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Tag: Coronavirus Pandemic

Coronavirus Pandemic: Why Churches Should Close Their Doors

mark palenske and his wife

In recent weeks, I have published a number of posts about Evangelical churches that refuse to close their doors over the Coronavirus Pandemic. Whatever their reasons for remaining open, the fact remains that these pastors and church leaders are risking infections and death by doing so. God is not going to save them from the COVID-19 virus. Far too many Evangelicals think that God will cause the virus to pass by their homes just as he did in Egypt long ago when the death angel claimed the firstborn child of every family. In their minds, they believe that faith, the blood of Jesus, and prayer, will provide them an inoculation against the virus. As countless Evangelicals are now finding out, such thinking is not only stupid and delusional, it is deadly.

Recently, Greers Ferry First Assembly of God in Greers Ferry, Arkansas held what was billed as a Kid’s Crusade. Whether this event was the infection point is unknown, but one thing is for certain: thirty-two church members, including the pastor and his wife, are infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Three days ago, Pastor Mark Palenske posted the following message on Facebook:

I know that some of you have wished for another update sooner than this, but sitting down at the computer is not my highest priority at this point. Dena and I are beginning to feel some improvement, but the pace of that improvement is much slower than we would like. Our primary symptom at this juncture is a lingering nausea that keeps us wanting stillness and very small amounts of food. We are 12 days beyond our initial symptoms at this point, so this is obviously not a short term situation. Thus far, we have 26 people connected to the church who have tested positive for Covid-19 and at least 16 more who have been tested and are waiting for results. Five of those 26 have been admitted to the hospital (including Dena, earlier in the week) and one more is being transported as I write. There was very little in my training for the ministry that covered the full measure of what our church family has dealt with in the past few weeks. The intensity of this virus has been underestimated by so many, and I continue to ask that each of you take it very seriously. An act of wisdom and restraint on your part can be the blessing that preserves the health of someone else. I have two goals for this afternoon’s post. The first is that many are collecting reasons to fear, and I think that is counterproductive to our current challenge. There are many reasons for concern and we are being given large amounts of information daily that demands we carefully sift through it. Fear erodes our willingness to work together, and it steals the confidence of our youngest generation. Our lifestyle has not seen such sudden shifts in our routines or the influx of uncertainty that it has seen in the previous days. Any builder will tell you that the strength of the building lies within its foundation. It’s not hard to construct something quickly, but it takes more time to construct something that will last and endure hardship. Our country has ventured into a fickle and shallow society recently. We have applauded self-expression and overvalued individual human talent. Our culture revels in recreation (something that is not bad, but can be over-prioritized) and entertainment. In the process, we forgot what we were made of. Our foundation was built with a cooperative spirit and has motivated generations before this one to make sacrifices for the good of the whole unit. There have always been people who see the life of their fellow man as worth their efforts. I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that we live in a sturdy place. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, right now than where I am. I trust my fellow citizens to rise up and meet this challenge. We are not invincible, but we learned centuries ago that faith outweighs fear. We learned that God, when given a place in our homes and in our lives, orders our steps. I read this morning…”Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)My second goal is to try and alter the current of our social media tendencies. We can give into some real human frailties when we leap to conclusions and seek to injure an unknown individual or when we allow our rage to express itself without self-discipline at its core. Facebook, does not have to be negative! It does not have to inflict its will on the suffering or its opinion on someone with a very different perspective. It can be an incredibly useful tool to encourage and uplift. Let me explain. I would much rather tell you of the superstars that have fought side-by-side with my congregation during this battle, than highlight the obstacles that stood in our way. Two local doctors have gone well beyond their normal duties. It was because they were relentless and diligent, that we discovered the scope of what we are dealing with. There is wisdom in building a relationship with a physician and this circumstance proves that truth all over again. The medical world has their hands full. I remember the two nurses who met us out in the parking lot the day that we were tested. Their world changed in a single moment and they stood tall to the challenge. Let’s be patient with them at this time. They are doing their best, not only to help us return to our lives and our families, but to help them return to theirs as well. Dena and I receive a daily phone call from the state’s Department of Health. Each morning a ray of sunshine asks us how we are doing. We spent hours on the phone together going over each detail of our story. Retracing every step and sharing more information than we could imagine. They took that information and scoured our community for more that might have been affected. Our daily phone call from them won’t last forever, but I thank God for their help in all of this. They are dealing with an unpleasant reality that is testing their training and protocols, and if you ask me, they are doing so admirably. Mistakes and overlooked facts are bound to happen with something of this magnitude, but no one works in a circle of perfection. Not me! Not you! But it’s compassion and character that guides us through the tough times. I would also like to thank my neighbors and my fellow Cleburne County citizens. Your phone calls and care packages have been a God-send. We have lived here for 13 years (almost to the day) and you have been a family that we have cherished greatly. Long before the reality of this virus, we knew that you would step up for the community and we were not wrong! Lastly to the church and our family (both literal and figurative), you have been fantastic! Love is not just an emotion. It’s a series of thoughtful actions. We have felt and trusted in your love and will continue to let that love lead us forward. To anyone that reads this (I know that it’s long), I have a challenge for you. Fill Facebook with the names and faces of the heroes of this season. Tell others about how they impacted your life. Encourage! Uplift! Refuse to voice the negative and share hope with each other!!!

