False Equivalences

The COVID 19 pandemic has rocked the entire world. Should time endure, this will be viewed as a defining moment in earth’s history for years to come. As people are coming to grips with the magnitude of the threat more steps have been taken to keep people safe, including social distancing. While people are trying to occupy their days, they are seeking out news and content online: sometimes going down search rabbit holes and stumbling upon new sites they may never have ventured to before. Quite a few churches have seized upon this opportunity to make themselves visible. Even for those who’ve never had a digital presence before, they’ve come to realize the importance of digital resources. Pastors are streaming services from their offices, bedrooms and living rooms. Some facilitate interactive services for Bible studies and prayer over Zoom, Skype, Whereby and WhatsApp. But not everything online that folks are finding out about churches is demonstrating a positive witness.

Streams aren’t just taking place in homes or empty sanctuaries. Some pastors are still conducting in-person services. Some choirs have still been rehearsing. And these reckless actions are contributing to the exponential rate of transmission. If you believe the Christian mission is to bring light to the world, this should alarm you. This is a poor witness. Even others from within the faith are trying to warn their brothers and sisters not to contribute to the same sort of tragedy that has befallen their congregations. Yet some remain recalcitrant. Here are some of the protestations I’ve heard from those who justify congregating with their churches for in l-person worship:

“Orders restricting large church gatherings are persecution of worship.”

--- No, the orders aren’t against worship. They are against any large gathering. You are free to worship. Large physical gatherings are not and should not be seen as prerequisites to worship. This isn’t about worship. It’s not even about fellowship. Because those things can be accomplished without packing sanctuaries with people.

“Gathering is a demonstration of faith.”

--- No. It’s a demonstration of presumption. Like Satan tempting Christ in Luke 4, people who offer this excuse are testing the Lord. Jesus resisted taking this bait. Be like Jesus.

“We are displaying our trust of God to the world.”

--- No. These types of actions are showing that Christians have no respect for their fellow man. Contrary to the advice of Romans 13, defiance of the government guidelines are showing that the church doesn’t care about societal rules.

“These government orders may be the rules and/or law, but just like legal slavery, apartheid and segregation, these regulations are unjust. Pastors who defy these orders are just like Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. standing against unjust segregation laws.”

--- Anyone who uses this flawed analogy has some unmitigated gall and is socially inept. Being requested to stay at home to stop the spread of a highly infectious contagious disease is absolutely nothing like being enslaved against your will and being bought and sold like cattle. There is no comparison to this and being denied basic decency due to the color of your skin. If for some reason you have the urge to utter this justification for gatherings, do yourself a favor and just don’t. Only someone uniquely obtuse or blindingly privileged would have the audacity to make such a comparison. Unlike civil rights leaders who were looking to provide justice to all seeking to live with equal dignity, Christians who take this stance are only thinking of the desires of their congregation to socialize.

“Walmart and convenience stores are open. The church building has to be open to provide an essential service too.”

--- Firstly, you may or may not realize that Walmart is the sole source of groceries for a large portion of the population in America. For many, it’s the only place to purchase food, toiletries, diapers, feminine hygiene products, and other essential items. And, believe it or not, corner convenience stores and liquor stores often fulfill this same purpose in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. I know because this was a reality during my childhood. If someone has never lived in a “food desert” this may come as a genuine surprise. There is no other way for people in these areas to get their basic needs. No matter where in the world you live, it is likely that there are similar pockets in your country too. Though some think a church being open for congregational worship provides an “essential service”, those services can be delivered through other means including via internet or telecommunication. The church can remain functional without being physically open. Having this as an option you don’t prefer is not the same as having no other option. For people in these areas who need to eat, they don’t have an alternative.

Secondly, being together in a large group for an extended period of time exponentially increases the risk of exposure and transmission as compared to people spread out individually shopping throughout a store for a brief time. A gathering held for over an hour is more dangerous than quick limited exposure. Aside from this being basic common sense, it is backed up by epidemiological research. And even with that lesser risk, most essential retailers have been doing what they can to minimize contact and decrease risk. Several stores have a limit to the number of people that can enter at once. They are creating lines of demarcation showing how far people must stand apart while in line. They are discouraging people from remaining in the store for longer than necessary. They are doing what they can to be responsible. Christians should too.

“The purpose of church is for Christians to gather together. How will we be known to the world if we’re not visibly together?”

