The cultural commentator’s big question at the moment is what will the world be like in the magical hereafter: post-Covid.
How will this change us? Perhaps—as Mark Sayers suggests—this will quicken the move that was already happening as globalism gives in to the networked society (this seems plausible), or—as many have commented—we will see the US move fully into their own post-Christianity which will have tumbling effects on other English-speaking nations like my own.
Thinking a little smaller, I see on social media lots of suggestions that our society will shift in one direction or another. Here’s my take on some of those I’ve seen, and my suggestion for the big change we will see in British culture. I’m claiming minimal expertise and no prophetic inclination, so make of it what you will.
Almost every office job has moved to all staff working from home for extended periods of time. Whether or not it was ideal, it turns out we were still able to get on with our jobs. Many are predicting a flexible-working revolution with more jobs being fully home-based and most jobs increasing their receptivity to flexible working (being at home for part of the week, regularly).
My suspicion is short term we will see some strong moves in this direction, but long term we’ll revert back to fairly similar norms to before the Pandemic. We’re very adaptable creatures, but there are too many benefits to working in the same room as your colleagues. Institutional memory fades quickly so all of the old arguments about managers needing their teams where they can see them will come back with time.
I’d like to be proven wrong here I think, though this is the kind of policy which might recentre the home (good) or simply extend the reaches of your employer into your life (bad).
Will we become more compassionate as a society? Have we noticed what really matters, who is really ‘key’ and who loses out in global catastrophes?
I think we have noticed, but since genuine change would affect us too, I doubt there will be much change here. We can’t make ourselves more compassionate. Freedom from selfishness requires freedom from sin. Covid will not do the work of revival.
I’d love to be wrong.
Along similar lines, will we wake up to inequality and do something about it in deep and structural ways?
Again, and for the same reasons, probably not. Truly ground-breaking shifts in society happen when the gospel changes hearts and then those people change their communities. Politicians might talk about a “reset” and an opportunity to think again about how our societies are structured, but I think while small changes are possible—for good and for ill—large structural change requires a public will that can’t be created by fiat.
Again, I’d love to be wrong
We were already partially virtual creatures with large portions of our lives taking place online. This will only increase. Everyone suggesting that the vastly increased way we’re all using the internet is here to stay are clearly correct. We’re more familiar, more confident, and more aware of the tools that are available to us.
My accompanying fear is that we won’t do the hard work of considering which online spaces are formative and which are not. Christians need to be at the forefront of this in discipling our people to use these spaces in ways that don’t unduly form us, or if that isn’t possible then withdrawing from them as much as required.
To some extent this will be true in the church as well—though I’d be more careful at being drawn as to how much! For example, we’ve seen great success with people coming to faith through Alpha online over the last year. Will that continue post-Covid? I suspect it probably will.
The knock-on of the above is that there will be less community. We have become accustomed to being isolated in our homes, and even if we think that’s bad we all tend to do what we are used to. People are hard work. The more we can do online the less we are exposed to the difficulties and hard edges of real people.
Someone will probably object that there is plenty of community available online. Sure, this is true as far as it goes, but we have to contend that it isn’t the same thing. Embodied community matters, is good for us, and will decline to some extent.
What no one’s talking about
I mean, someone probably is, but I haven’t seen it. I am convinced that post-Covid we will see a slow but steady increase in fear. People will be more afraid. And not just the healthy “I should move away from this bear” fear that we ought to experience.
This is not a new trend, there are lots of indicators in this direction, but they will increase. This will happen especially among the young as they were already demonstrably more afraid. I suspect that both measurable levels of mood disorders as well as unmeasured generalised fear in the population will increase across the board and will increase more in the groups that were already more affected.
It shouldn’t surprise us; we’ve been fed fear (rightly or wrongly) from every media outlet going. Ambient anxiety was an existing phenomenon afflicting us and ‘present shock’ where ‘everything happens now’ accentuates this. We’re ripe for being riddled with fear.
We aren’t meant to be a people who live in fear, and there is freedom from fear in Jesus.
The internet is a tool—albeit a more dangerous one than many would admit. The Bible would critique your work whether from home or from an office, neither is inherently better in all circumstances. Community, compassion, equality, and freedom from fear are all found in the gospel and in the work of people who Jesus has radically changed. We need the kingdom.
That’s the bottom line. The UK needs to be renewed and revived by the truth and love of Jesus.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.