11 August 2020

Differentiated authority in a pandemic

The second part of John Sikkema's interview with me is posted here: State and church authority in a pandemic – An interview with Professor Koyzis. An excerpt:

The church in no way derives its authority from the state. However, the state, as a community of citizens led by a government, properly cares for the public welfare in ways that other communities are not easily able to do. The institutional church, for example, is not equipped to handle public health crises affecting huge numbers of people, nor do we expect it to. An emergency necessitates someone assuming a temporary coordinating function in ways that might otherwise seem intrusive. In wartime young men are conscripted into the military, food is rationed, curfews are imposed, bank accounts are frozen—all of these impinge on marriages, families, churches, businesses, and many other communities, at least temporarily.

The intensity of such state-coordinated solidarity would be inappropriate during most circumstances. And there are risks that the state will abuse its authority even during emergencies, as when Canadian and American governments interned their own citizens of Japanese descent during the Second World War. We need to be vigilant to be sure that, once the emergency has ended, the state will not inappropriately try to hold on to emergency powers. This is why democratic and constitutional checks are important.

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