As doctors, scientists, and the political world urge people to stay home and embrace social distancing to slow and eventually stop the spread of the coronavirus, The River Church refused to close its doors. The Tampa-based church chose to host their own physical service with a packed building filled with people in a dangerous crowd. The pastor, Rodney Howard-Browne, denounced the social distancing order with claims that he can cure the coronavirus “just as he did with the Zika virus.” This is the perfect example of coronavirus versus faith gone wrong.
People continuing to congregate in large crowds is a clear and present danger. The church was packed with worshipers who clearly were looking for hope. Howard-Browne, who presides over the megachurch and has been reportedly defiant over social distancing. He has vowed he will never close his church despite every doctor and scientist saying social distancing is the only thing that will prevent the disease from spreading even more. The Pastor boasted his place was white-glove clean, saying:
We brought in 13 machines that basically kill every virus in the place, and uh, if somebody walks through the door it’s like, it kills everything on them. If they sneeze, it shoots it down at like 100 mph. It’ll neutralize it in split seconds. We have the most sterile building in, I don’t know, all of America.
We are not stopping anything. I’ve got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place.
The scariest part of this faith gone wrong is the host of people lined elbow-to-elbow. If they contract the disease, they are the ones most likely to spread it, because they are clearly not practicing or understanding social distancing. Of course, faith is important, but seriously risking the health and safety of the people who come to worship is nothing short of outrageous and irresponsible.
This is, without question, a difficult time for religious organizations. However, many churches are still doing their services, but are streaming where people can watch on YouTube or Facebook on Sunday mornings from the safety of their own homes.
In another episode of Coronavirus versus faith gone wrong, a pastor who said COVID-19 is just “mass hysteria” was among the first from Virginia to die from the virus. On March 13, Landon Spradlin shared a misleading meme that compared coronavirus deaths to swine flu deaths and suggested the media is using the pandemic to hurt President Trump.
In the comments on the post, Spradlin acknowledged that the outbreak is a “real issue,” but added that he believes “the media is pumping out fear and doing more harm than good.” He also believed “As long as I walk in the light of that law [of the Spirit of life], no germ will attach itself to me.” Unfortunately, Spradlin tested positive for COVID-19 in the hospital and died on this past Wednesday.
Pastor Miles McPherson, who leads a megachurch in San Diego, Cali told his congregants that “carefulness is needed, but with faith and not fear. Citing a verse in the Bible, 2 Timothy 1:7, which reads, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” the pastor explained each key term as follows:
Fear means having a heart filled with dread and panic. Power means the ability to exert the spiritual force necessary for change. Love means affection towards God and others. And having a sound mind means making sensible, intelligent and reasonable decisions.
Not all faith communities are responding in the same way. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed a long-held tension between science and faith for religious-based communities. Much like The River Church, conservative Christians have said the “blood of Jesus” will protect their communities. In this time of great anxiety, leaders of all faiths have both an opportunity and responsibility to step up with words of comfort and compassion, but also follow the guidelines and directives established for keeping members safe and healthy.
At the heart of any religion is community: people gathering to worship, pray, caring for one another, and even dining together. There is, therefore, something antithetical about asking members of faith communities to show their love by keeping away from one another. It is a difficult and counter-cultural thing for many to do. Yet, it is what most faith leaders are asking of their congregation as they trust the advice of scientists and experts that this is the best way to show care for the most vulnerable in the community.
The River Church pastor bragged on how clean the facility is in hopes of deeming it safe for corporate worship. However, the cleanliness of the church does not impact someone coming into the building and spreading the disease from person to person. This openly defied authority of those who govern the city, state, and country where his members reside. This type of resistance is not the opposite of fear, but instead is a defiant example of coronavirus versus faith gone wrong.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Patch: VA Pastor, Musician Dies From Coronavirus He Had Questioned
Raw Story: Florida residents pack into megachurch after pastor promises cure for coronavirus
Christian Post: Have faith, not fear, says Pastor Miles McPherson on coronavirus
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