--- Christ stated that the world will know we are Christians by our love. Not by our get-togethers. Being in a physical group is not a display of Christianity. Westboro Baptist Church was a great example of a very “visible” congregation that was known for their hate instead of love. If we love our neighbors, we want what’s best for them. We want them to prosper and be in good health. We take care of them. We put their welfare above our selfish desire to be “seen”. That’s love. That’s Christianity.

“Having these gatherings is a vital part of Biblical tradition.”

--- The congregational model as we know it doesn’t come from the Bible. Our tradition of mass gatherings for liturgical purposes was not established during the first century. Christians met together in small groups and house churches. People using this excuse are arguing to maintain a practice that doesn’t even have its origins in Scripture. The idea that it’s necessary to congregate en mass comes from extra-biblical tradition.

On the contrary, in Matthew 18 we are told that 2 or 3 is just as imbued with the Spirit of God as 20 or 30 or 200 or 300. And even with that, the God I serve is powerful enough to be “in the midst” of a “gathering” of two or three across phone lines and wifi.

“The government is trying to disband the church.”

--- The church was never the building. If you thought it was, you’ve missed the point. Read 1 Corinthians 12. WE are the Church!

Let’s provide a positive witness. Let’s impact the world in a demonstration of love and concern for people outside of ourselves – especially the most vulnerable among us like the immuno-compromised and elderly. When we show love to the least of these, that is truly worshipping Christ. Stay home.

Courtney Ray, MDiv, PhD is a clinical psychologist and ordained minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Previous Spectrum columns by Courtney Ray can be found at:


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10322

Good responses to lame objections.:slightly_smiling_face:


Excellent!!! (but some people will still cling to conspiracies)


Much needed confrontation of some absurd assumptions that may confuse the unwary. Great article that brings people from delusions to reality.


This is exactly what we needed to hear. I will be reading this to my Sabbath School class on line tomorrow.

A big AMEN


I do think that this is ‘respite’ time from congregational gathering may have some very positive results. We’ve had Zoom prayer meetings in our small three-church district, giving us the ability to interact with members from the other two churches which we haven’t had before. We’ve had elders meetings and vestry meetings (Episcopal) this way too, also cutting way back on time and travel. It will help us think more carefully about What Do We Really Want Church To Be, instead of assuming same old/same old. House gathering may become the new/old way to gathering for worship, who knows? That’s a lot more personal and a lot less institutional.


In times like these it is very advisable to consider the following words of the great Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“There is earnestness neither in the idea of a pure Christianity in itself nor in the idea of man as he is in himself; there is earnestness only in the reality of God and the reality of man which became one in Jesus Christ. What is earnest and serious is not some kind of Christianity, but it is Jesus Christ Himself. And in Jesus Christ there is neither radicalism nor compromise, but there is the reality of God and men. There is no Christianity in itself, for this would destroy the world; there is no man in himself, for he would exclude God. Both of these are merely ideas; only the God-Man Jesus Christ is real, and only through Him will the world be preserved until it is ripe for its end.”
(Ethics, p. 128)


Here is what the lunatic fringe in our denomination thinks of this virus:

The comments are eye-popping; these people, starting with the leader of the bunch, truly believe the virus is trivial and everyone has over-reacted. One clever soul opined that “we are more in danger of dying from falling over.” That seems to be the general consensus.


It is times like these when those whose faith is built on a secure relationship with God separate from those whose faith is based on rituals, obsessions and compulsions and become manifest. The former feels safely assured that his relationship with God continues in time of storm or sunshine whereas the latter feels alienated and must continue with rituals to appease God.


Mental dysfunction or spiritual decay? Both?


It’s very easy to win a debate when one essentially has a conversation with themselves :slightly_smiling_face:

But majority of these issues are not stemming from a more pressing sets of questions that that author is not asking. I’ll do the due diligence and amend this article with questions and a set of comments to contextualize these, from most to the least important.

Where do we draw the boundary between collective “just in case” safety and a smaller group personal and religious freedom?

As it becomes more and more apparent, the severity of this crisis was in fact greatly exaggerated and we are seeing the first crack in the official story that are leaking into the public eye that were largely mislead about the severity of the problem

It’s not a Trump-like reaction. It’s actually supported by facts and the very people involved who formulated the initial projections. For example, the Model for how this virus spreads and the severity of its consequences was projected to have 500k deaths in the UK alone. US used that model to predict impact.

