So I visited Kroger and Walmart last Sunday morning. Tons of empty shelves and endless checkout lines. And why? The corona virus, pure and simple. I spoke with a couple of people at Kroger and they agreed that it was all about panic-buying. Good thing I have plenty toilet paper, right? I did want a loaf of bread, but there was none to be had. I grabbed a couple of cornbread muffins from the deli and left in disgust.
But crowded grocery stores isn’t why I’m pecking on the keyboard right now. I’ve been reading and watching various news outlets and more and more, I’m seeing the religious right getting even crazier than normal. It isn’t just the crackpot televangelists this time. Many “regular” preachers and trusted religious public figures are getting in on the act.
Let’s take a look at what some these nutsacks are saying:
“…Father, in the name of Jesus, You have promised we have all authority, not some authority! You have promised that we are seated with You in heavenly places, so we take Throne Room authority, and we bring that into the situation of the coronavirus, and we say in the name of Jesus, “Virus, you are illegal! This is God’s Earth!”
– Self-described “prophet” Cindy Jacobs
“I’m writing this to my friends and partners. I predict nothing will happen to you and your family. As a friend and partner of this ministry, you’ve chosen to make yourself someone who takes action on the Great Commission. You are in true covenant with God and as part of that covenant you have supernatural protection from every sickness and disease there is. And that includes coronavirus. I declare in Jesus’ name, these evils will not touch you.”
– Televangelist Jonathan Shuttlesworth.
“We are not stopping anything,” [regarding temporarily canceling services] he said. “I’ve got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place. This Bible school is open because we’re raising up revivalists, not pansies.”
– Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, leader of the Florida-based Revival Ministries International
[regarding temporarily cancellation of services] “If we die, we die for Christ.”
– Pastor Guillermo Maldonado (Kendall, FL)
“Satan is powerless in the face of this clear and unambiguous human testimony of faith. There is a reason why it is said that somebody is afraid like the devil of holy water…Do not be afraid to reach with faith for the holy water…Do not be afraid of the church.”
– Polish Archbishop Andrzej Dzięga
“If we truly believe in God, we know quite well that God would never allow harm to come to us, most especially in the reception of Holy Communion.”
– Rev. Fr. Stylianos Muksuris (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)
“For the members of the Church, attending Eucharist and Communion through the common glass of life certainly cannot be a cause of disease transmission.”
– The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece
“If God needs to be worshipped in this time when the country is moving up and down, when presidents are declaring that churches must not gather and praise God, this is what I’m not agreeing upon. I am going to defy the president of the country,” – Pastor Bheki Ngcobo of the South African Zionist Church
And my personal favorite (emphasis mine):
“Our top priority is not primarily the safety and health of our members, but that they advance in faith and godliness even on occasions at the expense of their safety and well-being.”
– Chris Bartlett, pastor of the Boaz [Alabama] Church of God
Someone once said that it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.
It isn’t just sitting in close quarters for an hour or two. Many churches practice communion. Catholics actually believe that crackers and wine physically change into the flesh and blood of Christ. In the Greek Orthodox church, the priest spoon feeds each congregant with the same spoon. That’s nasty without a global pandemic. But they claim there’s no way God’ll let them get sick off communion. People would think I’m crazy if I thought that a Ritz Cracker acutally turned into the flesh of Andy Griffith. But that’s no sillier than thinking their communion crackers turn into Christ-flesh. Goooood Cracker!
So, with many schools and other public places temporarily closing for safety’s sake, these “leaders” have instead rejected all common sense (not to mention science) and chosen to put their flocks at risk. The virus is airborne. This obviously means (to reasonable people) that being in a closed space with a bunch of other people increases your chances of contracting it. So if you’re a practicing theist ask yourself, “is it worth it?”
If you’re a practicing Christian, is your god so vain and self-absorbed that He expects you to put your health or even your life at risk just so He gets His weekly praise fix?
Do you really believe that you have a soul? Are you willing to risk the only life you’re guaranteed (this one) for the sake of a fairy tale about spending eternity with the aforementioned vain and self-absorbed deity?
Do you really believe that dropping to your knees and babbling at the floor (or the ceiling or whatever) is going to magically eradicate the virus?
A young man I occasionally chat with at the Kroger deli is a devout Christian. He asked me last Sunday if my church had postponed services. I simply replied that I’m “not a churchgoer” and that attending wouldn’t be a good idea right now anyway, in my opinion. This prompted him to start in (calmly and politely at least) about the importance of spiritual healing. At that point I told him I’m an atheist. He literally took a step back, as if atheism is also contagious (wouldn’t that be great!). I just told him to be safe and walked away. What else was I going to do? It’s alarming that so many people believe this nonsense.
Christian silliness is bad enough on a good day. But right now our days aren’t all that good. We have a genuine health threat floating around in the atmosphere. It’s time to stop with the make-believe and grow up. The corona virus doesn’t care what you believe. It doesn’t care if you’re in a church house, a school or the local cinema. If you come into contact with it, chances are you’re going to be infected. And you have no evidence that your god is going to protect you from it.
Speaking of the local cinema, that’d be worse than a church house. All those people crammed in together like a bunch of sardines in a can. I’ll wait until the flick comes out on iTunes, thank you very much.
So please be sensible at least for the time being. You don’t live in a vacuum. If you get it and then go walking around the grocery store or the mall, you put others at risk. You can worship your god at home. You can pray, speak in tongues, read your Bible and sing and dance to your heart’s content without risking your safety or anyone else’s.
Am I being unreasonable here? No, I’m not. At present what we do not do is as important as what we do. Avoiding close quarters with others is a smart and prudent course of action to slow the spread of the virus. Science will eventually cure the virus, not your god or anyone else’s. But until that happens we’re all at risk. Your house of worship isn’t magically protected, and neither are you. That’s reality, and you need to be responsible and accept it.
But note: Some churches at least are conceding to the reality of the situation and taking measures to protect their members. But not nearly enough at this point. At least these ministers have a partial grasp of reality and care enough about their flocks to protect them. It’s a step in the right direction.
Sources and Related Reading
- Archbishop tells faithful not to fear coronavirus: “Satan is powerless in the face of holy water”
- …Church ‘Will Never Close’ Because of Coronavirus: ‘We’re Raising Up Revivalists, Not Pansies’
- “If we die, we die for Christ.”
- Corona Virus Airborne, Chinese Confirm
- Churches in the U.S. are banning drinking communion wine and the sign of peace to stop the spread of coronavirus
- Greek Orthodox Church: Coronavirus Not Transmitted Via Holy Communion
- Pastor Bheki Ngcobo insists Easter services should continue