I wish nothing but the best for Pastor Palenske and his infected church members. I don’t want to see anyone get sick, and I certainly don’t want to see anyone die. That said, it must be pointed out that Palenske paints himself as a helpless victim, one filled with all sorts of wisdom and insight post-infection. Where was that wisdom and insight BEFORE thirty-two people were infected with the COVID-19 virus? Why was Palenske still holding church services and Kids Crusades as if all was right in the world? At the very least, Palenske and other decision-makers have to own their own culpability in this debacle. If services had been canceled and people had practiced social distancing, it is likely that this outbreak could have been avoided.

Other Posts About Churches Refusing to Close Their Doors and the Coronavirus Pandemic in General

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Quote of the Day: Dear Evangelical Pastors, This is no Time for Civil Disobedience

james ellis iii

When municipalities began encouraging social distancing of at least six feet and capping attendance numbers for public gatherings, alongside other decisions of closure or limitation, many churches quickly turned to congregant-free video broadcasting of worship services or even drive-in-movie style worship in their parking lots. Other congregations – to the chagrin of many, both Christian and not – continued meeting in-person as scheduled, emphatic that they were simply going to trust God.

“My goodness gracious, if the people of God cannot display wisdom, resilience and calm, then who will?”

For me, the theological problem here is imagining that we are in some way doing God a favor when gathering face-to-face in Jesus’ name, as we normally do, for worship, Bible study and discipleship groups. Something is hugely awry when for the public good (which includes our congregations since they, too, work and live “in public”) and over a temporary period, postponing physical gatherings jars us so. It is as if we believe a mystical, magic medicine is produced through our corporate worship or that God isn’t the infinitely capable caretaker that Scripture attests, which renders, then, 10 or 11 o’clock Sunday mornings as the only time that heaven is open for business.

Frankly, it makes us, as Christians, look seriously out to lunch (to put it kindly). Believe me, I understand that cognitive dissonance during trying times is very real. We may feel like we are living in a movie because what is real still doesn’t feel that it should be. We can’t see the forest for the trees. I get it. But this is no time for civil disobedience, but rather for us to turn with confidence to the God we say we believe in.

— James Ellis III, Director of Student Ministries at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, Canada, Baptist News Global, March 25, 2020

Quote of the Day: Only Science Can Save Us from Coronavirus

betty anyanwu akeredolu

Indeed, Coronavirus has humbled the world’s religions and Nigerians whose lives depend on praying and fasting for miracles to happen in this digital world of science and technology.

When I said that I was more than convinced that religion is man-made and a bastion of sexism, which has subjugated women, festered gender inequality, stifled progressive thinking, retarded development and invariably added little or no value to our lives, I was called unprintable names.

 I remain unshakeable with my conviction.

This virus has proved me right, to a large extent. Nigerians, in particular, have invested so much in religion that amounted to nothing. Period!

Now that a deadly virus is ravaging the world, where do we look up to? Science or religion? It is glaring that the foreign religions over which we are killing ourselves in Nigeria have failed the world in this season of anomie and only science can save mankind.

Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, wife of Nigerian Ondo State Governor, March 21, 2020

The Bible Commands Christians to Stop Gathering During Coronavirus Pandemic

foot washing service at danielsville baptist church march 16 2020
Robert Burt, pastor of Danielsville Baptist Church, washing congregants feet. He likely is already infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Some Christians, mostly from the Evangelical, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) tribes, refuse to obey social gathering orders. Sometimes, as in Ohio, churches continue meeting because state governments have exempted them from gathering orders. (Please see Dear Governor DeWine, Why are Churches Exempt from the Group Gathering Ban?) Just last week, a Georgia Baptist preacher refused to shutter his church, held a foot-washing service, contracted the COVID-19 virus, is now in the ICU hooked to a ventilator.

