Why Churches Should be Closed when Walmart is Open
I have gone to church my whole life.
Different churches at different times of my life, and there have been parts of each church that were special and meaningful to me. There was my first church that I attended that my parents didn’t belong to. This was the church I first taught Sunday School at, and actually discovered my love for teaching.
There was the church that my kids got dedicated at, and then the church we attended so that my daughter could fit in. Our current church, which we attended regularly pre-pandemic, is a perfect blend for our family, where my husband and I can listen outside under some shady trees and my parents can attend their chapel, on the same campus, with less loud music.
All this to say, I am writing this not from the perspective of someone who hates church, or who thinks that attending church has no value.
I look forward to a world where church is a safe place to attend again.
But the truth is that for now, church is a breeding ground for a dangerous, deadly virus.
Some of my Facebook friends are of the opinion that if we can go to the grocery store, we should be allowed to go to church, but honestly they aren’t the same.
There are several crucial differences, and they relate to how this virus spreads.
First, in its very nature, grocery store visits are more spread out. Even if the same number of people visit a Walmart in a week as visit a church, the store visits will be spread out throughout the day, and spaced throughout the week. Church services are primarily on Sunday, when the majority of the congregation joins to worship together. If that isn’t enough, the Walmart near me limits the number of people allowed in the store at at time. When I was there, it was 5.
Second, at the stores, you are not likely to know the other people. Therefore you aren’t especially inclined to get near them, interact with them or spend any extensive length of time near them. You definitely aren’t going to have long conversations to catch up with them, or sit by them while you listen to a speaker.
Plus, the odds that you will want to give a hug or put a supportive hand on someone’s shoulder is so much higher in a church environment. With some churches, part of normal services is sharing communion, yet another risk for the virus.
There have already been several church based clusters seen since the pandemic started.
In Washington, a choir met and held a practice at church. But since one of them had coronavirus, soon enough 53 of the 61 in attendance got sick, three were hospitalized, and two died.
In Arkansas, a pastor and his wife attended a few church related events, but they were carrying the coronavirus within them, without knowing it. They came into contact with 92 people…and 35 got sick, 7 had to be hospitalized and 3 died.
In South Korea one woman, after attending a church service, managed to spread it to 43 other people who attended that day as well.
One prayer meeting in France has been linked to now 2,500 confirmed cases.
There have been more clusters, around the world, where large groups gather indoors.
With the ones in the United States, thankfully, the gatherings I found news on were not in the thousands, but if one person can get 53 people sick in close quarters, that multiples out quickly.
Plus, research has confirmed that the disease is carried easily by airdrops, like those created by singing or talking in an enclosed space. Which happens at every church I’ve ever attended.
“Aerosols from infected persons may therefore pose an inhalation threat even at considerable distances and in enclosed spaces, particularly if there is poor ventilation,” Harvard University biologist Matthew Meselson
Churches can be older buildings too, some of them hundreds of years old. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for really well ventilated spaces.
The study talks about how the droplets just from speaking in a normal voice can go into the room, and hover there, too small to fall to the ground. Instead they are carried around the room by the air, and it puts everyone at risk of touching a surface some of these droplets eventually landed on.
In short, church carries a huge risk.
It carries a huge risk inside the building as people linger there for an hour, singing and talking and walking around. It carries a huge risk outside, as people gather closer to others they care about to catch up, to interact and linger in a way that they don’t do as they enter and exit a store.
And for what?
Religion is not restricted to a building.
If we are going based on the Bible, the Israelites were worshipping before there was ever a temple or a tabernacle. In the New Testament, not even the Catholic churches existed yet, and the Christians typically met in gatherings in houses, as seen in Acts.
So, there are scriptural precedents for having worship and Bible studies outside of a traditional structures designated as a church.
The same digital options that allow schools to continue digitally allow churches to continue to reach their congregation, even if not physically together. My church, and many, many others, are broadcasting online. My mom attends a Bible study over zoom every week.
Even without any access to digital technology, the Bible encourages personal study, and it would be like the early days of our country, when churches were fewer, and families had to worship at home unless a preacher happened to be passing through.
Based on a purely Biblical foundation, there is no need to protest or force the state governments to allow large gatherings at churches or anywhere else.
For Christians, there wasn’t even cases of a large, regular gatherings in the New Testament. The believers were too few, and persecuted as well. It had to small, and subtle.
Pushing for these large gatherings, while the coronavirus is still killing thousands of people every day, puts everyone who attends at risk, and all of their contacts at risk too.
Not being a part of other religions, I can’t speak to their beliefs about worshipping at home versus at the designated religious spot.
I do think that most religions consider it something that is a part of who you are, and what you believe, no matter where you are physically.
I have a hard time believing that there are many that place the importance of the building so highly over the importance of lives that it is worth sending people to the hospital and killing some of the population.
This is not about being a martyr, because no one is forcing you to give up your beliefs, you just practice your faith in a different location.
So, if it isn’t about the Christian faith, what is it about?
I think the whole “right to open church services” really comes back to politics, again, even though politics shouldn’t be as big as it appears to be during this pandemic .
The economy is hurting, and people want to get back to normal, and if churches are open, then, in their mind, most other things are opened too. Pushing for the churches to open is really a push for everything to be open again.
Some people are optimistic to a dangerous degree, and think that we can just snap our fingers and return to the world the way it was before the coronavirus arrived.
That world was good. It was safe, familiar and normal. Nothing was closed, no masks were required, and nobody was forced to stay home for weeks on end.
If you lost your job because of this virus, I am so sorry to hear that. If you are struggling to pay rent, or feed your family, I can only imagine the fear and anxiety you must be gripped with on a daily basis. I wish for your sake, and for everyone in that situation that it was possible to return to the pre-coronavirus world.
For a time, we might have been able to manage the crisis and keep everything more or less normal. But that opportunity was lost, and now this virus is in communities around the United States, and no more than you can put spilled milk back into the bottle, this virus cannot be easily bottled up again.
I am thankful states are opening, cautiously, carefully, and with masks and social distancing in place. I think that people need to get back to work, so their families aren’t struggling so badly.
We obviously can’t stay huddled at home for the next two years and wait for a vaccine that might not ever be found.
But gathering a large crowd of people into a small building and have them talk and sing and socialize doesn’t help with any of the bigger goals that those pushing for it truly have.
This doesn’t bring back jobs, it puts more jobs at risk. One confirmed infected person at the church, and everyone there will be quarantined… if not hospitalized and some may die. How do you provide for your family if you are in a hospital or in the ground?
This doesn’t put people back in restaurants. Instead, if there is a large enough cluster at a local church, the whole city might need to close up again, just as it was starting to reopen.
All of the reasons we are trying to get cities to open again safely, for the sake of the economy and people’s homes and food on the tables, could be quickly lost by a citywide outbreak that started at a church or place of worship.
So yes, take your turn, go shop at Walmart, and come back home. Worship online, with zoom or with your family.