The coronavirus seems to have some unexpected side effects in those who are not infected. Here are some things christian and political leaders in America have said that cause me considerable disquiet.
Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, talking on Fox news, threw doubt on the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and suggested it all might just be a plot, instigated by North Korea, to “get Trump”. He said:
“The owner of a restaurant asked me last night, he said, ‘Do you remember the North Korean leader promised a Christmas present for America back in December?’ Could it be they got together with China and this is that present? I don’t know. But there really is something strange going on.”
President Donald Trump initially was unconcerned about the virus, saying in January: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” Even just a few weeks ago he was tweeting about “fake news …. to inflame the CoronaVirus situation”.
However, more recently he has agreed “This is a pandemic” and put out guidelines for “15 days to slow the spread”. But it seems he sees the main problem as economic rather than human health, tweeting: “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself” because “more people are going to die” from the economic losses than from the pandemic. And so: “I would love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter”.
Dan Patrick, Lieutenant Governor of Texas, also felt the economic hit from social isolation was a danger, suggesting that grandparents might need to be sacrificial about their own lives to allow the American economy to continue.
“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’” But if they had? “If that is the exchange, I’m all in ….. So my message is let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it and those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country, don’t do that, don’t ruin this great America.”
South Florida pastor Guillermo Maldonado talked about a different type of sacrifice, not for the sake of the economy, but for Jesus’ sake. Saying fear of gathering in a crowded church was caused by a “demonic spirit”, he asked: “Do you believe God would bring his people to his house to be contagious with the virus? Of course not,”
Urging his congregation not to stay away from church, he said: “If we die, we die for Christ. If we live, we live for Christ, so what do you lose?”
American pastor Dionny Baez, speaking at the Norwegian Christian TV channel Vision Norway, wasn’t thinking of anyone dying. Rather, he felt money could be the solution:
“As a prophet of God, I challenge you to call the number on the screen… Say: ‘as a seed for 2020, I’m going to give 2020 [kroner = about $US200], and I’m gonna believe God. Like Jacob, I’m going to cover my children with a sacrifice, and no evil shall touch them.’”
Televangelist Kenneth Copeland is sure that whatever the truth about coronavirus, God not only can, but will heal anyone afflicted with the virus. On his Victory News TV channel, Copeland asked viewers to “put your hand on that television set” and then said:
“Now say it: I take it. I have it. It’s mine. I thank you and praise you for it. ….. According to the word of God, I’m healed. And I consider not my own body. I consider not symptoms in my body. But only that which God has promised.”
This is serious, folks!
Is it just me, or have some of these leaders lost contact with reality?
From my reading of the statistics of this pandemic, the US is currently the country with the fastest-growing rate of infections. On a per capita basis, its trajectory is worse than Italy’s was.
Experience shows that those countries that acted quickly and strongly have contained the virus far better than those that didn’t react positively. I don’t think any of the above statements will assist in slowing down the infection rate and reducing deaths in the US. Nor are they likely to assist the economy much because the economy will get worse while ever the infection and mortality rates are increasing exponentially.
Many of these leaders are playing with lives, potentially thousands of lives.
I fear they have become so comfortable in the bubble of their own self belief and importance that they have learnt to forget truth and invent their own reality.
Reality, faith and truth
I feel deeply concerned that some parts of US christianity have not only lost contact with reality, but have lost contact with Jesus.
I believe we should pray for divine healing, and I believe God sometimes heals quite miraculously. But I don’t believe he does it for money nor that he performs when we “command” him.
And I don’t believe God is more concerned about the economy than he is about the poor. Jesus (and his brother James) spoke out strongly about the dangers of wealth (“You cannot serve both God and money.” Luke 16:13, see also James 5:1-6). They both urged us to care for the poor and powerless (Luke 4:18, 11:41, James 1:27).
I don’t see those values in the leaders’ statements. I don’t see a concern for truth. I don’t see a concern for the poor. I do see a concern for wealth and prosperity for those already prosperous.
They seem to be insulated from reality. And reality may soon bite them (and many others!). Time will tell.
Discerning the signs of the times
Has conservative christianity become too allied to conservative politics and wealth?
Thanks to Micael Grenholm for several of these links.