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Is God to Blame for the Coronavirus?

Cartoon by Clay Jones

The coronavirus gives rise to one of those deliciously pregnant moments when Evangelical theology runs smack dab into reality. The question I want to answer is this: is the Evangelical God to blame for the current coronavirus outbreak? Is God in any way culpable for the origin of the virus, its infection of people, and the subsequent death of scores of people infected with the virus?

The bigger question is this: is the Evangelical God — the one true creator of all things — to blame for everything? Evangelicals might chafe at my use of the word “blame,” but if we are going to answer the questions mentioned above, isn’t ultimately the issue about blame; about culpability; about ownership; about whom the buck stops with?

Evangelicals are often schizophrenic when answering such questions. If God is the creator, the sovereign Lord over all, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and nothing happens apart from his purpose, plan, and decree, then it is reasonable to conclude that the Evangelical God is to blame for everything. If God is the first cause, the alpha and omega, the beginning and end, and he holds the world and all its inhabitants in the palm of his hand, surely non-Christians can’t be faulted for holding God responsible for what happens in their lives and the lives of others. Evangelicals are fond of saying that it is their God who sets up and takes down rulers; that Donald J. Trump is president because he is appointed by God to do so. Don’t like it, Democrats? Take it up with God!

With these things in mind, let’s consider the coronavirus. It is not reasonable to conclude that the Evangelical God is to blame for the virus; that he created it, controls it, and determines who will get the virus, and who will die from it? If God is omnipotent, then surely he has the power to start and stop the virus. If he can stop it, but won’t, what does that say about God? If he can’t stop the virus, surely it is fair for Christians and unbelievers alike to question whether God is really who Evangelicals say he is. And if God can stop the virus, but he only does it for some people — people who believe the right things; pray the right things; do the right acts of penance — what does this say about God’s character?

We need only look at what some sects and churches are doing in light of the coronavirus to see what many Christians believe about the power of God and the efficacy of prayer. Churches are canceling sacraments, communal activities, and events that bring people in proximity to each other. I suspect it won’t be long before churches will cancel worship services, suggesting that congregants stay at home and “commune” with God. Well, except for your weekly tithe and offering, please send it to the church office. Your envelope will be opened by dedicated church members wearing surgical gloves and masks. The church may be able to do without you — sorry for lying to you and saying you were “special” — but we can’t do without your money.

Evangelical vice president Mike Pence is in charge of the coronavirus task force. One of the first things he did was convene a prayer meeting. Why? Is there any evidence for the efficacy of prayer; that there is a God in Heaven listening to and answering the petitions of Christians? According to the Bible, God does not listen to the prayers of unbelievers, so those of us who are unbelievers and come down sick with the virus better put our hope in science and modern medicine. These are the Gods we worship! I suspect in a 1 Kings 18-like battle between Praying Christians and the Prophets of Science, that the Prophets of Science are going to win every time. Perhaps it is time to start keeping track: the number of infected people saved solely by prayer and the number of infected people saved solely by science and medical treatment. Of course, how would we know if someone was cured through prayer? I doubt many Evangelicals are willing to forgo medical treatment and just faith it out. When it comes to serious health problems, the Mike Pences of the world become big believers in vaccines and medical intervention. If God is all that Evangelicals say he is, why not let him sort things out? If he holds every believer in the palm of his hand, surely the triune God can keep those believers from getting a silly, not-serious-says-Trump virus. Is it not time for Evangelicals to trust their God to take care of them? When a taxpayer-funded vaccine becomes available, Evangelicals true to their faith (and politics) should forgo treatment. “God will see us through,” modern prophets of God say. “When the coronavirus plague comes over our land, we need not fear. God will see the blood of Jesus on the doorposts of our home and pass us by.” “It’s the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world that better worry!” “God’s going to come to their homes, see that’s there’s no blood applied to their doorposts, and unleash the coronavirus on everyone in their homes.” “Repent now, lest God afflict you and you die!”

I highly doubt any of us has anything to worry about when it comes to a mythical deity infecting us with anything but laughter. It’s not God I worry about, it’s the Evangelicals running the federal government who think prayer is a first-line defense against the coronavirus, and that God has everything under control.

