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COVID-19 Held A Mirror to Christian Churches

The December 20, 2020 issue of The New Yorker harshly criticized the numerous Christian churches that don’t take the pandemic seriously and refuse to follow basic safety precautions. No statistics are available on how many churches comply and how many defy lockdown protocols, but the magazine did say:

In 2020, many churches realized that the best way they could love their neighbors was to temporarily shut their doors. Early in the pandemic, the National Association of Evangelicals and Christianity Today issued a statement calling on churches to close “out of a deep sense of responsibility for others.”

The article went into detail into the history of Christian compassion during past deadly pandemics. They referenced Rodney Stark and his book The Rise of Christianity:

Rudimentary nursing, in the form of providing food and water, likely led to dramatically better survival rates among Christians and those they cared for, which would have seemed nothing short of miraculous amid so much suffering and death. Starks argues that differing mortality rates would lead to further conversion opportunities. He points out that “the Christian way appeared to work.”

However, the current behavior of the defiant churches will inevitably hurt the faith:

The pandemic in 2020 has held a mirror to Christianity, just as the epidemics of antiquity did, but today’s reflection carries the potential to repulse rather than attract. ... Churches will have to reckon … with how much their collective witness––the term Christians use to describe their ability to point to Jesus in their lives––may have been diminished.

Possible Preaching Angle:

There is an obvious tension between government regulation and freedom of religion, between loving our neighbors and the politicization of aspects of the pandemic. Every church is responsible before God to consider how best to worship God corporately, how to keep our vulnerable members protected, all the while being mindful of our appearance before a watching world.

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