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Religion in the time of coronavirus


By PJ Slinger

While the coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone in some way, it’s interesting to look at how religious institutions are dealing with it. While there have been some logical responses, there is certainly no shortage of irony to go around.

Perhaps the most ironic case is straight from Our Lady of Lourdes, the French shrine that features the “healing pools,” in which sick pilgrims bathe and hope for healing. The shrine’s pools have been closed temporarily because of coronavirus fears. It appears the shrine’s higher-ups are flat-out admitting that the healing pools do not work as advertised.

And, Bethel Church, a prominent faith-healing megachurch in Northern California, has ceased its hospital visits in order to protect the faith-healers from the coronavirus.

“Though we believe in a God who actively heals today, students are not being encouraged to visit healthcare settings at this time,” Aaron Tesauro, a church spokesman, said, according to Robyn Pennacchia of the Wonkette.

“So, with all of this, with the fact that they’re basically now admitting that they can’t magically heal coronavirus . . . will Bethel be ceasing its faith-healing practices?,” Pennacchia writes. “Probably not, because that’s where all the money is.”

And then, of course, you have the preachers and ministers who make outlandish claims.

Pastor Brian Tamaki, New Zealand’s popular Destiny Church leader, says the coronavirus pandemic is a sign the world has “strayed from God,” but that those who continue to tithe will be protected.

“The prince of the power of the air, Satan, has control of atmospheres unless you’re a blood-bought born-again, Jesus-loving, bible-believing, Holy Ghost-filled, tithe-paying believer,” he said in a sermon. “You are the only one that can walk through atmospheres and has a, literally a protection — the Psalm 91 protection policy around you.”

Of course, a pandemic wouldn’t be a pandemic without some religionists blaming it on the gays.

Pastor Steven Andrew of the USA Christian Church claims that the coronavirus is punishment for “LGBT sin.”

“God’s love shows it is urgent to repent, because the bible teaches homosexuals lose their souls and God destroys LGBT societies. Obeying God protects the USA from diseases, such as the coronavirus,” Andrew wrote in a press release. “Our safety is at stake, since national disobedience of God’s laws brings danger and diseases, such as coronavirus, but obeying God brings covenant protection.”

Rabbi Meir Mazuz, an Orthodox Israeli rabbi, blames the coronavirus on the existence of gay pride parades. At a talk, Mazuz said a pride parade is “a parade against nature, and when someone goes against nature, the one who created nature takes revenge on him.”

Christian evangelical pastor Rick Wiles claims the coronavirus is God’s “death angel” seeking justice for those “transgendering little children,” according to an article in the New York Post.

“God is about to purge a lot of sin off of this planet,” Wiles said. “Look at the United States, look at the spiritual rebellion in this country — the hatred of God, the hatred of the bible, the hatred of righteousness. There are vile, disgusting people in this country now.”

And, of course, there are the preachers who say the pandemic takes political sides.

Televangelist Jonathan Shuttlesworth claims God will spare conservative red states from the coronavirus, but will use the pandemic to punish pro-choice blue states that favor abortion rights. He also claimed that “America will be minimally affected” by the global coronavirus outbreak because of President Trump’s support for Israel, according to a report by Right Wing Watch.

Hemant Mehta writes on his “Friendly Atheist” blog about the Church of Cyprus, an independent Greek Orthodox church, and how it will continue to serve wafers and wine during communion. “They’re not afraid because they insist God would never let the virus transmit that way,” Mehta writes.

“Regarding the offering of the Holy Communion, the position of the Church is known,” the Orthodox Times said in a statement. “The Holy Communion does not symbolize but it is the body and blood of Christ. It would be blasphemous to think that Christ’s body and blood could transmit any disease or virus.”

Monsignor Charles Pope, the pastor of Holy Comforter–St. Cyprian Church in Washington, D.C., writing in the National Catholic Register, is not happy that churches have been canceling Mass because of the pandemic.

“Physical health has its place, but spiritual health does too — and its place is vastly more important. . . I am concerned that we have lost our courage and our faith and subordinated holy things to the state in this matter.”

In New York, state Attorney General Letitia James demanded that televangelist Jim Bakker stop selling his “Silver Solution,” which he claimed was a cure for coronavirus. Bakker said the product is “almost like a miracle” and that “God created it in Heaven.”

The Vatican suspended a clerical sex abuse fact-finding mission to Mexico, saying it was due to the coronavirus. Abuse survivors said they doubted that the virus was the actual reason for the mission being called off, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mattia Ferraresi, writing in The New York Times, sums it up nicely in her column, “God vs. coronavirus.”

“Holy water is not a hand sanitizer and prayer is not a vaccine,” Ferraresi writes.