I have already written on the issue of opening the Church prematurely during a pandemic. But today the president decided to announce that churches and other faith spaces are "essential services"; hence they need to open right now. And if any Governor attempts to stop a religious group from gathering, he would personally see to it to override the gubernatorial authority and order the buildings open.
Needless to say, I used a string of words that I promise I will ask God to forgive me for uttering before I go to sleep tonight.
This is an outrage and overreach by the president. He has no right to demand this of any Governor, and he has absolutely no authority to declare any religious entity open its doors for a Worship service. The churches, the synagogues, the mosques, the temples....none of them have been "closed" during this pandemic. We have not been meeting in person. We are keeping socially-distant when we do, and usually no more than two or three. Most of us have learned to navigate our way into the world of online worship, and we're doing it warts and all every week, with services that are reaching people who otherwise might not walk through our doors. And, the last time I checked, God was not limited to a building anyway. For Christians, the "church" is the people, not the space. And God can be praised anywhere, any time.
The reason we are not meeting, and why most religious leaders have been discouraging gathering in our buildings, is simply because there is no way to keep the most vulnerable members safe, or keep the communities we live in safe if we should meet and someone in our midst be a carrier of COVID-19. Remember, it is the asymptomatic carriers who put everyone within their radius unintentionally at risk. This is why wearing a mask in public is necessary. But never mind that: most of the people demanding that churches meet are also the ones walking around their local Publix without a mask. Following Christ requires us to "love God, love your neighbor as yourself." That means thinking about more than just our own needs and wants and considering others.
This is why pushing to bring us all together into our buildings for an hour on a Sunday morning...or into a mosque or synagogue on a Friday or Saturday....is asking us to turn our Worship Spaces into a petri dish of highly-contagious viral infection. And this is, in my opinion, demonic. Only the powers of Satan would want to encourage people to gather during the height of a pandemic into a space dedicated to worshipping God and call it an "essential service." What a perfect scenario for the satanic work of driving people away from God: get them or their loved ones seriously ill, possibly kill them, for coming to worship together. Already, I am seeing posts on Facebook from atheist friends who are touting, "See: I told you!" For them, this confirms Christianity is a "death cult."
Yesterday, we marked the ascension of Jesus into heaven to prepare the way for the incoming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus left his disciples with a road map to follow to know how to live and take care of one another. We shouldn't let his ascension be a chance for us to lose our minds and retreat inward into selfishness.
Frankly, the president can say whatever he wants about people heading back to their worship spaces. I will render to Caesar what is Caesar's. The church, in my context, is governed by the orders of the bishop. And we'll be doing services in my diocese online this Sunday. All are welcome...even in your pajamas.