The last time we talked about him, in June, Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was back to leading in-person gatherings at The River church in Tampa, Florida. While they were outdoors, they took few safety precautions. Masks were not required and pictures showed that social distancing was readily ignored.
Most tellingly, everyone had to sign a waiver saying they wouldn’t blame the church if they tested positive for the virus.
Things have only gotten worse.
Howard-Browne said he would be holding a week-long “open air mass healing and miracle crusade” beginning on May 31. But it’s still going on, nearly 60 days later, with the volume turned up so loud it’s causing problems for people who live nearby. He recently moved it indoors but that’s only raising more COVID concerns.
For weeks, neighbors have tried to take their own stand against what they consider an ungodly noise penetrating their homes. They say their crusade for relief highlights the need to address county noise regulations that include exemptions for churches.
Citing the noise complaints and summer thunderstorms, Howard-Browne recently moved the event indoors. Video from inside the sanctuary, live-streamed on Facebook and other platforms, shows scores of congregants standing close together as they sing and pray with uncovered faces.
So Howard-Browne went from annoying his neighbors to putting even more people in danger, all because he thinks this is the best way to bring people to Jesus.
“We are not obligated to wear masks, we are not obligated to social distance, none of that stuff,” Howard-Browne said, drawing cheers and applause from the congregation. “If you’re worried about ‘rona, don’t come. Please stay away. Amen.”
That’s the height of Christian selfishness out there: The idea that people concerned with the virus can simply skip the service, ignoring the fact that everyone there could catch it and then eventually go home and spread it to others. And remember: This is Florida! It’s already one of the worst states in the country when it comes to dealing with the pandemic.
If there’s any silver lining, it’s the the local government is considering changing the noise regulations so that Howard-Browne’s church has to play by the same rules as everyone else. That should’ve happened a long time ago. But even if that’s fixed, the indoor services are exacerbating an already deadly problem. Not that Howard-Browne cares. He can collect tithes in person. You think he gives a damn about anyone else’s life?
(Thanks to Jeff for the link)