Sweden 

The weirdness of life not in lockdown

Yesterday afternoon my wife cycled home from work at her pre-school, and my kids came home from school (they’re 9 and 11) as usual. Then a little later I took my son to his swimming training and I went for a run with a friend through a nearby forest. As we ran the trails, we saw people down by the lake having a BBQ and people going for walks. On our way home we stopped at McDonald’s and had a bite to eat. Then we went home.

In a nutshell, when people all around the world (my entry is quite a way down) remember the great coronavirus lockdown of 2020, if we remember anything at all it will be that life went on mostly as normal. Sweden as you probably know by now, unlike almost everywhere else in the world has not gone into lockdown. And it seems to be working out OK.

Now for a few caveats. Sweden has not got everything right. Its death rate is worse than its neighbours but better than Belgium’s. Does that tell you anything useful? It has clearly made mistakes protecting the elderly and weak in care homes. It hasn’t done a good job getting information out to ethnic communities that don’t really pay much attention to the government. Amongst both groups, the death rate has been too high.

There IS social distancing and large groups (more than 50) are banned. Our church is both larger than that and was meeting in a day centre for the elderly beneath care homes for the elderly so that’s currently off-limits to us and maybe for the rest of the year. So we have online things but we’re still meeting in small groups. There’s a fragmentation without an equally strong push to make the effort to come together that a lockdown gives. We may, as a church, be looking for our 3rd different venue in 2020.

I heard a friend say, Sweden was conducting ‘a global experiment’ which despite not making any sense for one country to conduct a global experiment it really is everyone else who is conducting the experiment. Sweden simply refused to join in. Only time will tell but it seems likely that Sweden will end up in the middle of the pack. Worse than some, better than others.

There’s a lot of arguing about the Swedish data, perhaps more than most countries, because people need to believe that the sacrifices they’re been asked to make in lockdown life is worth it and worthwhile. A country like Sweden not doing that somewhat undermines the force of the argument that a lockdown saves lives when it may not make much of a difference at all.

The rest of the world is trying to figure out how to exit a lockdown and basically get to where Sweden currently is – with restrictions that you can live with for a long period of time.

I think there’ll be some differences in the spiritual side of things too. I’m hearing stories from lockdown countries of ‘a greater openness’ to the Gospel and online services booming in the UK and elsewhere. That’s not true in Sweden. There is no great existential crisis here, and life is disrupted but not critically so. So why would your average secular Swede look for Jesus any more today than a few months ago? If there is any kind of spiritual bump up from this coronavirus pandemic it likely won’t be felt in Sweden.

Yet as a church we’re trying to seize the opportunity to get ourselves ready for a new season – with a more cohesive missional focus in our groups, discipleship and gatherings and get ourselves ready for whatever comes next.

Some of my other posts on Coronavirus

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