Covid and the Church
Updated: Dec 31, 2021
Covid is a worldwide pandemic that, as of this writing, has killed nearly 1.5 million people. The worst hit country is the USA with over 250,000 deaths. Despite America's impressive medical science, the political leadership at the federal level has utterly failed, and many more will die before the vaccines are made available. Yet in spite of all this, many Republican politicians are downplaying the virus and doing little or nothing to help those affected by it. Small businesses are closing down permanently. Banks are foreclosing on homeowners. Millions face eviction and many have lost or will lose their health insurance, which is tied to employment in many cases. At the same time, the Dow has hit 30,000 for the first time and some pastors are in court trying to force state governments to allow churches to remain open, guaranteeing the pandemic's spread. What is going on?
As Chris Hedges showed in American Fascists - the Christian Right and the War on America, an unholy union of conservative pastors, Republican politicians, and corporate money has nurtured a voting block of right wing white evangelicals and other conservatives, and convinced them to vote Republican; equating that party with Christian values. It was the so-called Moral Majority that elected Reagan and it would be evangelicals who elected HW Bush and Bush Jr. They enjoyed the taste of power and we saw the Tea Party movement successfully win seats in Congress. And in 2016, they united behind Donald Trump, who they lifted up as God's chosen, although he had little in common with our Lord and Savior. White evangelicals had sold out for promises of power.
In January of 2020, President Trump was briefed that the virus was deadly and contagious, and he revealed what he knew in early February to Bob Woodward in recorded conversations. Yet instead of rolling up his sleeves and organizing the federal government to fight covid in coordination with the state governors, he instead chose to tell the American people it would "just disappear like magic". Later he would say it would go away when the weather warmed. Of course these were lies. The state governors were left to their own devices and the results are catastrophic. Yet Republicans who know what viruses are mimic the President's lies because they are afraid of him. A few angry Tweets, and their political career could be over in a Primary. So they carry on this fraud knowing fully well it is costing thousands of lives, and the President surely knows. They are more concerned about their political careers than the very lives of those that voted for them.
What does the Bible say about disease and its prevention? In the Old Testament, if one was infected with leprosy, they were examined by a priest, and if confirmed, they were required to live outside the camp and tell people they were infected (Lev 13:45-46). In time, if the disease cleared up, they could rejoin society. So even in the Old Testament, infectious disease was understood and dealt with accordingly. In the Christian era, history shows that it was often Christians who would stay behind and help those struck down by a pandemic--feeding and clothing them--even if it endangered their own lives. But today, many conservative Christians will not even wear a mask to help their neighbor and themselves stay safe. Following the arrogant, lying President of the USA, they pride themselves in pretending the virus is not serious. Some may think God will protect them from getting the virus, but the numbers continue to rise, and the worst hit states tend to be those run by conservatives.
Should we expect more from our pastors? They are echoing the same lies as the political class. Why? Because many work for the political and business class, not for Jesus Christ. Their job is to keep white evangelicals in line and voting Republican. So they sue to have their churches opened, when they can very easily conduct services online. The other motivation, I think, is money: in-person services keep people under control and the cash flowing. Giving drops off when services go online. It is a gross abuse of power that is literally killing people! And there is no biblical basis for it. Jesus said "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and "love your neighbor as yourself." Since fellowship and worship can be done online and in your home, there is no reason to expose our neighbours and ourselves to infection. Once the vaccines have been rolled out and we reach herd immunity, we can begin assembling together as before. But to do so now is irresponsible and reckless, and not in line with biblical principles.
So for those following Jesus and trying their best to obey his commands, let us reject these false pastors and their political and business patrons. Stay home and stay safe. The Lord is not requiring us to be reckless and foolish, but to be "wise as serpents, and innocent as doves."