I don’t really talk about my religious beliefs much, but since this is my IMHO blog, it’s all fair game here. I just haven’t. For one, I find that religion is one of topics that can get people very ‘heated.’ Especially here in the United States, where everything (and I do mean everything) is political in some way or another For another thing… as a Christian here in the United States, I feel very misrepresented by what passes for main-stream Christianity in my country. The ‘Christians’ who have the loudest voices seem to the be ones most willing to bend the word of God to fit their needs, rather than bending themselves to God. And this ‘conservative, Republican Jesus’ (as some have dubbed it) is not the one I read about in my New Testament. But those are discussions for another day, perhaps.
What’s weighing on my mind today is the Church/religion in these times of Covid-19 and ‘social distancing.’
With everything shutting down or cutting hours due to the spread of Covid-19, and the fear of spreading it further there has a been a rise of churches and religious leaders rising up and crying ‘persecution’ because they are being asked to shut their doors. Pastors who’ve refused to cancel services and lead their large congregations in to worship during a time when we’re supposed to avoiding those large crowds.
One pastor in Florida was arrested for doing just that. Hence the cries of persecution and ‘they’re trying to silence us.’ As if this global pandemic was a thing made up by the secular main-stream to silence God.
And then, there are others… other pastors, other churches, other congregations… who have turned to the wonderful technology at our disposal and done something amazing and beautiful in the midst of this trying time. You can see it every Sunday morning now, on Facebook, YouTube and other such platforms. Sermons, whole services, special music, group video chats for prayer groups and Bible studies. All free and truly open to the public.
Easily shareable. Easy to find.
And I ask myself… which is the better way?
I do believe that God has a place in our lives. I’m not arguing that the Church is not essential, because to me, God, and Jesus, certainly is.
But… in this day and age… a church is a building. The Church, the true body of Christ, is not a building. It is the people. The community. I ask myself, what kind of message do these ones who cry ‘persecution’ and ‘we will not shut down’ send as they blindly ignore the safety of their congregations and anyone who may come into contact with them afterwards? Is it actually glorifying to God to put so many people in harm’s way? Is this how good shepherds tend to their Flock? Is this how we bring others to Christ?
Or is it all the unbending thought process of a group that just wants to have it’s own way? To simply ‘no do’ what the health officials and doctors suggest because those people follow science and in our political times God and science ‘cannot’ co-exist, let alone work together. (Please see the quotation marks there. That, also, is a post for another day.)
Wouldn’t these pastors be better off seeking ways of bring their services to their people, rather than the people to the services? Why can’t they, like so many others, offer online prayer services and Bible studies?
I mean, they can, surely!
But why don’t they?
My own little country church has been offering a sermon via YouTube very week since this started. Granted our pastor is newly diagnosed with diabetes and we have an older congregation, so maybe social distancing is a GOOD THING for us? But I’ve enjoyed sitting around the table with my family, sharing the service with my parents, husband and son. I play my favorite songs on YouTube first, and often share a couple on our Church’s facebook page. It’s not our usual church service, but it’s a way to stay connected as a church family.
Most of the churches in our rural area have gone online in some form or another now. And most of the people who attend those churches have been sharing the links, videos and whole live services online via social media. I can watch my service, and then, if I wanted to, hope on Facebook to see someone else’s. I could spend all day Sunday worshiping virtually if I wanted to.
And I ask myself… how many of the unchurched do those services reach? Whose message is louder? God’s … or that of the Pastors crying religious persecution?
I hope it is God’s always. I hope that those putting their flock at risk wake up and realize there are better ways. That in this day and age of technology and social media, we can do better than dragging everyone into a packed building and unwittingly spreading a disease we have no good means of fighting. We can… and some of us are. And I hope they do, too. I hope they come to realize that this isn’t about silencing God. It’s about silencing a virus that has no political agenda, but does have the power to kill so many people.
(As always, I welcome civil discussion, not attacks. If you don’t believe God, don’t come here to tell me how wrong I am. Just skip it and go somewhere else.)