Saturday, April 4, 2020

Quote for Day: Right-Wing Evangelical Churches Want to Resist Closing Services — But Risk Killing Off Their Congregations

David Neiwert, "Evangelical churches run smack into coronavirus' lethal reality, but some continue to resist"

Evangelical churches with a right-wing, Christian-nationalist political bent really want nothing more than to resist government orders to cease holding services during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The main drawback is that there’s the possibility of killing off their congregations.

Neiwert states that "the likelihood that these evangelical churches can become major disease vectors for COVID-19 is based in immediate reality," and then he points to Sacramento County, California, where more than a third of the county's cases have been traced to church services. In the case of one church in Sacramento County, Bethany Slavic Missionary church, 71 people in the local community have been infected — infected through that one church alone.

Then there's my own state of Arkansas, which he doesn't mention. As Adam Gabbatt pointed out yesterday in a Guardian article about which US states have done the least to contain the virus, 

Arkansas is another southern state yet to order residents to stay at home, despite parts of the state experiencing soaring rates of infection – Cleburne county has 253.7 cases per 100,000 people, among the highest in the nation.

Almost all cases in Cleburne County have been traced to a single church, Greers Ferry First Assembly of God, which found by mid-March that about 3 dozen members were infected. As of this morning, Cleburne County has 65 known infections, for a rate of 257.6 per 100,000.

Churches can make a huge difference — in either setting socially responsible standards that model to communities at large how to avoid infection, or in spreading infection. In South Korea, a huge initial cluster of infections has been traced very directly to a patient zero who ignored doctors' orders to isolate herself and went to church instead. She spread infection throughout her church and then the church became a perfect "petri dish" for infection that spread like wildfire into the wider community.

As Jim McManus says in a statement I shared here yesterday which defends the closing of churches during the pandemic, we know that this highly infectious virus is spread by miniscule droplets breathed our coughed out by infected people, many of whom are asymptomatic. Gathering people in a closed space like a church, encouraging them to stand and sit in close proximity to each other, holding services in churches where infected people have touched pews and other surfaces and where they shake hands or hug: all of this makes church gatherings — of any size at all — dangerous breeding grounds for infection that reaches the wider community.

As David Neiwert further states, 

Many churches around the nation will be holding large gatherings [for Easter] in part because there are no stay-at-home orders in their states—primarily red Republican states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, South Carolina, Iowa, and Missouri.

In the states named, Easter happens to coincide with the point at which models are projecting that the pandemic is expected to spike as it reaches heartland America in a big way. Churches holding services — in belligerent defiance of sound medical advice — will contribute to the spread of viral infection in those states, and will be the source of needless death in those states.

And the more than fifty percent of white US Christians who placed Donald Trump in the White House and elected him — placing him at the helm of the nation as it tries to cope with this lethal pandemic — and who claimed they were voting "pro-life" as they did this to themselves and the rest of us: they might as well forfeit the right ever to babble about pro-life this or that again.

Sane people won't listen any longer.

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