There's No Need For Religious Gatherings Right Now

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 
You Don't Get To Call For Mass Gatherings For The Sake Of Your Religion
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Before the keyboard warriors hop on to tell me off through misinterpreted Bible scripture, let me clarify to the crowd that I’ve been a Christian for a long time. This isn’t some passive-aggressive ploy to denounce or mock the Christian faith during these trying times when someone’s faith might be the very thing that sees them through. Because quite frankly, to do so would be to ridicule my own personal beliefs, and that’s not really the best way for me to start off.

The thing is, while my beliefs align with the fundamentals of Christianity, I also strongly believe in science. (Yes, all you pearl clutchers doing your open-mouthed gasping, it’s possible to believe in both.) And right now, science is telling us to stay home. Science has proven why, in the wake of this pandemic, we must all do our part to adhere to the guidelines of social distancing and isolation if we are to see a flattening of this curve.

But though gathering is groups is one of the things science, and our government for that matter, is strongly urging us not to do, some of the most privileged and religious among us are doing — and promoting — it anyway: attending, creating, and hosting mass gatherings for the sake of worship and prayer.

Some who follow the Christian faith have fallen into the faulty mindset that reassures their protection from COVID-19 so long as they are giving praise to God. That they are somehow immune to this virus that has killed hundreds of thousands, because of verses like, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” (Isaiah 54:17)

It’s a beautiful scripture to hang tight to, indeed, especially now. But if we are willing to walk into a COVID-19 battlefield without the armor of common sense, we are using God’s word out of context. Because even with Him by our side, we are still human. We have not been cloaked in some kind of holy, COVID-19 repellant. So for the love, let’s act accordingly and respectfully.

Not long ago, hundreds of cars gathered around my small town’s local hospital and surrounding areas for a time of worship. I watched countless live videos from the comfort of my own home where families carpooled to the event with other families, friends with other friends, and I’m just wondering … when did this suddenly become okay in the middle of a pandemic? Is it okay because the church said so?

The sentiment is lovely. I know that when people partake or create these types of gatherings they view to be safe, they are doing it with the best intentions. Things like this give folks that warm, wholesome sense of community, which I realize is sorely lacking in our lives right now.

But just because someone has good intentions doesn’t mean that they are making smart decisions. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t, even unknowingly, engaging in religious entitlement — using their faith to bend the current guidelines that are set into place for everyone’s protection.

This. Isn’t. Essential.

These services are not “just like” going to the grocery store, either, as so many have been eager to argue. When a family member from your home goes to the grocery store, they are being exposed for the needs of their family, not for a goosebumps experience. Because no matter how we choose to spin it, that’s exactly what this is.

I know, I know… the intention of these events is that nobody leaves their car, and everyone keeps a six-foot distance from one another. But isn’t the intention of social distancing and self isolation that nobody leaves their home except for the absolute essentials? And yet, people can’t even do that when lives are dependent on it.

To have an open invitation where thousands of people can come together in one place, even for prayer, is like asking your city to lick a Petri dish contaminated with COVID-19 and then waiting to see who becomes symptomatic. We don’t fully understand how COVID-19 works yet, and it’s going to take a lot of time and thorough research before we ever reach that point. So tell me, why would we risk something we know so little about?

Beyond that, whatever happened to allowing sick patients to get some peace? When I find myself in a bind, I’ll take any kind of good vibes — even those that don’t match my faith — but we all know that not everyone is like that. For some, having another’s religious beliefs strongly imposed upon them can be offensive. And still, we drive in, roll down our windows, and blare the Christian radio in sync with our neighbor’s anyway.

There are sick people in these hospitals, fighting for their lives, who are not of the same religious background as you. For them, these gatherings may not be a comforting presence. Please, if for no other reason, respect their beliefs. Let them heal in a peaceful environment. And if you believe in the power of prayer, pray for them in private every day.

Your prayers are just as effective from home as they are from a crowded hospital’s parking lot. Or anywhere else you shouldn’t be right now.

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