Main Street News reports:

Danielsville Baptist Church posted the following statement on Facebook Monday: “Pastor (Robert) Burt has tested positive for COVID-19. Please pray for us all during this time of uncertainty. He is in Piedmont Athens in ICU and on a ventilator. Thank you for your prayers.”

The church also posted: “All people within the church have been contacted and know to self quarantine. We are sorry for the scare within the community. The preacher and his wife have not been out in the community in the last week. We ask for prayers for all of the community.”

….

In the meantime, 911 Director Brenan Baird said his office is working with Smith to trace those who may have been in contact with Pastor Burt. A March 16 post on the Danielsville Baptist Facebook page included two photos of Burt conducting a foot-washing service.

Danielsville Baptist has had what can be best described as a “come to Jesus” moment. Yesterday, the church posted on its Facebook page:

A reminder that God is in control and at work in a mighty way in the middle of this storm.

All activities at Danielsville Baptist are canceled .

No Sunday Morning services.

No Wednesday Night services

No clothes closet.

Please keep all the country in your prayers!!

I want to say to Danielsville Baptist and its pastor, you have reaped what you sowed. Galatians 6:7 says: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. You ignored what health officials were telling you, and now COVID-19 is at your doorstep and no amount of praying and saying God is in control is going to keep you from getting infected. Pastor Burt ignorantly and arrogantly put his misguided faith and theology before reason, science, and common sense. Now he and his fellow Christians will pay the price.

Having said that, I do hope Pastor Burt recovers and others infected by his negligence recover too. I may despise the level of stupidity demonstrated by this church and its pastor, but I genuinely do not want to see any of them get sick and die.

Danielsville Baptist is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Today, the mayor of Danielsville, Michael Wideman, signed an executive order shutting down the town. The Athens Banner-Herald reports:

The pastor of a small Baptist church in downtown Danielsville has been hospitalized with the coronavirus and members of the church have been asked to self-quarantine, according to the church.

….

The city of Danielsville on Monday also issued an executive order signed by Mayor Michael Wideman that affects businesses and organizations citywide, including two other churches inside the city.

All restaurants, coffee shops and other places were food is served to the public are now limited to take-out, drive-through or delivery. Dining on the premises is prohibited.

Public gatherings of 10 people or more are also prohibited. All barbershops, hair salons and fitness training centers are limited to six people or less.

Danielsville, Georgia, population 560, is similar in size to the rural Ohio community I live in. Everyone knows each other. Virus exposure can quickly spread in such communities due to close human interaction at church, school, and local businesses. Danielsville or Ney, Ohio will likely never become epicenters of virus exposure like New York, but residents should love their neighbors as themselves — as Jesus commanded — and avoid contact with each other. That includes church. Refusing to do so is direct disobedience to the Word of God.

That’s right, after two weeks of fasting, praying, and deep, deep, I mean deep Bible study, I have found a verse that directly addresses the Coronavirus Pandemic, COVID-19 infection, and whether churches should listen to government health officials and cancel their services.

Here’s what I found in the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God:

A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished. (Proverbs 22:3)

I love how the Contemporary English Version (CEV) translates this verse:

When you see trouble coming,
 don’t be stupid
 and walk right into it—
 be smart and hide. (Proverbs 22:3)

Surely, we all can agree that the Coronavirus is “trouble coming.” In fact, it has arrived in all fifty states. In New York, hundreds of people are dying. According to health experts, the United States is in the early days of the pandemic. Want to see what our future likely holds? Look to Italy. (Please see Lessons from Italy: Six Stages of Coronavirus.) The Bible says that anyone who sees the Coronavirus coming and walks right into it is “stupid.” Just today, our Stupid-in-Chief, Donald Trump, said that he hopes churches are PACKED on Easter. That’s right. Nineteen days from now, the President wants and expects churches to be filled with worshipers of the “risen” Jesus. Surely, people of reason and common sense see the absurdity and stupidity of such words. The President is tired of limiting gatherings. He’s got campaign rallies to attend (and make no mistake about it, thousands of people will show up if he holds rallies) and an election to win. Lacking any sense of empathy for the American people or the world at large, all Trump cares about is his image, hotels, and stock portfolio. By suggesting Christians pack their local churches on Easter Sunday, Trump is stupidly running into trouble. And when the virus continues unabated? Blame the Chinese or Barack Obama.

