Pastor Shane Idleman of Westside Christian Fellowship in Leona Valley, California has a habit of playing the persecution card whenever he can, and the current pandemic is no exception.
In a piece for Charisma, he responds to his own question, “Is it biblical to stop churches from meeting in person during [the] pandemic?”
At first, he says it’s fine since governors are focused on public health.
I did not agree with some of the pastors initially who defied the government. This was a public health emergency. As a society, we are called to take certain steps to try to curb the infection rate and minimize death, minimize people getting sick and love your neighbor — we should be setting an example of that.
That sounds completely reasonable. (Did Charisma get a brand new staff?!)
Idleman even added that shutdown orders weren’t First Amendment issues, as some pastors had claimed, and that Christians shouldn’t be reactionary since it could “damage our witness.”
But of course there’s a “but”:
But then the question of what is an “essential” establishment comes up. I have seen vacuum repair stores and doughnut shops open while churches remain closed. That can’t continue. I know that some in our congregation have gone back to destructive addictions and marriages are on the verge of divorce — streaming services and on-screen messages are not going to solve those issues. We need to be together. God’s house needs to be a place of wholeness and restoration. Churches must not be handcuffed much longer. Many experts agree that with respiratory diseases, the one thing that stops them is herd immunity. Isolation can actually work against us. So, are we doing more damage by staying at home?
Oh dear God…
Places where you can get food are essential to everyone. So are home appliance stores, arguably, though most of those seem to be closed as well. But it’s not like people are congregating inside these places. Most restaurants are delivering or allowing carry-out, not letting people sit at tables. Even grocery stores, where there’s no other option, are taking distancing precautions.
And while quarantining comes with its downsides, Idleman never explains why pastors can’t counsel people remotely. If teachers can educate kids online, and (actual) therapists can talk to clients online, why are so many pastors insistent that they must meet with a large group of people or else?
The whole comment about “herd immunity” is also idiotic in this context. If people aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 — and they’re not — then the only thing that’s going to happen by bringing people together is increasing the likelihood they’ll catch it, get sick, spread it, and possibly die.
Idleman even says there will be a point very soon where social distancing will go out the window because Jesus.
… maintaining 6 feet to pray for the sick may be an impossibility. Jesus laid hands on the sick and the leprous.
You ain’t Jesus. And I had no idea prayers only worked within a six-foot radius. Silly me thought God had powers. I was wrong. I have Pastor Idleman to thank for reminding me God doesn’t.
As commenters under that article note, Jesus also urged people to love their neighbors. Spreading a virus because you’re too arrogant to respect sensible guidelines is the opposite of that. (One person noted, “No one should have to die, because you simply don’t feel like staying home.”)
Idleman always posts his sermons on YouTube. He, more than others, is well-equipped to continue his services online without a problem. And yet he’s choosing a path that could involve killing the elderly because he’s too dumb to understand how serious this disease is.
He says early in his piece that “Others, far more gifted than me, have written extensively on this topic.” He’s right. Listen to them. Not him.