Daniel Singleton from FaithAction explores a prevalent malaise and the impact that faith groups have had on humanising responses to the pandemic:
'The New York Times reports on a new term being coined by psychologists' -Languishing. This is the real and developing mental health complaint caused by the COVID lockdowns. 'It wasn’t burnout – we still had energy. It wasn’t depression – we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless.' It is not an emergency condition, not one with an urgent and demanding need, but if not responded to can result in much more serious issues.
'This sense of stagnation and emptiness or "life through a foggy windshield", is a sense that many of us can recognise. If we are fortunate enough that COVID-19 has not impacted us or our loved ones personally, and if no other life-changing event has taken place (e.g. job loss, cancer diagnosis, personal crime), we may be struggling with the thought, "What have I got to be stagnant and listless about?"'
Singleton goes on to pay tribute to the carers: 'Medical staff have generally been good and have done all they can. But they have a job to do… And that’s just the point, there is something special about someone who is with us, who is not there because of their job. Someone who is there not because they are being paid but because they simply want to be there with us.'
This is where faith groups come in: 'The responsiveness and the compassion that demands action,' he argues, 'is the intangible contribution of which faith is a reservoir. And yes, sometimes we are to be the conscience of the nation! A moral standard can be raised by faith to enable a more humanised response by the state.'
When the first lockdown came in, he writes, in March 2020, it 'was all about protection of the physical. By Lockdown 3 in December 2020 the restrictions were more about the protection of our humanity. The difference was that there were more allowances for us as a social beings. Exercise with one other, support groups and meetings in places of worship were permitted in Lockdown 3, all with the aim of trying to nurture resilience in the population.'
'Faith – the fourth emergency service'
Singleton maintains that there 'was an implicit (and often explicit) recognition of the solace, and the spiritual and emotional role of faith. This could not be pushed aside, as had happened in the first Lockdown. Faith was an essential partner, the fourth emergency service... Beyond the physical needs of food, shelter and work, our recovery cannot be just about preserving the body while neglecting the soul. We need to take the lessons of Lockdown 3 and not repeat the limitations of Lockdown 1, and focus on humanity not just physicality.'
'A flourishing human being'
This is where faith communities come in. 'Seeing beyond the physical need is one important role we have to play in rebuilding. We need to speak into government about that which is not easily seen. Human flourishing is not about pay checks or benefit handouts; it’s about a sense of taking part, of belonging and contributing.'
Singleton is calling for 'a vision for young people', 'not just a catch-up class,' he says. 'And if this is true for young people, it is also true for all who have been disadvantaged by COVID-19 throughout the UK, whether that be the elderly, those with long COVID or those who suffered major loss through isolation. The answer will not be as simple as a winter fuel payment or a boost in Universal Credit. Although these things may be helpful, they do not encompass all that it means to be a flourishing human being.
'We as people faith need to play a role in rebuilding the unseen parts of society. We therefore have a role as internal architects, strengthening our nation from within and making it a better, happier place to be.'
Read the full article.
Daniel Singleton is National Executive Director of FaithAction.