God, in the Holy Bible, commands Christians to be smart and hide from the Coronavirus. That’s right. God doesn’t say have faith and stand your ground. God doesn’t say to take authority over the virus and pretend it doesn’t exist or doesn’t affect you. GOD SAYS, BE SMART AND HIDE!

What’s the best way to hide from the Coronavirus? Stay home. Stay away from other people. Do everything you can to avoid contact with other people. It really is that simple.

And if you refuse to do so? God says you are stupid. ‘Nuff said, Amen? Can I get a witness?

Other Posts About Churches Refusing to Close Their Doors

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Dear Pastor Reeves, Let Me Explain to You Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself

Have you noticed that many of the churches refusing to close during the Coronavirus Pandemic are Independent Fundamentalist Baptist congregations? Over the past week or so I have written about two such churches, First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio and the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio. (Please see Local Church Continues to Meet on Sundays Despite the Coronavirus Pandemic and IFB Pastor Mark Falls Tries to Use Bible Verses to Guilt People into Attending Church during Coronavirus Pandemic.) Pastor John MacFarlane at First Baptist has since seen the light and all services at the church are now canceled. The Baptist Temple, pastored by Mark Falls, remains open, but some peripheral programs have been canceled and older congregants have been encouraged to stay home. My wife’s parents attend the Baptist Temple, and, fortunately, both of them stayed home on Sunday. Polly’s aunt, the wife of the late James Dennis, who has end-stage bone cancer and is on chemotherapy? She was front and center, praising Jesus.

Why is it that many IFB churches refuse to close their doors? First, IFB churches have a conspiratorial hatred for the government — especially if the government is controlled by Satan’s party, the Democrats. I plan to write more about this hatred later this week. Second, IFB churches tend to have members who are easily led astray by conspiracy theories. This is especially true now that Donald Trump is president. Third, most IFB churches are not flush with cash. If they don’t hold services, their cash flow will be seriously compromised. Fourth, many IFB pastors believe that the government has no right to tell them what to do. Some go so far as to oppose any sort of government regulation, including fire, safety, and building codes. Years ago, an Ohio IFB pastor took it upon himself to build a new building without permits. He believed he should be able to build the building any way he wanted, even if it meant he violated the law. His actions, of course, brought legal action, and his refusal to comply forced the state to raze his building. Fifth, closing church doors would be a repudiation of the belief that God always protects Christians, and no matter the circumstance, the people of God should be present and accounted for on Sundays. Sixth, IFB churches tend to be anti-science. Remember most IFB church members and pastors are Bible literalists, young-earth creationists, and believe the entire earth was covered with a flood a few thousand years ago. Holding such anti-scientific beliefs reflects poor reasoning skills. I am not saying that IFB church members are stupid. I am saying that their theological beliefs cripple their ability to rationally understand the world they live in. Their thinking is crippled by their insistence that the Bible is some sort of divine blueprint for life and it contains everything necessary for life and godliness.

The latest IFB church on my radar is the North Platte Baptist Church in North Platte, Nebraska. Last week, I wrote about the church and its pastor, William Reeves, using the Coronavirus Pandemic as a tool to evangelize people. (Please see North Platte Baptist Church Uses the Coronavirus Pandemic to Evangelize People.) North Platte has continued to run its buses and hold services despite the Coronavirus. Reeves, in classic IFB fashion, has stupidly and stubbornly held his ground. Reeves has received a lot of negative publicity — glad I could help — so much so that he has taken the church’s and his personal Twitter account private. (I was banned long ago from both of these accounts.)

One of Reeves’ last public tweets can be found in the header graphic of this post. Reeves said:

Having church doesn’t make you an enemy of the state or an enemy of people. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about your people or that you are not doing your part in curbing the spread of COVID-19 (with Facepalm emoji, as if what he is saying should be obvious to everyone).

Jesus said in Luke 10:27: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 13:9,10: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. In Galatians 5:14, Paul said, For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. And finally, James said in James 2:8, If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.

Evidently, these verses must not be in Pastor Reeves’ leather-bound King James Bible. Consider what Paul says in Galatians 5:14: all the laws of the Bible can be fulfilled in one word, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Holy shit, Batman! Can Pastor Reeves, along with Pastor McFarlane and Pastor Falls and a host of other IFB preachers, honestly say that their actions show that they are loving their neighbors as they would themselves? Of course not. Their actions are driven by one or more of the six things I mentioned above.

