30 March 2020  |

Dear Aunt Sevvy,

Our pastor canceled church services last week, at the conference’s insistence, because of COVID-19 fears. My mother and father are furious. They say the disease is a hoax, over-exaggerated, and a capitulation to Satan. They think someone, probably the Roman Catholics, are trying to put an end to Adventists worshiping together, and if the church would continue to meet, God would protect attenders from germs.

For my part, I was happy to stay home and watch our pastor on the screen. What do you think, Aunt Sevvy? 

Offspring of the Angry


Dear Offspring,

Fear and anger is a normal human response during times of stress. Yet your parents’ particular fears are compounded by two things: a misunderstanding of the promise of protection to the faithful, and conspiratorial thinking.

It is tempting to suppose that God protects us as long as we are doing his will. But simple observation tells us otherwise: bad things happen to good people, and everyone, even good people, eventually die. Furthermore, it’s a sin to do stupid, careless things in the expectation that God will protect you. It’s called “presumption,” and when Satan suggested it, Jesus told him, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:7). 

Conspiratorial thinking isn’t new, either. During the Black Plague of the 1300s, rumors circulated that it was a Jewish conspiracy to eradicate Christians, when it was actually caused by germs carried by lice on rats. Christians burned Jews in their homes, sent them down the Rhine River in wine barrels, and murdered them with clubs and axes.

We Adventists aren’t so violent: our eschatology has led us to think someone is trying to persecute us even when they’re actually trying to protect us. Yet so firmly is this notion of a world filled with enemies of Sabbathkeepers implanted in your parents that it may be impossible to convince them that this is for their own good, and that they eventually will go back to church again. You may have to just smile and nod and wait it out.

I am glad to hear that you were still able to enjoy a Sabbath message from your pastor while practicing physical distancing. It might make your parents feel better if you showed them how they can watch services online, too. We will of course worship together safely again, but in the meantime our faith, rightly understood, should be a source of confidence and peace, not anger and fear. 

And, we must all pray for one another.

Aunt Sevvy

 


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