*** DEBUG END ***

TV review: Pandemic 2020 and Being Christian

23 April 2021

Veronique De Viguerie/Getty Images

Personal testimonies in Pandemic 2020 (BBC2, 1, 8, 15 April) included that of a French photojournalist, Veronique De Viguerie, who headed to Brazil and this cemetery in Manaus

Personal testimonies in Pandemic 2020 (BBC2, 1, 8, 15 April) included that of a French photojournalist, Veronique De Viguerie, who headed to Brazil an...

RELIGION at its worst, and at its best. The magnificent three-part series Pandemic 2020 (BBC2, 1, 8, and 15 April) told the story so far of Covid-19 through a palimpsest of personal testimonies, garnered from around the globe.

A sparky young couple from Wuhan shared their personal videos of the virus’s developing, the authorities’ initial denial transforming into absolute lockdown, and then their astonishment that Western countries, with China’s example clearly before them, did not act with commensurate dispatch.

We followed the diary of a doctor from Leamington Spa, a nurse from Milan, and a most impressive council worker from Colombia. The last of these told us how the disease had, first, revealed the hitherto unrealised scale of his city’s overcrowding and deprivation — and then offered a vision of co-operation, mutual support, communal singing, and dancing, even, in the face of death.

The third programme focused on reactions of faith. A Charismatic fundamentalist pastor in the United States led his flock in total denial, refusing to comply with any lockdown regulations. In his black-and-white world, it gave him the chance to revel in public martyrdom: the whole thing was a “politically motivated hoax”, a ploy dreamed up by the godless liberal media in their opposition to his hero, Donald Trump.

We found far more responsible and advanced thinking in the remote Amazonian village that, taking it very seriously indeed, was prepared to suffer isolation to contain the infection, and developed its communal religious rituals to minimise contact. A Muslim social worker from Harrow found the exercise of his faith greatly deepened: at personal risk, he now shares in the ritual washing of bodies, visits widows and orphans, and brings food to the housebound.

Was it originally planned as a sop to UK Christians, marking Holy Week with a little direct religion? If so, the scheduling of BBC1’s documentaries Being Muslim/Sikh/Hindu/Jewish, went askew, as Being Christian, instead of opening the series, was relegated to 11.25 p.m. on Easter Tuesday: a slot surely guaranteeing the target audience’s absence. For non-Christians, this depiction of a range of UK adherents offered no single overarching thread; and so, to that extent, it was entirely accurate.

The Roman Catholic mother (Extraordinary Form Latin mass) who, in the birth of her latest child, “offered each contraction to God”, shared little with the young woman baptised by total immersion in the Salford Pentecostal church, or with Rebecca and John, who were preparing for their church wedding in Manchester. Speaking more directly to me was the requiem mass for June, one of the first women priests, commended to God after what her son described as a wholly committed life of ministry in Stockton-on-Tees, centred on the eucharist.

But we heard no radical voice, no affirmation that, for example, political, gender, and racial action derive legitimately from the teaching and person of Jesus Christ.

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

2 July 2022
Bringing Down the Mighty: Church, Theology and Structural Injustice
With Anthony Reddie, Azariah France-Williams, Mariama Ifode-Blease, Luke Larner, Will Moore, Stewart Rapley and Victoria Turner.

4-8 July 2022
HeartEdge Mission Summer School
From HeartEdge and St Augustine’s College of Theology.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four* articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)

*Until the end of June: we’re doubling the number of free articles to eight, to celebrate the publication of our Platinum Jubilee double issue.