Churches should look more like Jesus’s tomb – Empty
Editor’s note: This article addresses one side of the issue. See “It is time to reopen church doors” for the opposing perspective.
American churches this past Easter Sunday undoubtedly hosted millions fewer churchgoers this year. But sprinkled across the nation, an audacious few defied government orders and worshipped in person anyway.
“You need to be in a building, especially on an Easter Sunday, which is what we’re here for, because our Lord and Savior is risen and we need to come together to feel the Spirit of the Lord moving upon all of us,” a church goer told the Louisville Courier Journal after she reportedly drove to Kentucky from New Jersey to attend the church service.
Jesus did defeat death eternally, but endangering the lives of others hardly seems like a way to celebrate life.
Religious people should not put others at risk of contracting COVID-19 by their religious practices, and that includes in-person church services.
Defiant churchgoers deserve the same critical response the rebel spring breakers received: Social distancing is not about you. It is about stopping the spread and protecting those most vulnerable.
Christians in particular should recognize this, considering the emphasis their worldview places on love and morality. Most Christians do recognize this, and the majority of churches hold remote or drive-in services.
But in the minority of congregations maintaining normal services, they offer poor reasons for their attendance. Most examples involve a defense of their constitutional right to practice religion freely.
A Texas pastor views church services as “essential” and insinuates closing churches makes the virus out to be bigger than God.
A pastor in Louisiana has kept his church open despite backlash. According to The Advocate, one congregant has since died and the church’s lawyer was hospitalized for COVID-19 respiratory complications, though it is unsure where they caught the virus.
Even churches that closed their physical doors early faced coronavirus complications. Churches in Arkansas and Illinois faced outbreaks in their congregation in mid-March, despite closing services before most of the nation.
Around the same time, about 70 congregants of a Sacramento church fell ill due to COVID-19, according to CNN.
Although meeting together for worship is an essential part of Christianity, we cannot classify in-person church services as “essential” during these circumstances when perfectly feasible remote options exist.
When someone makes an essential trip out of their home, they do so because they have to for the sake of obtaining the basics necessary for life.
If you can worship at home but instead choose to worship at a physical church with others, you have not made an essential trip. Rather, you have made a reckless trip and, in some areas, an illegal trip.
Older generations make up a higher percentage of church congregations – about 20% above age 65 in protestant churches compared to about 15% above age 65 in the general population – making churches generally at higher risk of severe illness.
Fighting the government – that wants to minimize harm from the pandemic – is a poor look for the church. To non-believers, this looks like entitled Christians thinking the rules do not apply to them – a selfish action.
Believing we must worship in a specific building is a rather legalistic view of scripture.
We should also not consider watching church on YouTube and calling your friend or parent after a lesser form of worship – only a different one that we are obligated to use during this season.
Circumstances have made the decision easy: Until the pandemic subsides, worshippers should find an alternative to in-person services.
Clayton Dykstra is an Opinion writer. Follow him on Twitter @dykstracd