I just thought I would throw some thoughts out there and see where we go. This is partly for me to see my own thoughts on paper, but also to create a dialogue so that my thinking can be shaped. Quarantine and etc has made for some interesting internal thought patterns.
So, let’s take a church group of 200 people. They meet every Sunday for singing, talking, tea, some learning, and some support. As all of us need these things definitely, and this church has chosen to do these things in the context of a specific location with the same 200ish people every week. And let’s say for the example with no effort into the math, that these 200 people have direct physical links with over 5000 people in the wider community.
Now, let’s take the current virus that is raging through the earth. Largely unknown, other than, it spreads through close contact with other humans, sometimes with boxes and definitely through bodily fluids. And, if you have ever been in church, close contact and bodily fluids have been known to be a reality at all churches. Some churches directly shared with the cup of wine, some churches are hug and kiss groups, some churches sing very loudly and etc. Unless you are in certain Australian churches where people leave two chairs between each other, most churches like to pack people in. So, the singing could spread the virus, the hugging could spread the virus, the shared cups and indoor space could spread the virus.
The church has been known to tout the bible as the word of God. A book written by multiple authors over a 4000 year time span is held by most Christians to be a guidebook for life. Some churches hold it to be the only book. For science, health, education, leadership, relationships etc etc – everything you ever need to know is in that book. Other churches hold it a little looser than that, but, ultimately this is their guidebook. So when a virus comes around, that’s the book that should be turned to right? Because they should not listen to the medical staff around them telling churches to meet online and not in big groups right? What to medical staff know about health when we have this good book?
So… what does that good book say about the spreading of disease amongst Gods chosen?
There are a few books in the bible that Christians, for some reason LOVE to avoid. One is called numbers, the rational of skipping is, its legitimately half just a census. Just numbering the people. A lot of names. It’s very boring. Another skippable book is Leviticus (and bits of Deuteronomy). And why are these books skipped? Because they are all about stopping diseases from killing Gods chosen people. “Hang on… that sounds relevant”. The book is skippable because its all about foods they weren’t to eat in the desert, ways to keep their families healthy, ways to regulate bodily fluids from turning something healthy into a sickness. “What?? that sounds…. VERY helpful” And what do these two books talk about when it comes to protecting that larger group from a smaller possible sickness?
The repeating motif is “Leave the camp” – get away from all the other people and get out. And socially isolate for a time so that you know that you are clean to protect the rest.
If you are on your period (blood back 6000 years ago… wasn’t super understood), if you masturbate or have a wet dream or have sex that didn’t end so clearly (Jizz, was also not so well understood or STIs) if you have a sickness (leprosy was mentioned and needed your whole tent to be fumigated) if you ate certain foods, if you were unclean in other ways – GET OUT OF THE CAMP. And this was a camp of refugees numbering possibly 2.3 million people walking through the desert, led by a big fire in the sky. And this is the book that the church is supposed to take as their guide now. And in that book, what does it say?
Basically – to protect the larger group, if there is a possibility that a virus will be spread, making more people sick, then socially distance. Leave the camp.
Now back 6000 years ago, out of the camp meant you had to leave your Instagram account, you couldn’t skype anyone, and there was a time limit. During COVID-19 times, to socially isolate as a church, you don’t need to leave your Instagram account, you can skype all of your friends, you can be at church online and do everything you would have without endangering the 200 people. AND we have a time limit. As soon as there is more knowledge and more research to find something that protects people from the virus, we can go back to normal.
But, the problem with all of this is, COVID-19 has been made political. That its the government making up these things to force the church not to meet. And two things:
One – If the government created COVID-19, that’s terrible. But that doesn’t change the fact that this virus could kill a lot of people in a lot of churches. AND the book that the church is led by, directs us to protect life. Directs us to the weak and the forgotten about. Directs us to socially distance if that protects the health of the larger group. It isn’t political. It’s medical.
and Two – In that book that is said to lead the church, it chronicles, quite clearly, in the part that most Christians have actually read, the spread of the church because of political oppression. Reflected in moderns times with the spread of the church in China. When the church has to go underground and get creative and turn into small groups that spread fast – the church spreads fast. It grows in passion. It grows in depth.
And yet, instead of responding to this by socially distancing to protect people. or by splitting into smaller groups and spreading the passion and the love through actually serving and helping and communicating well, the church is childishly turning out in large numbers as a “protest” to the government. So basically doing the opposite of what the bible said, and what Jesus modeled. It’s not a “how can we help and protect those that a vulnerable” and more a selfish pride-filled “I want to go to church and you can’t tell me what to do.” How would COVID-19 times be different if it was Christians on the front lines handing out masks, handing out food to those without jobs, figuring out creative ways to do business to help others pay their rent on time?
And I know there is SO much nuance in this. Because some Christians don’t believe the virus is a thing. Some Christians don’t believe the old testament is relevant to today. Some Christians think martyrdom looks like worshiping in the streets openly with no care in the world. Some Christians think if BLM protesters get to protest then we should be able to meet at church. and the list goes on.
Sure, the church has many facets. But at its core, it is a beautiful community of creative lovers that have found something beautiful and life-affirming in the face of Jesus and want to emulate that to create heaven here and later. Heaven here on earth needs justice and a fair chance for everyone that has breath. Heaven here on earth includes dealing with viruses that crop up in mature and well thought out ways. Heaven here on earth is sometimes a waiting game. And no one likes quarantine. No one thoroughly enjoys shopping with a mask on. But if love asks us to be uncomfortable for a while, shouldn’t the church be at the front of the line begging to be the first to take that hit?