While I argued above that God is to blame for the coronavirus, I did so because I want Evangelicals to think about the consequences of believing that God is in control of everything; that God is the sovereign Lord over all; that he holds the whole world in the palm of his hand. Such thinking breeds arrogant, foolish complacency. “Waiting on God” when it comes to our health leads to horrible outcomes, including death. If you must pray, by all means, do so, but then get up off your knees and responsibly take care of your health and that of your family. Stop supporting politicians such as Trump and Pence, who still have not yet grasped the seriousness of the coronavirus. And by all means, let science and reason, and not theology be your guide.

I don’t believe for a moment that God is to blame for anything. He’s a myth, and the man Jesus has been dead for 2,000 years. The only things standing between us and the virus are scientists, medical doctors, and rational people who understand what is required of them to deal with the coronavirus.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    And the irony is, the Catholic church closed down Lourdes because they feared the disease could be passed by people bathing in the water. But the water is supposed to heal. I wonder how many Christians will happily ignore that fact and continue to go after it’s reopened. I’m already sick of all the “This is a sign of the End Times” crap they are pushing.

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      dale M

      Missimontana …. Why R U sick of the “This is a sign of the End Times”?? Don’t U believe that the Internet has exposed so much that they have nowhere to hide? When these people talk about the End Times, just who do U think they R really referring to? It ain’t us! It’s themselves
      ! We should be encouraging this …. not trying to hide it. Tell everyone! The End Times for Christian Evangelicalism is near. It is prophesized by history!!! All empires fall.

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    Things I’ve read from what the state of Ohio is doing is more reassuring than the federal gov. If we have to rely on Trump’s admin, we’re screwed, prayer or no.

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    In NJ and NY, several Catholic churches have suspended communion and taken away holy water. Some Jewish congregations canceled Purim celebrations.

    I still don’t understand how evangelicals can claim that their deity is omnipotent and omnibenevolent but somehow isn’t responsible for disasters.

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    Brian Vanderlip

    Christianity is tailored to fit. It is a trained and expert tailor of abuse. It designs and makes the robes worn by the Pope and the suits of televangelists. It is the Apostle-hardened parent who ‘catches’ his child taking a cookie without permission and then says, “GUILTY! Don’t you feel terrible now and deserve to be punished?” And the child appears afraid BECAUSE the child has committed a crime and been caught according to the apostle. (Nevermind the scary Michael Pearl monster father towering over the child and getting out the beating tool.)
    Next, the apostle must punish the child further with shame-blame and perhaps a good beating to teach the child God’s holy ways. The important point in all this is that the child is dung, dirty and lost in sin and it is the hardened apostle’s job to make sure the child comes to God, gives it to the child, the free gift. Who wants their own child to burn eternally? A beating ends but eternal HELL is forever and ever.
    The coronavirus is a holy warning from God! Fear the Father’s hand!
    But good and obedient believers: Fear not! Jim Bakker has been selling weak silver concoctions he has inferred will kill the coranvirus. It’s in the latest news. You can perhaps still get some before the devil shuts down his business. God uses faithful, repentent apostles like Jimmy to let people know what’s what!
    How can God be responsible for my choice to eat a cookie, Gerencser? It is no doubt you and these other mockers here are guilty and have brought down the wrath of God. I bet its safe to say that you were not properly corrected as a child and you now have the audacity to challenge God? What a horrid waste is your life! You could be on the mission field and winning $ouls for Pat Robertson!

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      Excellent, comprehensive and well-put,Bryan. I’d just add god is never, ever, no sir, not once ever to blame, so it must be my fault for doing something wrong, even if for the life of me, i can’t see what it is…I mean I confessed all the unconfessed and naughty hidden sins I can possibly think of…but my guilt remains, worm that I am and always will be.

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    I am a born-again believer and I stumbled upon this post. I am not right nor wrong. However, I just want to post something to make you think. In the book of Job in the Old Testament he said something so profound. Job said, “Should we not accept both good and evil from God?” And also, in the New Testament it declares. “It rains on both the righteous and the unrighteous.
    Man is to blame for the Coronavirus at this time, not God, neither the politicians.

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      Bruce Gerencser

      The Bible also says that God is sovereign over all things; that he created good AND evil; that humans cannot do anything without him; that he is the alpha and omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end; that he alone controls the weather; that he is the first cause; that he counts the very hairs on our heads. Your Bible says all this and more about your God, yet you can’t bear to lay blame at the feet of God where it belongs. The buck stops with him, Georgianna, that is if you are a born-again, Bible-believing child of God. I am not, so, yes, I look for the ACTUAL reasons for the virus. Bats? Animal crowding? Meat markets? Human culpability? So much we don’t know. We do know, however, that God ain’t going to fix the problem. He/she/it has never, ever intervened in an epidemic/pandemic/war or anything else that causes loss of life. He will, however, help you find your car keys.

