A growing number of our religious leaders have been endangering their congregations by denying Covid19 and the harm it can bring about. The rightwing Christian preachers have even been reported claiming that the virus can be defeated through our unflinching faith in God! Rodney Howard-Browne of Florida, Roy Moore of Alabama, Chuck Baldwin of Montana, Kenneth Copeland of Texas and even self-declared prophets like Lance Walnau are just a few of the names in the world of pastors whose ideas on Covid are as comical as they are scary. For some the Covid is nothing but a hoax. For those who concede it as a disease bearing virus, are depicting it as a milder version of the seasonal flu that’ll barely touch the population, while yet others have pained the pandemic as a left-wing conspiracy to improve Democrats’ chances of taking office. Other pastors are explicitly asking their flock to ignore information being published by CDC or media outlets of repute. “There is a spirit on media that will exaggerate this virus so badly that you will need to insulate your head in order to keep yourself free from paranoia,” wrote Walnau. Let those words sink in. This is 2020 and not the dark medieval ages, you’d think!
The litigation-minded spiritual leaders, in their turn, are knocking on the doors of federal courts – to help overturn state mandated orders around social distancing and such. Several churches in southern California have already challenged Governor Nerwsom, arguing that social distancing orders violate the First Amendment right to freedom of religion and assembly!
So why are evangelical leaders in denial of reality? Why are they pushing their congregations into risk-taking behavior? Is theology to be blamed? Maybe for many of this tribe, it is about spreading the kool-aid of ultimate faith in God’s protective powers. Maybe they are confident that God is in control and all this is part of his master plan. Maybe Jesus gave right-wing Christians authority over all forms of sickness. And if a Christian were to succumb to Covid, that works out to plan as well. He or she will then be “one with the Lord.”
The separation of church and state is a very key concept that should never ever be misused. Otherwise, as the saying goes, religion and politics can be a very heady mix. Politically charged religious views should never take precedence over scientific matters. Covid19 is a serious virus-borne illness that is threatening unprecedented deaths and maybe long-term damages globally. The pastors, irrespective of their political leanings, have a responsibility towards their people. And that responsibility is to keep them safe – not hurtle them in the mouth of danger!