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When Going to Church is an UnChristian Act

If you have been paying some attention to recent coronavirus news, you have probably seen a handful of pastors nationwide – typically from Pentecostal denominations (more on that in a bit) – flouting that they are meeting in defiance of governmental orders. One of the churches, Life Tabernacle Church in the City of Central, Louisiana (not Central City) has had a major news presence. The church sits on a corner that was a vacant lot not all that long ago, which I passed often on the way to the sizeable Baptist church I attended (which wisely has gone to online services for the duration). The issue hits home for me as my family still resides in that town. The whole situation about churches meeting during this time, and what the government can or should be able to do has brought up some interesting paradigms. Below is my take:

  1. The pastors should NOT be arrested. Arresting anyone for church meeting is likely a clear violation of the first amendment religious protections. DeBlasio’s statement about permanently closing religious houses is BLATANTLY unconstitutional if enacted.
  2. Churches in areas where the virus is clearly spreading should not be shielded from civil liability. If members are following leadership who tell them that they will be fine if they meet and it strikes, the church in particular and the leadership should bear some liability.
  3. If a church has flouted the government recommendations and its members still get sick, the leadership should pay for the care of their members. It would be both their responsibility and their rightful Biblical restitution.
  4. If a church is extremely vocal about continuing to meet, that church has an idolatry problem. Throughout scripture, and even from the mouth of Jesus, we see the need for humility and silence in doing good works. If God wants something known, it is not up to us to publicize. If a church is openly meeting and bragging about it, their god is in the meeting, not in the God they are supposedly meeting about.
  5. I have said it before, Pentecostalism is going to have a serious issue with the pandemic. “Word of Faith” churches, particularly some which believe that lack of healing – and even getting sick – is a lack of faith (through some convoluted misinterpretation of select scriptures) will see some serious blowback. Some are already stuck between a rock and a hard place – do they meet and risk being proven charlatans, or be open hypocrites and shut down public services?

Christians need to be careful. We have a clear commandment to love our neighbor and seek the welfare of the city in which we live. How can we do so in the midst of a pandemic to prevent its spread? What will be our new normal when we walk back into our church doors?

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