To Pastor Reeves I say, if you really loved your neighbors — who include your congregation and the children who ride your buses — would you continue to have mass gatherings? You KNOW that mass gatherings are a prime way to spread the Coronavirus. You KNOW that people NOT showing COVID-19 symptoms can actually be carriers. Everyone could “look” healthy on Sunday, yet some of them could be spreading the virus. IF you really loved your neighbors, you wouldn’t take this risk. You have a social and moral obligation to not only your church but the community at large. By being a weak link in the containment process, you and your church could be making people sick and killing them. What kind of person ignores these things, all for the sake of some sort of theological or political statement? Evidently, you, Pastor Reeves.

I know, I know, the next words out of your mouth are going to be something like this: I DO love my neighbors, so much so that I am going to keep the doors of North Platte Baptist Church open so unsaved people can ride our buses, come to church, hear the gospel, and be saved! That way if COVID-19 chokes the life out of them, leaving their spouses widows and their children orphans, at least they will go to Heaven. Praise the Lord Jesus Christ!

Their salvation can wait a few weeks. All that matters right now is the safety and health of others. I encourage you, Pastor Reeves, to swallow your theology and politics and show love to your community by closing the doors of North Platte Baptist and suspending all group activities until health experts give the all-clear. How you respond will show if you really do take the words of Jesus seriously.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

The Doctor We Need

C Everett Koop

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

I am an atheist and a Democrat. Even so, the public official I have most respected, for most of my adult life, was a conservative Christian — and a rock-ribbed Republican.

If you are around my age, you have an image of him with a bushy, mustacheless beard. You remember him wearing what looked like a Naval Admiral’s uniform, or a suit with a brightly-colored bow tie that served as a diacritical mark highlighting his facial hair.

Most important, though, you remember the way he acted while he was on the national (and, for a time, worldwide) stage. That behavior was completely consistent with his professional ethos as well as his personal values.

His name was Charles Everett Koop. Ronald Reagan, during his first year as President of the United States, nominated Dr. Koop as Surgeon General. Despite objections from feminists, LGBT people, and secularists, the Senate overwhelmingly confirmed his confirmation late in 1981. Charles Everett Koo His name was Charles Everett Koop. Ronald Reagan, during his first year as President of the United States, nominated Dr. Koop as Surgeon General. Despite objections from feminists, LGBT people, and secularists, the Senate overwhelmingly confirmed his confirmation late in 1981.

He would soon put their fears to rest. Although he personally opposed abortion because of his religious beliefs, he would not succumb to pressure from the Reagan administration to prepare a report stating that abortion is psychologically damaging to women. Ever the doctor (pediatric surgeon) and scientist, he said there simply wasn’t evidence to corroborate what the President wanted him to say. 

His stance seems even more consistent with his credo when you realize how active he was in championing the rights of the newborn. Although he was not personally involved with the case, he was motivated by the death of a six-day-old boy who was born with Down Syndrome and denied surgical treatment to correct his esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula. Before he became Surgeon General, he was, for more than three decades, the surgeon-in-chief at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, during which he saw increasing survival rates for babies with congenital maladies. During his last eight years, he never lost a full-term baby on whom he operated to correct esophageal atresia.

He would also call attention to the AIDS epidemic when the President would not utter the word “AIDS” in public. Liberal and LGBT groups criticized him for highlighting the dangers of sexual intercourse in general, and gay sex in particular, for spreading the disease. But he was also excoriated by religious conservatives and others for recommending mandatory sex education, beginning in the third grade.

Finally, he put his scientific knowledge ahead of the wishes of his boss when he called for stronger warnings against tobacco use. He infuriated some of the largest donors to the Republican Party—namely, cigarette makers—by issuing a report saying that nicotine has addictive qualities similar to those of heroin and cocaine, and should be treated as such.

After he left public life, he started a website that published articles that turned out to be little more than advertisements. Still, he deserves credit for his fealty to empirical evidence over the agenda of an administration, or even his own religious beliefs.

It seems that a Dr. Koop for this generation, if you will, has emerged. Like Koop, he is a physician and scientist. He, too, became a national public official during the Reagan Administration. He is also is resisting, quite publicly, a President and administration who deny science at every turn. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci became the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984. He has remained in that position under six Presidents, turning down several offers to lead the NIAID’s parent organization, the National Institutes of Health. During his tenure, Fauci has been at the forefront of efforts to deal with HIV, SARS, Ebola and other contagious diseases. In 2003, the Institute for Scientific Information stated that during the previous two decades, Fauci was “the 13th-most cited scientists among the 2.5 to 3 million authors in all disciplines throughout the world who published articles in scientific journals.”

