They say that one should never discuss religion or politics. This post is about both.
Yesterday afternoon’s statements from the White House briefing room, without interpretation or analysis, are that the President declares that all churches and places of worship to be ‘essential’ and should be open.
There’s plenty to dig into here, most especially the public health ramifications of such an announcement, but also whether the President has the legal authority to make and enforce such a decree. I encourage you to do your own homework on that. What I want to say is a bit different.
The fundamental flaw in the President's announcement is something more central than public health or politics or constitutional legality. It starts with the assumption that houses of worship are closed.
From Pastor Lura Groen of Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Columbia:
Worship is essential! But our building is not. Thanks be to God we can worship together online, without gathering to spread a virus that is killing people.
The church is open! But our building will remain closed until it is safe to gather again. We worship online, we give money and volunteer with organizations that are meeting the needs of the world, we study Scripture and support each other from a compassionate and life-giving distance.
The church is open. And the synagogue. And the mosque. They do not need their buildings in order to be alive in their respective communities. Religion is not weakened by acknowledging the realities of science. Anyone who peddles that line must think that their God is very weak indeed.
Not all of my readers belong to faith communities. I don’t write this making that assumption. But Friday’s announcement will have an impact on them whether they like it or not. Additional groups of people getting together in situations which have been proven to incubate super-spreading beyond their walls means that chance encounters will increase the likelihood of infection.
Evangelism is supposed to be about sharing the joy of your beliefs. This is far from it. Being willing to spread disease in order to prove that no one can tell you what to do is not a choice that puts God at the center. Nor does it show love of neighbor as oneself. It is “me, me, me.”
I saw a statement online yesterday that was the epitome of this ego-centric philosophy. On a field of pink, emblazoned with hearts, it went something like this:
I would rather die singing His praises in His house than be safe at home alone.
Pretty words. Ugly reality. It should really read:
My right to sing His praises in His house outweighs your right to protect yourself and your loved ones from a disease that has no cure.
Is this religion? I am doubtful. Is it politics? Maybe. Are we all called to care for one another as much as ourselves regardless of religion or politics?