Pharisaical Piety, Spiritless Bravery: How Christians should not respond to the pandemic
Is it morally wrong to stay home from church in the middle of a pandemic scare? No. It is intelligent and considerate of the well being of the other humans who have also been made in the image of God whose invaluable lives could be endangered to a nontrivial degree by someone’s choosing to still go to church – or engage in any group-related activity for that matter.
While Christians are required to come together in regular communities to engage in worship, education, and fellowship, that only applies to normal circumstances. There is a hierarchy of goods within the Christian worldview, and Christ makes explicitly clear that the highest good is loving God with our entire heart, soul, body (this follows fairly obviously from various places in Scripture), and mind, and the second highest good is loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Loving God with the entirety of our heart, soul, and mind is something we can do with our family from home, and loving God with the entirety of our body is a mandate to use it for service and worship, and also to treat it with care as we would treat a temple. Recklessly exposing oneself to the coronavirus is in conflict or opposed to all of the above.
I’ll spare the breath of explaining why going to public church gatherings in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic is in tension with the mandate to love our neighbor as ourselves. If the reader is uncertain, read about what is currently happening in Italy.
Despite all of the above, some Christians have taken to social media to display their performative piety and bravery by announcing that the coronavirus would not keep them home on Sunday morning.
These bored Christians, over-eager for a chance to have it bad for Christ’s sake, with entirely misplaced, if not mistaken, understandings of what it means to take up one’s cross have thrown intelligence and Scriptural prudence to the wind.
And they have done so very loudly – trumpeting their own bravado for going to Church even when it is dangerous. But it is not brave, it is foolish. Undergoing danger for the right reasons is brave. Undergoing danger and putting others in unnecessary danger because of first-world spiritual boredom feverishly lusting for a chance to look pious is pharisaical in all the worst possible ways.
So if any such Christians are getting this message, please stop, because your words and actions are unBiblical, quite possibly life-threatening for some, and an active disgrace to the name of Christ, which you claim to represent, in terms of both morality and intelligence.
If you truly *must* go to church in the middle of this pandemic as a matter of private conviction, let it be private.
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K. William Huitt
K. William Huitt is currently an M.A. student in Western Michigan University’s philosophy program. He graduated from Hillsdale College in 2019 with a B.A. in philosophy and a minor in history. He has spoken at various Christian apologetics events and writes regularly about religious and political issues.