His current boss denied the threat of the coronavirus until a couple of days ago. Even after Donald Trump finally acknowledged the severity of the pandemic and the need to take unprecedented actions against it (and the economic disruptions it’s causing), he continued to blame the Chinese for it. And members of his administration insist that, while public gatherings and physical contact of other kinds have been banned in various cities and countries, church-goers won’t get sick by attending worship services, and that communion wafers and shared wine cups won’t transmit the virus.

Dr. Fauci, in another parallel with Dr. Koop, refutes those, and other, follies—and articulates his dire but accurate warnings—in clear, unambiguous language. The main difference, I believe, between the two men’s situations is that while most of the pressure on Koop came from “behind the scenes,” Fauci must make himself heard when his boss is an overbearing bully who is always trying to talk over him. Fortunately for us, Dr. Fauci, it seems, has been heard, loud and clear. 

So here is another case of history repeating itself: Drs. Koop and Fauci had to fight against religious superstition and plain-and-simple bigotry in the hope that empirical evidence would guide public policy. Unfortunately, if history teaches us anything, it’s that every public health crisis will need a Dr. Koop or a Dr. Fauci, whatever his or her ecumenical or political affiliations, to prevail against religious bigotry and political partisanship. People who were caught in earlier epidemics like the Black Death, unfortunately, did not have anyone like either of them.

Local Church Continues to Meet on Sundays Despite the Coronavirus Pandemic

The above screenshot is from the website for First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio. First Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. I attended First Baptist in the mid-1960s when it was located on Alpine Drive, and again in the 1970s when it was located in the old Methodist building on the corner of Beech and Butler. The pastor at the time was Jack Bennett.

Today, the church is pastored by John MacFarlane. John was a young boy in the church when I headed off to college in 1976. I used to bale hay for John’s father Randy. At one time, I had a number of family members and close friends who attended First Baptist. Today? Pretty much a new crowd. The old folks have died off, and those of us who were young years ago are now the new old folks. Such is the circle of life.

I really don’t know John that well. I know he’s a Fundamentalist, but I hoped he had a better understanding of the world than his predecessor, Jack Bennett. John’s no dummy, so I am astounded by the fact that he intends to continue holding services on Sundays. He’s canceling the Wednesday services and Sunday school, but Sunday morning and Sunday night? Game on! Everything we KNOW about the COVID-19 virus tells us that the best way to impede its spread is NOT to gather in groups. Stay at home, and avoid contact with other people. Churches are no different from schools, restaurants, sporting events, or other places where large numbers of people gather. John KNOWS this, yet he plans to have church anyway. Maybe he thinks God will be with them or be some sort of talisman that will protect them from the Coronavirus. Maybe he thinks if the church congregation prays real, real, real hard that God will hear their prayers and pass over them like he did the Israelites in Egypt. If so, he’s delusional. God is AWOL, and the only hope now is us. If we don’t do the right thing, who will?

You may remember that I mentioned earlier this week what John said about the Coronavirus in a blog post titled COVID-19 DOES Work Together for Good:

Listen here, you dirty coronavirus bug! You will NOT win! In Jesus name, the church is going to use what you are doing to the world and turn it around for something good. Your days of creating chaos will come to an end as Jesus heals body and soul. Your fear will be vanquished in the life-giving blood of Jesus as He makes new creatures, converting the lost souls. Persecution has never diminished the affects of the church. Quite the opposite! Persecution has always caused the church to grow and flourish. And, even though we can’t see you, you are an enemy that WILL be defeated. You will NOT conquer. “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Jesus name — and all God’s people said — AMEN!

The fact that First Baptist, along with a handful of other local Evangelical churches, is having church on Sunday is yet more proof that Governor Mike DeWine should have ordered churches to close. Churches are nothing more than a weak link in an otherwise exemplary plan for controlling the virus in Ohio. (Dear Governor DeWine: Why are Churches Exempt from the Group Gathering Ban?) Just today, the Defiance County Department of Health said we now have our first confirmed case of infection in the county. It’s coming, John. For you, for your family, for the people you pastor. Do the right thing and close up shop and wait for the all-clear from Ohio Department of Health. Until then, you are risking the infection and death of your family, church members, and fellow citizens.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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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North Platte Baptist Church Uses the Coronavirus Pandemic to Evangelize People

The North Platte Baptist Church in North Platte, Nebraska recently published a tract that Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) evangelizers can use to evangelize people who are fearful or troubled by the Coronavirus pandemic.

coronavirus tract north platte baptist church
coronavirus tract north platte baptist church

The gist of this tract is what? Fear the Coronavirus? What/who you better fear is God and Hell. Here we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, and the pastor of North Platte, William Reeves, wants to put the fear of God in people instead of helping them materially and physically. IFB zealots can’t seem to let go of their dogma long enough to act like decent human beings.

