question Professor Zimmerman has posed: How should Christian churches evaluate and respond to the diminishment of human identity that undergirds the biomedical security state?
What I have to say presupposes the basic analysis Dr Kheriaty has so ably provided. I will divide my remarks into four parts, addressing three sub-questions before arriving at the main question: What is being diminished? How is it being diminished? Why is it being diminished? And then, how should we respond?
To read the rest of this superb essay, click on this link to it on Doug Farrow’s Substack (and consider subscribing to Desiring a Better Country):
Dr. Farrow’s post is amazing! For all of you on, Substack, especially Christian, who have been wondering about the church’s absent challenge to mandates across-the-board, read it! It’s amazingly encouraging!
Dr. Farrow is one of the great current theologians. And there aren’t that many.