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    Ned Boland

    Ahhh, the age old conundrum. “Oh praise god, my child’s cancer went away”.
    “Hmmm, a worldwide pandemic, must be those godless chicoms, or those sinful nonbelievers, yeah, that’s it”!
    But, why would god let this happen?
    “Oh no, how dare you question the mysterious ways of god”?!
    BTW, yeah, I get it that the repubs are generally always down with the jesus crispy stuff.
    But, the demo’s are even crazier with what “solutions” they offer (even more govt. control than the rebpubs would exert, even more taxing and spending). It sux fer sure, but there it is.
    So, I often do have to hold my nose and do the lesser of two….When the Libertarian doesn’t have a chance in hell 😉

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    Fred Seton

    It is all in the bible see God controls everything and Jesus prophesied this shortly before His is death This will cause an economic crash ans start tribulation and lead to millions being saved Matthew 24: 1-51 Jesus is available to those who seek Him. pray not for protection but submit to God’s will in your life surrender to Jesus.

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      Bruce Gerencser

      Fred, suppose I came to your town and killed your grandparents, put your wife in ICU on a ventilator, and took your children’s jobs away from them, all because I wanted you to love me. Would you, or anyone in your family be inclined to love me?

      So it is with your God who controls everything.

      No thanks. Your god is a psychopath.

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      More likely, Fred, your pretend god’s inability to save even the devout from this non-supernatural disease will lead to even more people turning away from Christianity.

      (There is no salvation, by the way — that’s a very silly myth designed to give people false hope. Physical death is the end of the line, with no eternal life waiting in the wings.)

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      Brian Vanderlip

      Fred, read a bit of Ehrman and then come back with something to say… You sound like a man severely troubled.

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    Yulya Sevelova

    Saw this post this morning, as tRump railway the Georgia Secretary of State, demanding he cough up more votes for him out of nowhere. Fred and Georgianna– take note– a certain three- letter agency is salting the world with COVID, and has since around September of 2020. They’ve been around for most of the 20th Century, committing heinous acts both here and overseas, as they Craig this country’s image through the mud and inspire hatred and loathing for the U.S. No deed too foul for them, with their bottomless budgets, supplied by taxpayers, instead of shoring up this nation. I am( sadly) very well aquatinted with such people. They must have Fascist leaders to justify their existence. Endless wars for endless money and power. COVID was engineered. It mutates according to it’s programming, defeating tactics to eradicate it. Is it being used by the three- letters to crash the economy or shut the U. S. down ? It sure looks that way. As we all know, tRump recently pardoned a gaggle of war criminals. He could have freed all these monsters to get their help later, as in what’s happening right now. Eddie Gallegher comes to mind. Remember him ? With 12 Republican politicians reading up to challenge the Electoral College on the 6th, we may have a constitutional crisis to deal with. The world sees Americans as insane and now worthless. They know a coup can’t be ruled out now. All thanks to the three-letters, the virus, and Fascist Christians who support them willingly,as they hunger for ” The End Times. “

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    Brian Vanderlip

    Hey Yulya, I appreciate your take on ‘religious’ practice here but when you go off about conspiracy theories you lose me. As you know, all viruses and most every form of being mutates according to its ‘program’. Evolution involves mutation, yes? Some mutations are harmful while others strengthen the progress of life. I’m not saying that sick people are incapable of heinous acts by any means but I know of no reasonable argument regarding COVID being unleashed in such a manner. We have had pandemics before and we will again. Life is a dangerous venture. If on this blog we could try to stay on-topic, it might serve us (as skeptics) a bit better than if we
    When I think of all the harm done to children by evangelical fundy practices, I lament their lot in life, the terrible crushing blow to innocence and freedom. Sometimes I drift into the matter excessively perhaps because it is a subject that is always troubling me, the history of disdain shown to children by caregivers/adults. I think you share this concern or so I have garnered from your comments here. What I am trying to say is that I often ‘go off’ about abuse of this sort and how it is used by faith-hawkers to hurt the vulnerable, and especially children. I see these matters as inextricably in bed together. But I fail to see how to reasonably include conspiracy theories in a like manner.

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Bruce Gerencser