For many communities, especially Latinos, churches are much more than places of worship. Some have become community centers, a place to make new friends and to keep one’s culture alive. However, in some ways, the arrival of COVID-19 changed this dynamic between parishioners and churches. Is attending church risky? The truth: it shouldn’t be.
During 2020, many churches adapted to the changes enacted to combat the pandemic, and they implemented certain adjustments. Others decided to ignore medical recommendations and ended up becoming centers for the spread of COVID-19.
Such was the case with the United House of Prayer for All in Charlotte. Despite warnings from authorities, last October, the church held a two-day event that brought people from all over the country. The result? More than 200 infections and 12 deaths from COVID-19.
Today, with the arrival of vaccines and the elimination of certain restrictions, churches have reopened their doors. But again, we are facing a public health crisis with the spread of the Delta variant and the reluctance of some people to get vaccinated.
Faced with this situation, in places like Mecklenburg County, orders are being issued for masks to be worn at religious events held indoors.
Various churches were already following this policy, so this ordinance did not change their activities at all. But others have declared a “war on masks” and have publicly stated that they will not adhere to these requirements.
When church and politics mix
Sadly, for several years now, the political polarization in which the country is submerged has also permeated certain churches. In many cases, this has put partisan discourse above common sense or even the Gospel itself.
For example, and according to the scriptures, if there was someone who welcomed the rejected of his community, who welcomed immigrants, and who offered a hand to the needy, it was Jesus. Despite this, when anti-immigrant political positions were radicalized, many churches adopted anti-immigrant beliefs, ignoring the fact that Jesus Christ himself was an immigrant and a refugee in Egypt.
In the past when I have spoken with these people, they have told me that obedience to the authorities is more important than compassion. Paradoxically, these same religious leaders are now endorsing the idea of not obeying orders from the authorities, such as the use of masks.
There are no theological reasons that prevent a person from wearing a mask in a temple or in a church. In fact, in the Bible, consulting doctors and using medical treatments are viewed positively.
There are many Biblical verses that speak of using medical treatments, such as: applying bandages (Isaiah 1:6), oil and wine (Luke 10:34), leaves (Ezekiel 47:12), drinking wine (1 Timothy 5:23), and ointments, particularly the “balm in Gilead” (Jeremiah 8:22). Likewise, Paul refers to Luke, the author of Acts and the Gospel of Luke, as “the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14).
What is the problem with wearing masks in churches?
Apparently, those who oppose this do not do so for theological reasons, but for political ones. If that is the case, we call on leaders to be upfront and not to mislead their parishioners.
On the other hand, we applaud churches that strive to protect their parishioners by implementing safety measures and showing compassion and love.
“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Philippians 2:4
Find this article in Spanish here.