Most of the readers of this blog are people who would be considered evangelization prospects by North Platte and other IFB zealots. Let me ask you, would this tract “speak” to you in any meaningful way? If you were infected with the Coronavirus, would you find this track helpful? Let’s be a focus study group for Pastor Reeves and North Platte Baptist Church. Share your thoughts in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Lessons from Italy: Six Stages of Coronavirus

italy coronavirus

Guest post by Logan. Logan blogs at Life After 40.

A LOT of people are in denial right now. Here in the USA, we’re largely in “Stage 3” but some are still in “Stage 1” in their mind. The following comes from an Italian citizen. Italy is about two weeks ahead of us in terms of what’s to come. To make the person’s thread easier to read, here’s the content all together.

? STAGE 1: You know that coronavirus exists, and the first cases begin to appear in your country. Well, nothing to worry about, it’s just a bad flu! I’m not 75+ years old so what could possibly happen to me?

I’m safe, everybody is overreacting, what’s the need to go out with masks and stock toilet paper? I’m going to live my life as usual, there’s no need to freak out.

? STAGE 2: The number of cases begins to be significant. They declare “red zone” and quarantine one or two small cities where they found the first cases and a lot of people were infected (Feb 22nd). Well, that’s sad and somewhat worrisome but they’re taking care of it so nothing to panic about.

There are some deaths but they’re all old people, so the media is just creating panic for views, how shameful. People lead their life as usual . . .’m not going to stop going out and meeting my friends, am I? It’s not going to get me. Everybody’s fine here.

? STAGE 3: The number of cases is rapidly going up. They almost doubled in one day. There are more deaths. They declare red zones and quarantine the 4 regions where the majority of cases are registered (March 7). In Italy, 25% of the county is under quarantine.

Schools and universities are closed in these areas but bars, workplaces, restaurants and so on are still open. The decree gets released by some newspaper before it should . . .

. . .so around 10k people from the red zone escape from the area that same night to return to their homes in the rest of Italy (this will be important later). Most of the population of the remaining 75% of Italy still does what it always does.

They still don’t realize the seriousness of the situation. Everywhere you turn people advise to wash your hands and limit going out, large groups are forbidden, every 5 minutes on TV they remind you of these rules. But it still hasn’t settled in people’s minds.

? STAGE 4: The number of cases is heavily increasing. Schools and universities are closed everywhere for at least a month. It’s a national health emergency. Hospitals are at capacity, entire units are cleared to make space for coronavirus patients.

There aren’t enough doctors and nurses. They’re calling retired ones and those in their last 2 years of university. There are no shifts anymore, just work as much as you can. Of course, doctors and nurses are getting infected, spreading it to their families.

There are too many cases of pneumonia, too many people who need ICU and not enough places for everyone. At this point is like being at war: doctors have to choose who to treat based on their survival chance.

That means that the elderly and trauma/stroke patients can’t get treated because corona cases have priority. There are not enough resources for everybody so they have to be distributed for best outcome. I wish I was joking but it’s literally what has happened.

People have died because there wasn’t any more space. I have a doctor friend who called me devastated because he had to let 3 people die that day. Nurses crying because they see people dying and can’t do anything aside from offering some oxygen.

A friend’s relative died yesterday of the coronavirus because they couldn’t treat him. It’s chaos, the system is collapsing. Coronavirus and the crisis it’s provoking is all you hear about everywhere.

? STAGE 5: Remember the 10k idiot who ran from the red zone to the rest of Italy? Well, the entire country has to be declared under quarantine (March 9). The goal is to delay the spreading of the virus as much as possible.

People can go to work, go grocery shopping, go to the pharmacy, and all businesses are still open because otherwise, the economy would collapse (it already is), but you can’t move from your commune unless you have a valid reason.

Now there’s fear, you see a lot of people with masks and gloves around but there are still are people who think that they’re invincible, who go to restaurants in large groups, hang out with friends to drink and so on. Next step.

? STAGE 6: 2 days later, it’s announced that all (most) businesses are closed: Bars, restaurants, shopping centers, all kinds of shops etc. Everything except supermarkets and pharmacies. You can move around only if you have certification with you.

