I really appreciate having grown up in the church. The seeds that were planted there have bloomed in ways too numerous to count. Being in church all my life, I know a lot about it. And given the ungodly behavior of church folks, the instruction of truly spirit-filled family members and my own connectivity to God, I knew that church could never be the cornerstone of my faith.
God is, was, and has always been bigger than that.
This morning, I saw that Lauren London shared a piece of advice about how to endure tragedy and trauma. In her Instagram stories, she wrote: “Tragedy and trauma has taught me that in times when it feels so dark you must dig deep within. Connect with God. That’s the way.”
I debated about writing this up for MadameNoire but decided against it because I didn’t know if that was enough of a story there. Then I got on Twitter and saw how people all over the world, Black, White, Asian etc. were still going to church despite the spread of the Coronavirus.
Many of these churches were still congregating because they feel attending church is an act of faith. They resent the government interfering in their religious freedom and some even believe that by continuing to attend church, God will protect them from the virus.
According to The New York Times, that was the case for a church in South Korea, Shincheonji Church of Jesus. As of March 9, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus was 7,400. And according to Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 63.5 percent of all of the country’s cases can be traced back to one congregant of the Shincheonjii church, a 61-year-old woman known as Patient No. 31. Her church attendance is what helped her spread the disease so effectively.
A minister in Nigeria was arrested for having services of more than 50 people. Other churches in the country were raided, as officials counted the number of people in a building.
But you don’t have to cross any oceans to find this type of disregard and defiance of government orders. In New Orleans, Reverend Tony Spell refused to cancel his services saying that the spread of the virus was “not a concern” for his congregants. In fact, he told local CBS affiliate WAFB that the virus was politically motivated. He said, “We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.”
My husband is a musician and two of the churches he plays for have refused to cancel services. Their congregations are tiny—with less than 20 people. But of those handful of folks, most of them are elderly—the group most susceptible to the harsh realities of the virus.
My husband said that pastor of one of the churches told his congregation, “We can’t allow people who don’t serve God to tell us what we can do. It’s not working for me. It’s not helping me.”
Being in church, there’s this phrase I learned about folks like this pastor. “Too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.” It speaks to people who completely ignore their experience as human beings on earth in favor of their spirituality.
We are all spirit but we have a body and to ignore either side of ourselves makes us dysfunctional—not only for ourselves but for the people with whom we share this earth.
If you’ve read the Bible, you know that people essentially followed Jesus around asking him questions. And at one point, the Jews wanted to know if they should pay taxes. They asked because they wanted to know if people who were connected to God, should follow the authority of man. And Jesus kept it real like He always does. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
Jesus, having lived in an earthly body, understood that there are differences between the rules of God and the rules of man. And in this life, there are times when you have to follow both. I would go so far as to say that Jesus knew that it was the best interest of people to heed certain instructions and mandates in an attempt to keep order and some of level of peace in a chaotic world.
That’s the value of the Bible—the same questions folks had back then are the same ones we’re grappling with today. And in this instance, the answer is the same. There is a distinction between God’s rules and man’s rules. And following one doesn’t always mean you abandon the other.
To be a good Christian or any type of spiritual person connected to a higher power is to be someone who seeks to do the least harm to your fellow man. And meeting in church is not abiding by that principle.
Most importantly though, when God is everywhere, all at once, we don’t have to meet in church to connect to Him. To know God is to know that He resides within all of us. We talk to Him through our thoughts. We see and experience His majesty in nature. And if we are truly connected, He talks back. I’ve encountered God in church. But my most cherished, most memorable and most beautiful moments with God have been when I was alone, quiet and still.
It saddens me that people of faith, who claim to know and trust God have restricted him to the four walls of a building when God created the universe.
The quarantine has been a test of a lot of people’s patience, willpower, and mental fortitude. But it’s also provided the time for us to be still and reflect. And if people relied less on church and fellowship for their salvation and spiritual connection, they might find that God has something to say to them in isolation.