What might life be like once this pandemic is over? Will we return to a pre-COVID-19 Australia, or will some (or perhaps many) things be different?
We can’t predict the future – as COVID-19 itself has reminded us. But I think it’s worth having this conversation, to help us as prepare for a post-pandemic world.
So with the caveat that I’m not a prophet, here are my humble predictions for what life in Australia might be like post-COVID-19:
1) We’ll Value Embodied Human Connection More Than Before
Even as we’ll be more wary of infection from others.
Last Sunday morning, my wife remarked how much she struggles with online church. Now our church – like many others – has transitioned well to the online world. But she dearly misses the embodied connection of ‘offline’ church. Doing church online – while better than no church at all – is a painful reminder of what we’ve lost in this COVID-19 age.
Yes, we should be thankful for the blessing of technology (I can only imagine what my great grandparents did during the Spanish flu).
But relating online and gathering online is not the same as the real thing.
And so, this experience – this pain – of not being able to connect with others for months on end will scar this generation, in the same way that the Great Depression scarred our grandparents. As they responded by becoming ever more frugal, we’ll respond by valuing human connection in a way we hadn’t before.
Of course, this will be tempered by a fear of being around others – especially strangers. Hugs and handshakes will still happen, but mostly for close friends and family.
Eating out may also take a hit, as we continue eating at home, fearing the bug that might infect us from our local restaurant.
2) The Culture Wars Will Be Muted For Awhile
But they will flare up again.
Have you noticed how quiet the culture wars have become? The progressive push to remove traditional Judaeo-Christian morality from society – seen in the advocacy of issues like abortion, euthanasia and gender-fluidity – has largely taken a back seat to dealing with COVID-19.
Such agendas were pushed in places like Victoria even a few weeks ago; they’ve been muted during this crisis.
Nor have we heard much about identity politics: there’s an eerie silence about the alleged oppression of diverse minority groups at the hands of the majority, even though a crisis like this should (one would think) exacerbate such existing inequalities.
Or perhaps (as is more likely) the pushing of such niche issues as correct gender pronouns, or the alleged ‘privilege’ some people have because of skin colour (and describing these issues as serious human rights issues) are shown to be trivial in the face of a real crisis?
Call me simplistic, but focusing on what unites us as a society – and how we can work together for the good of all people – is surely a better way forward for Australia than viewing life through a ‘social justice’ prism of power and oppression, which divides people by their skin colour/sexuality/religion/gender/perceived privilege.
As commentator Douglas Murray argues:
Viewing all human interactions [through the prism of power] distorts rather than clarifies, presenting a dishonest interpretation of our lives… it is perverse to see everything in life through such a monomaniacal lens.'
Surely COVID-19 proves the deficiency of such ‘social justice’ thinking common on the progressive Left? And that a common humanity approach is a more effective way of handling our problems?
Either way, the silence from the more progressive voices of the secular left is telling.
I hope and pray this unity we’ve gained through addressing COVID-19 would continue into the future.
3) Australian Culture Will Accelerate Into the Post-Secular
Questions of life and death will keep haunting people.
This pandemic has raised many unwanted questions in secular people’s minds:
What is life about? What if I die? What happens after death?
Crises have a way of forcing such confronting (but important) questions onto us.
And as we’ve seen, the standard modern response of life being about comfort and getting ahead materially doesn’t make sense of this crisis. The modern secular demand for comfort – and the desire to avoid all suffering – is being shown up by this pandemic as a deficient view of reality.
And so, thanks to this pandemic, Australians will be ‘haunted’ by questions of meaning and death more than before, even post-pandemic. After all, if pandemic can shut the world down so quickly, maybe life is more tenuous than we realise.
As such, the materialistic worldview of secularism will increasingly give way to various guises of spirituality – be they transcendent (e.g. traditional religious views), or more private and immanent. We see this in the growing ‘spiritual but not religious’ category of people.
It’s worth noting that Christianity took root and grew in cultures that were overtly spiritual. And Christianity is growing the fastest in cultures that acknowledge spiritual realities (i.e. the Global South). Thus God may be preparing the way here in Australia for many more doors to open to the Gospel.
4) Australians Will Be Thankful for Government Intervention
Even as governments will be quicker to use coercive powers in future crises.
If this crisis has shown us anything, it’s that Australians trust their government. While we’ve had more freedoms taken away from us than most people living in totalitarian regimes, there’s been next to no complaint or protest.
Because Australians accept the government’s narrative of the crisis, and are submitting to its handling of it.
By and large we’re a nation that sees government not as a threat to be limited, but as the rider on a white horse who comes to save us during a crisis.
And it seems that in this crisis at least, our state and federal governments are doing well. The curve is flattening. And many businesses and workers are being thrown a lifeline in the form of job-seeker payments.
As politicians – both current and future – see the effectiveness of responding to such crises with a heavy hand, they may be less reticent to use such tactics in future. Especially in the event of a ‘crisis’.
Witness the Victorian government’s legislation (drafted before COVID-19) on so called ‘conversion therapy’. The Victorian government is linking this to a crisis, namely the poor mental health of many LGBTI people. As such, the Victorian government feels justified to propose laws that would potentially ban preachers from preaching Biblical sexuality. This heavy-handed tendency may well increase in a post-COVID-19 world.
5) Churches and Christians Will Increasingly Be Seen As Positive Influences
Due to the pernicious effects of social isolation, organisations that build community and mental wellbeing will be seen as positive and important to the fabric of society.
This will include churches. While much of the recent secular narrative has tended toward seeing churches as hubs of bigotry and abuse, this narrative will shift to seeing churches as places of community and relationship.
6) We’ll Value Sharing Workspaces With People
Even as we see the benefits of remote work.
Workplaces and workers will increasingly value the human connections brought about offices and physical places of work. Working in the same place as other people will be seen as a blessing after the current isolation and reliance on online communication.
And yet, at the same time, companies and workers will also see the benefits of remote work. From low office overheads, to no commuting time. Remote work will start to figure more prominently in the working life of Australians, especially knowledge workers.
7) We’ll Be More Aware of the Negative Impacts of Globalisation
The ability to travel anywhere also extends to the virus.
Globalisation has brought much good to Australia, such as tourism, export markets, and cheap consumer goods. But we’re now much more aware of the dangers that a highly-connected world can unleash. A disease in a Chinese wet market (or laboratory) can go viral, shutting down the world. And no one is immune – in both senses of the word.
As TGC editor Colin Hansen points out:
We remember how 9/11 changed airport security. Our new normal will include masks and temperature checks, as we see now in Asian megacities. Everyone’s in the same kind of boat, on their own side of the water. We’ll grow more sympathetic and aware of global trends and neighbors, even as we worry more about protecting our local ones.
What We Can Be Sure Of
God Is Working Out His Purposes In and Through This Pandemic
While there’s much we don’t know, or can only guess at, there is one thing we can be sure of: our God is sovereign and working out all things according to His good plan (Eph 1:11; Rom 8:28). This pandemic is part of His plan. And so, whatever the future brings, we need not fear. If God can work good from the cross of Jesus, He can work good from COVID-19.
And for that, He deserves our praise and trust.
 Douglas Murray, The Madness of Crowds – Gender, Race and Identity (London: Bloomsbury, 2019), 53.
Originally published at AkosBalogh.com