The certification is an official document where you declare your name, where you’re coming from, where you’re going and what for. There are a lot of police checkpoints. If you’re found outside without a valid reason you risk a fine up to €206 (roughly $230 US).

If you’re a known positive patient you risk from 1 to 12 years of jail for homicide. That’s what the situation is like now today as of March 12th. Keep in mind that it all happened in around 2 weeks . . . 5 DAYS FROM STAGE 3 TO TODAY.

The rest of the world apart from Italy, China and Korea is just now beginning to reach other stages, so let me tell you this: You have no idea what’s coming to get you. I know because 2 weeks ago I was the one who had no idea and thought it wasn’t bad.

But it is. And not because the virus alone is particularly dangerous or deadly, but for all the consequences it brings. It’s hard to see all these countries act like it’s not coming and not taking the precautions that are necessary for the well-being of its citizens while they still can. Please if you’re reading this try to act in your best interest.

This problem isn’t going to solve itself by ignoring it. Just wondering how many undiscovered cases there might be in America alone is scary, and they’re in for big, big trouble because of how their country is run.

Our government for once did a good job I must say. The actions taken were drastic but necessary, and this may be the only way to limit the spreading. It’s working in China so we hope it will work here too (it’s already working in some of the first red zones which were quarantined before everybody else).

They’re taking measures to protect us citizens such as probably suspending mortgage payments for next months, help for shop owners who were obligated to close and so on. I realize that these takes are really difficult, if not impossible, to take in some countries, and it’s really worrying to think about what it could mean in global scale. I wonder if this pandemic will be a turning point in our society. 

Lessons from Italy: 6 Stages of Coronavirus

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Coronavirus Exposing America’s False Gods

bert-farias

Sports, entertainment, materialism, education…these are your gods America. [You missed booze, sex, and porn.] These are the gods of many within the Church who perhaps have not yet even entered the kingdom. This Coronavirus crisis is exposing these gods. Not just here in America but globally it seems God is shutting these things down. [And the churches that are shutting down? What does that expose? That maybe we are in this together; that no God is coming to rescue us; that we are on our own; that it is up to us to battle the Coronavirus.]

….

Some may disagree, but this crisis is not really God’s severe judgment, but actually an act of mercy to prepare us for something more. Something far worse is coming in the not-so-distant future. Right now we need to be purged and cleansed [Use Miralax.] from our idols and positioned for a tumultuous decade that has only just begun.

….

This world is on the verge of the greatest tribulation it has ever faced in its entire history, and God loves us too much to not give us opportunities to turn whole-heartedly to Him. [And when this prediction doesn’t happen, I suggest we follow the Bible and stone the false prophet Farias to death. All praise be to Jehovah.] God does not want to allow devastation to come to this earth without granting us a chance to get our hearts right. What makes us think that we are exempt from what the Bible has already foretold. [The Bible is a work of fiction, thus there’s nothing for us to be exempt from.] A time of tribulation and then great tribulation is coming. The sky is blackened. Storm clouds are appearing on the horizon. [That means it is going to RAIN, genius.] The worse may not come tomorrow, or next month, or next year, or even in the next few years (although I personally believe we’re at the door), but be assured that the storm is coming… one unlike anything most of us have ever seen in our lifetimes. This is not a scare tactic [yes, it is] or gloom and doom hyper-drama [yes, it is], but it is reality [no it’s not]. It is what Jesus foretold.

….

Too many people are afraid of a little pandemic that is a light affliction compared to what is coming, but they are not afraid of God Almighty [Why should we fear fictional beings?]. People are afraid of a virus that causes flu-like symptoms [and kills people, lots of people], which has been way overblown by globalist interests and the lying media [Bert, your conspiratorial beliefs are showing.], but they’re not afraid of a hell that burns with fire and brimstone [We don’t fear Hell because it doesn’t exist]. They’re afraid the economy might sink, but they’re not afraid they’ll sink into Satan’s damnable abyss, forever lost without God. [I fear a global economic collapse far more than I do sinking into a mythical abyss.]

With every worsening crisis God is telling us that Jesus is coming soon [wrong, again]. With every worldwide calamity, His voice speaks that His coming is near. [Why can’t any of us hear it? Speak up Jesus.]

— Bert Farias, Holy Fire Ministries, The Coronavirus Pandemic: Is God Challenging the Modern Gods of Our Day?, March 19, 2020

Bruce Gerencser