Something that I’ve been watching for a while now is how the church has responded to COVID. As I left the church about the same time as the pandemic. I can’t directly comment as someone from the inside. But I will comment from the opinion of an outsider looking in.
Another caveat I will add in is that I live in a rural and mostly conservative area. So take that information and do what you want with it as you read my post. I generally try to avoid politics, but unfortunately a lot of what has been discussed in regards to COVID has become political.
As an outsider I’ve seen the church push back against every move the local government has made to slow the spread of COVID. Whether that be masks, immunizations, or restrictions on in person gatherings there has been challenge to every point made. Even during restrictions on in person gatherings many churches still made the choice to have in person services.
Many times I heard that this was because the church members felt that their religious liberties were being “trampled on.” And that their perceived right to meet in person for religious events override the governments authority to pass emergency lock down orders. Picking and choosing parts of US laws that they felt justified their actions.
Personal freedoms and choice have been put on a pedestal, while the safety of others have been disregarded. MY RIGHTS often come before your personal healthy or safety. And while I may expect this behavior from certain alt right conservatives, I didn’t expect to see it so prevalent in the church.
What I did expect to see from the church was care towards others. With humility and respect to their own local governments being demonstrated by their members. So they could protect the vulnerable members of their community. Choosing to sacrifice their own convenience for the health and others.
Instead I’ve watched as prominent evangelical leaders have fought to keep their churches open. Like John Macarthur and his recent fight against the state of California. I’ve certainly seen this issue come up locally with several evangelical churches choosing to disregard local mask and stay at home orders. And this does seem to be a bit of a global issue as well. As this article by the wall street journal points out.
For my occupation, I work in healthcare. It has been frustrating to sit and watch the community praise healthcare / essential workers all the while doing nothing to protect their own health or the health of others. While my local area is no longer having extremely high covid rates, I can say that even during my counties two separate covid peak rate periods there were still many churches meeting in person with no mask requirements.
It’s become a painful thing to watch. As conservative evangelicals in my community continue to push back against any type of covid regulation. All while their grandparents, parents, and elderly in the community suffer and die from covid. Churches bring these people before their god and ask for healing, but refuse to take measures to prevent that same illness.
The amount of times I’ve been told to pray for someone sick with covid or in the ICU because of covid these past few years is more than I can count on my fingers / toes. I currently have no prayers or faith left to pass on, but I do try to hold them in my thoughts as they come to mind. I just can’t help feeling some sense of anger and sadness as well when they do come to mind. This didn’t have to happen.
And I’m not just speaking abstractly about this. Many in my community, including myself, know those that have had to be hospitalized or even died from a covid related infection. It’s always casually dismissed “Well they had diabetes and were sick all the time anyway” or “If it wasn’t covid they would have passed soon from something else.” But I find it hard to dismiss the sheer number of lives affected by covid.
Their pain and suffering could have been prevented. They could have had a number of years left to live. Their deaths could have been prevented.
I’m not here to try and convince people to change their mind. I’m just trying to show how it feels looking from the outside in. It hurts and it feels like a betrayal of the very things I was told were central to the Christian faith. Compassion, kindness, empathy, and love: where were these sermon points when the debates about religious and personal freedoms raged in the church.