Emily Oster, an economist who teaches at Brown University, generated a social media storm last week after she suggested it was time for a “pandemic amnesty”. The Atlantic article she wrote argues that because we were all “in the dark”, no one could be expected to have known what was right. “In the face of so much uncertainty, getting something right had a hefty element of luck. And, similarly, getting something wrong wasn’t a moral failing.” That all sounds well and good except she is wrong. Or maybe she’s lying.
While Oster’s Twitter bio boasts that she is “driven” by data, she seems to have overlooked the commonsense things that simple folks in the backwater of the internet saw from the get-go. As she sees it: bad things were done by those who were “wilfully” spreading misinformation (though it was not as dangerous as she infers) and pits that against the poor unfortunates who were required to make the “hard calls” about lockdown, masks and mandates.
Rather than humbly admit that people suffered terribly due to irrational policies, she suggests it’s time to put the past behind us and focus on things like the plummeting academic performance of school children, and remedy the neglected healthcare outcomes of so many. It seems lost on her that much of this fallout is a direct result of disastrous and deadly decisions made by authorities who knew better, but refused to go against the prevailing Narrative.
Joy Pullman did a great job pointing out that without a reckoning or repentance there can be no amnesty. She writes that contrary to what Oster says, there was plenty of information very early in the pandemic for leaders to draw on to make prudent decisions. But they failed to do so. Far from being “uncertain” as Oster claims, Pullman rightly observes that authorities were “so certain they were right” that they punished people who breached restrictions or spoke out, closed schools and mandated vaccines.
It is hard to believe that Oster could have forgotten. When people needed to maintain health, authorities shut down gyms and open spaces. People were prevented from planting gardens but alcohol and fast food were freely available. Streaming services, Big Tech, and Big Pharma made a killing, while mom and pop businesses were shuttered. When people needed hope and truth, churches were ordered to close.
No comfort was afforded to the dying while politicians ate in restaurants and vacationed abroad. People lost friends and their jobs for refusing to take vaccines that did not stop the spread. All the while media filled the airwaves with fear of death and destruction, especially if you didn’t take those jabs!
So, in whatever way we can, we must remember what happened. “They” may want to move on, deluded by their own fake news, but if there is to be a reckoning we must not let the lies set in or go unchallenged. Without accountability, this is a story that will keep repeating.
Readers may remember the days of the Saturday Morning Chill and the amazing video of Pastor Brian Flamme speaking about his governor who mandated how many Christians could meet, whether they could sing and how they communed. As Pastor Flamme said human leaders everywhere exceeded their authority and they need to be called out. We confess, as he does, that God has placed us here as individual saints and as the church for “such a time as this”, not only to stand up for the faith but for our neighbors. May God grant us wisdom and strength!
In some good pandemic news, a Canadian pastor who was arrested in front of his crying children last year has been acquitted of charges for violating public health orders. Pastor Tim Stephens, a Baptist pastor from Calgary, spent 21 days in prison and had his church locked out. He tweeted: “I rejoice since the gospel of Jesus Christ went forth in power, and Christ built his church”.