Christianity Today published a curious piece by Paul Miller on Thursday calling for everyone to forgive each other for our supposed “pandemic sins.”
He doesn’t exactly say who sinned, just that “We got things wrong,” and “Some officials made mistakes in the early days.” Things happened. Mistakes were made. It’s time to move on. Miller’s argument is basically a warmed-over, lightly Christianized version of the essay Brown University economics professor Emily Oster wrote for The Atlantic last November, which argued for a “pandemic amnesty” on account of how “uncertain” and “complicated” things were in the face of a once-in-a-century pandemic like Covid. The ruling class did its best, OK?
Oster’s piece elicited well-deserved scorn from many on the right, including our own Joy Pullmann, who noted that a genuine amnesty “requires an admission of guilt and a commitment to repairing the wrongs done.” The absence of such an admission and commitment to change, says Pullmann, is “an indication that you’re going to do it again,” and makes it impossible to rebuild trust.
Of course, the people responsible for shutting down the economy, closing schools and churches, destroying countless businesses, and condemning the elderly to die alone in their hospital rooms are not at all sorry about what they did. To this day, they don’t acknowledge any wrongdoing whatsoever. Certainly not Anthony Fauci, who in an April interview with The New York Times defiantly faulted ordinary Americans for failing to listen to him, the self-proclaimed embodiment of science.
The same people who needlessly imposed massive learning losses on schoolchildren, or barred families from burying their dead, then foisted an ineffective vaccine on the public and tried to shame or coerce everyone into taking it, regardless of their age or health status. Plenty of Americans, including those in the military and medical professions, were faced with the terrible choice of taking a shot they didn’t trust or losing their careers and livelihoods.
None of the people who did this are sorry about it. In fact, they’re proud of it — and they will absolutely do it again the next chance they get. Here’s the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mandy Cohen, jokingly relating how she and her fellow health officials came up with draconian mandates during Covid:
Notice the phrase “let them.” These people felt — and still feel — that the freedom to run your business, attend school, go to church, gather together with friends and family, all these things are entirely contingent on whether Mandy Cohen and her colleagues let you.
In this context, arguing for forgiveness or amnesty is really just calling for a total lack of accountability for the people who did real lasting harm to the entire country. Just as amnesty requires admission of wrongdoing, so too does forgiveness require repentance. It also requires justice and accountability. But none of the very powerful people who made cruel and ruinous decisions during the pandemic have asked for forgiveness or even acknowledged their devastating failures. None of them have been held accountable. There has been no justice.
Miller focuses much of his essay on the question of church closures, urging unnamed churchgoers to “extend grace to one another.” That’s fine advice as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far in this debate, since the main culprits here aren’t the pastors and clergy who caved to public health orders to close their doors. They were wrong to cave, but the blame ultimately rests with the officials who issued those orders — and who will issue them again the next time something like Covid comes along. There is zero reason to “forgive” those people, because they believe, to this day, that they were justified in their wrongdoing.
It’s worth noting, too, the unbelievable hypocrisy of a publication like Christianity Today running a piece like this. As some commentators noted, during the pandemic, CT was outspoken in pushing for mask and vaccine mandates as well as school and business closures, and it shamed everyone who dissented as a bad Christian.
Daily Wire reporter Megan Basham replied to CT’s tweet of the article by saying, “Sure, as soon as you all admit that you are now disqualified to hold any sort of church leadership or to speak with any sort of authority on anything of spiritual significance because in the moment of crisis you chose to heap legalistic burdens on your brothers and sisters in order to retain an alliance with the influential and powerful.”
She also noted that evangelical leaders like Russell Moore partnered with the former director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, using CT as a vehicle to push regime propaganda during the pandemic.
My colleague Sean Davis put it more bluntly: “You told people they were bad Christians and risked going to Hell if they went to church, didn’t wear masks, or refused a dud vaccine. Repent for what you did, acknowledge the damage you inflicted on the church, and seek forgiveness. Until then: shut up, you little snakes.”
With apologies to Miller, that about sums it up. No forgiveness without repentance. And no forgetting what the ruling class did to this country. Ever.