The present pandemic is more than a health issue. It has brought to the foreground sharp differences of opinion not only about how to respond but, in some cases, about the nature of our civil society. How can Christians navigate this debate?
This statement from the Hope Media board reflects the way the ministry will approach its responsibilities as a Christian Community Broadcaster to the present pandemic. A longer essay on this matter written by our Board Chair Stephen O’Doherty can be read in full here.
A Statement by the Hope 103.2 Board about Covid-19
As ambassadors of Christ and citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia, our responsibilities often overlap. In both respects our concern should always be to love our neighbour, work for human flourishing, and promote truth, justice and mercy in our society.
We should expect no less from others, particularly those who govern. The Bible teaches that all authority comes from God. Those in authority are accountable not only to the electorate but to God Himself.
This is not a license to wag the finger of judgement at governments, public officials or our neighbour. Each of us must account for our own actions in responding to the challenges of our time.
As members of Christ’s Church, we have the blessing of freely worshipping Him and calling others to know His saving grace. We also have a responsibility to participate actively in civil society, serving others, and using our many gifts for society’s benefit. The use of these gifts continues the work of God and the building of His Kingdom, until Christ’s return.
It follows that our responses to the pandemic should serve the common good. COVID-19 is not part of God’s plan for human flourishing. Because of His love for all people, God has provided ways we can protect and restore society from the effects of this and other diseases. His provision includes the modern miracle of medical science.
Unless medical reasons prevent it, Christians have a responsibility to be vaccinated to protect their family and wider community. The evidence of trustworthy and authoritative sources is clear: vaccinated people have a reduced likelihood of passing the virus to others, and a reduced likelihood of serious health consequences including hospitalisation and death.
Being vaccinated, we make it more likely our health resources will be available for those most in need (including those needing non-COVID medical attention). Widespread vaccination represents good stewardship of finite health resources. It contributes to a reduction in suffering and loss in the community. Being vaccinated is an act of mercy and love towards our family, friends and neighbours.
Christians should work towards the provision of vaccines for all who qualify and with a particular concern for communities and nations in poverty. This is a health justice imperative.
In addition to vaccination, quarantine, distancing, movement restrictions, mask-wearing, contact tracing, and other public health and social measures appreciably advance the public good.
Cooperating and complying with these measures is a significant way to love our neighbour and help redeem society from the effects of COVID-19.
When public health and social measures apply equally to all citizens, they cannot be said to represent an unequal limitation on our religious freedom, including the freedom to worship.
No freedom comes without a corresponding responsibility. The responsible course of action is to actively participate in the whole-of-community effort to overcome. This may mean needing to gather online instead of in person, wearing a mask when in church, and not singing during worship. These are hard. They go against the grain. But, as a disciplined response to a very real health threat, we have a responsibility to comply. By doing so we hasten the time for these limitations to be removed.
Our system of government, based on parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, is anchored in checks and balances that work together to protect our freedoms. Media organisations and individuals who work in this field as content-makers and publishers play a crucial role in the accountability mechanisms of our democracy. As a “fourth estate”, on the side of the people in holding authority to account, media itself has special responsibilities.
Media should educate, inform and research authoritative sources. It should question authority about the basis of its decision-making and the effects of those decisions.
Christian media should concern itself with restoration; reconciling people with God through Christ and seeing reconciliation within communities and nations.
Hope Media addresses these imperatives in a Statement of Purpose and Goals. It commits us: To engage people with experiences of God’s love so that they may become more like Christ, and the world more like the Kingdom.
This requires a clear understanding of God’s overarching plan for His people, of the place and time in which we serve, and of our role in calling people to be reconciled: with God and each other. This shapes our work as a Christian media ministry.
Because of this, we believe the public interest is served by measures that promote good health outcomes, reduce suffering, and maximise the good stewardship of finite health resources. To this end, public health and social measures including vaccination, quarantine, distancing, movement restrictions, mask-wearing and contact tracing are important and, used correctly, in the public good. These use of public health and social measures should be based on evidence, be proportionate to risk, and be equitable.
As a Christian media organisation, we take seriously our responsibility to foster informed debate, hold authority to account, and promote the best ideals of democracy. We will pray for those in authority and urge others to do likewise.
In our coverage of the pandemic we are committed to discussion that is informative, fair, educative and not inflammatory, that respects all persons, and does not promote hate speech, ridicule or vilification. We will encourage Christians to take part in community discussions in a like manner.
We take seriously our duty of care to staff and volunteers. The standards we apply to our ourselves are the standards we expect in others. So when listeners and others interact with our staff and volunteers whether to provide feedback, express a contrary view or make a complaint they are required to do likewise, whether engaging by text, phone call, email, letter, or on social media.
Any public-facing communication (e.g. Facebook post) that does not respect these standards will be removed. Where texts or other communication with our staff offend these standards, they will be removed and repeat offenders blocked. Offensive and abusive correspondence will not receive a reply.
How can we experience God’s love in the midst of a pandemic? Where can we look to see common grace at work? How can we point people to hope when the news all seems so bleak?
As part of the Church universal, we take a long-term, transcendent view of history. We point to Jesus as the means of our eternal salvation, and to His resurrection as proof that hope will be fulfilled for all who call on His name.
In the meantime, there is work to do – good, fulfilling God-given work. It involves seeing people reconciled to God through Christ and consequently reconciling to each other. It involves working for the common good, being both agents of and witnesses to God’s common grace.
We are wise to be discerning and to seek truth.
It’s too easy to follow the patterns of the world around us, a world without a transformational vision where selfishness, cynicism and vilification descend like the evening on a moonless night. In that darkness all kinds of conspiracies and untruths feed fear.
The apostle John, one of Jesus’ closest followers and a witness to truth, nailed it in the opening of his account of those remarkable times. The Word of God is a light that shines so piercingly that the dark cannot overcome it. Shining that light on the troubles of our time and pointing to hope: this is our purpose.
On behalf of the Board of Hope Media Ltd
27th September 2021