4 December 2020  |

Dear Aunt Sevvy,

My pastor is very vocal about how the COVID-19 rules by the government are taking away people’s right to worship, and how we need to stop living in fear. He is pushing our congregation to meet in person. There are many elderly people in our church. At least two people are undergoing cancer treatment, and another recently recovered. And that’s not even counting those who have other health concerns, nor taking into account that this virus seems to be totally unpredictable, hitting young and healthy people in devastating ways. 

I have heard all my life that the government is going to persecute Adventists. Maybe this is the beginning? I’m frightened of COVID-19, but I’m worried that by not attending church I’ll be supporting the mark of the beast or something. What should I do? 

Signed, Scary Prophecies Coming True?

Dear Scary, 

The situation you describe isn’t prophecies coming true. It is the sad result of American politicians making a deadly pandemic into a political issue—and Adventists, because of our prophetic fears, are particularly gullible.

I am not “living in fear” when I wear my seatbelt, or when I drive on the correct side of the road at speed limit, or wear a helmet on my motorcycle. These are laws and they’re also common sense. Shame on those who have made something so wholly unpolitical as a virus into something that people feel they need to take sides on! 

There is another reason why some pastors are desperate to get people back in the physical pews. More than one friend has expressed to me privately that they have never felt so much Sabbath peace and rest as they have spending Sabbaths at home, maybe participating in one of the many online services or classes with people who are more compatible with their gospel faith than are the people in their local church. (Recently Adventist Today published a quite eloquent account by someone who had this very experience.)

Too many churches have lost a sense of community. Sabbath services have become an uncomfortable duty. For some, Sabbath is a workday where they must serve food, lead children’s divisions, and perform up in front—worse, in some congregations against a background of judgment and gossip. If people realize just how little spiritual strength they get from their busy, empty church services, and how much they like worshiping in the quiet of their homes, many churches would not survive. Giving would drop. The already empty sanctuary would become emptier, and could eventually lock its doors. 

That’s one reason there’s been an urgency to bring people back to the building, even if it defies common sense medical science. That’s happening now. It’s fine if people want to come back when they’re safe, but the pastor who uses COVID-19 restrictions to scare people into an unsafe church setting with misapplied prophecies is a liar and deceiver, just like the politicians who have politicized the virus.

In the infamous Black Death plague of the Middle Ages, the more people sickened, the more people packed into cathedrals to pray—thus spreading the disease even more effectively. By meeting in contradiction to health guidelines we are essentially saying that we don’t care if we make dozens or hundreds of people sick, or even kill some of them. 

Jesus told us to love our neighbors. That doesn’t seem like loving our neighbors to me. 

Aunt Sevvy

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