At these mass services, priests announce the daily case numbers like biblical psalms and read from Covidanity scripture, the health reports and modelling. Covidanity prayers are recited to give us comfort in times of need: “We’ve got this”, “Staying Apart Keeps Us Together”, and “Let’s crush this thing”.
The cardinals of Covidanity are the chief medical officers and health experts. They issue the canonical gospel – the health advice – which must be enacted without question by the priesthood. And like Moses on the mountain, they declare the commandants of Covidanity. Thou shalt social distance, thou shalt wear a mask at all times, thou shalt check in with the QR code. These Covid commandments issued by the clergy cannot be questioned, of course. As Covid-fearing citizens, we must simply obey. If we are told not to touch a football flying at us, then so be it. After all, we bear the original sin – we may possess the virus – and as Priestess Gladys recently informed us, we should assume always that we carry the virus. Only through suffering in lockdown isolation, can we redeem ourselves from this original sin.
The hand sanitiser station is the holy water of Covidanity, used to ward off the virus. Rubbing sanitiser into our hands like crossing ourselves at church. We wear cloth masks, one of the central superstitions of Covidanity, like a crucifix around a neck to identify as adherents of the religion. The Covid test is the holy sacrament. A nasal swab is administered upon us, like a priest might have once placed a communion wafer on our tongue. And while a communion wafer may have brought us closer to God, the Covid test helps us learn whether Covid is already within us.
Every religion needs its objects of devotion. For Covidanity, the healthcare workers are our saints. In Melbourne, a shrine was built in the Botanical Gardens with the words “Thank You Healthcare Workers”, and a holy “Thank You Day” was declared a public holiday in October last year. In Britain, people stepped out of their homes every week to clap into the night sky for healthcare workers. A shared moment of devotion to our new sainthood. In Melbourne, it is not unusual to see people carrying religious objects, such as tote bags with Brett Sutton’s face on it.
Finally, and most importantly, we have the “Covidiots” – the apostates and heretics of the new state religion. Apostates are held up for ridicule and swiftly punished in the Covidanity state. The media play their role here too, posting photos of “heretics” – those enjoying themselves too much outside when they should be engaged in proper lockdown suffering. Prominent heretics face excommunication from the media or political parties.
Perhaps this has been years in the making. In our post-religion world, with its spiritual void, Covidanity has taken root within a matter of months. Covidanity plays to the religious impulse that exists within all of us – the need for a higher purpose and to be part of a community.
Followers of Covidanity are called to unite: to defeat a wicked virus and save lives. Whereas we might have once found collective faith at church on a Sunday, these days we walk around the streets, exchange knowing looks at each other over our face masks and swap “lockdown” stories of what we’ve been baking or how the kids are going with their home-schooling.