The guy who wrote the code for the model, never released it for the peer review, and when asked for the code stated that it’s 1000s of lines of uncommented C code that’s pointless to release now. But most importantly, he went ahead and downgraded his predictions from 500K, to 20k, and subsequently 6k deaths in UK. Of course many government agencies followed.

UK took Covid19 off the list of high consequence infectious diseases. And we now see that media was rather blatantly hyping US crisis by using footage from foreign countries, while talking about overcrowded New York hospitals.

Or, they have claimed that the situation is so severe that people will have to share respirators, while there are still plenty of hospital beds and respirators… and that issue is a non-issue.

To put the icing on the cake, there has been irresponsible amount of conflation of deaths with Covid19 causes. For example , if a cancer or a heart patient dies, and would be projected to die without the virus, the presence of the virus (which the RT-PCR tests can’t estimate the amount of virus in the system and only presence) would be diagnosed as a cause… with explicit language on procedure that implies that there will not be secondary evaluation.

Which beings me to question #2

What responsibility do Christians have to keep authorities in check and press for truth and transparency in times of crises, when personal freedom if threatened by “just in case” clauses?

The author seems to imply that Christians have responsibility to obey whatever Government orders in this situation, but the question is about what should the Church do if both media and Government is using this crisis to solve their own impending problems of governance… which have little to do with the epidemic on the ground.

I hope you don’t misinterpret this as the idea that there is no Viral disease as a problem. But I do claim that the severity of it was exaggerated, and then downgraded by the factor of 2500% . We also should take into account that the vast majority of the Covid19 deaths are coincidental with conditions of which many of these patients would have likely and inevitably died without Covid19 impact. It’s not some lune idea. Both of these are now acknowledged facts.

And the final question I would ask… what do we do when the facts “on the ground” that we see from our personal experience are dissonant with mandates that are coming from the top?

The hashtag that’s picking up popularity today is #EmptyHospitals , which is a way for independent investigators to pipe the hospital situation in their own locale, while they are locked up and being told that hospitals are overflowing with patients.

So, people are showing empty hospitals which is quite contradictory to the media claims. Or they are seeing “emergency exercise” signs where media resports were coming from that showed people lining up for testing.

They post chatter of nurses that say that media exaggerates the conditions in hospitals. They show empty waiting rooms in the emergency wards… Naturally, where there would be lesser amount of trauma when people are locked up at home.

So, what responsibility do we really have? Should we just abandon all rationality and delegate it to governmental agency, no matter how conflicting and flawed it is? Or should we collectively be the layer that says - here’s the data, here’s the conflicting data… Government is wrong… Or you should follow what government says.

In the way this article is written, it’s no wonder Adventists endorsed Hitler during his rise to power. There’s a balance between abandoning rationality on either end of this spectrum… between diving into usubstantiated consiracy theories, and letting people in charge do whatever they want unchecked.

We should be able to discuss these issues openly, and ask what is our collective responsibility in these times, and what do we do when the facts that we are confronted with are dissonant with the broader narratives? After all, if we can’t do this now… what chance is there for us in a moment of expected apocalyptic narratives that we paint?


And there’s this gem:

“Here at Fulcrum 7, we believe that through the coronavirus, God is providing a gentle opportunity to prepare His people for the final crisis.”

I’m inclined to ask what a not-so-gentle opportunity might be.


I’m guessing that would be one of the astronomers detecting an asteroid the size of Texas on a collision course with 48hr countdown.


What else would one expect from that site? Nothing surprising!


Wait a minute, you’re telling me Bruce Willis armed with a nuclear bomb was one of the angels of the apocalypse? Man, that quarterly that covered Revelation last year was way off.


On Fulcrum 7 3ABN Danny and Yvonne Shelton are already
advertising their New Book – After Covid-19 What Next?

Even Doug Batchelor is getting in on Covid-19 apocalyptic bandwagon.


It appears that there never is a crisis that they can’t exploit…Danny is a good example of how “bad” publicity/crisis can be used to further one’s goals. Pure marketing genius. :astonished:

Title of the next book: “How to scare anyone straight into heaven in 10 easy steps.” :scream:

I am sure that it will be a best seller…


Using natural events to frighten people into heaven is not new, just look at history. It is about controlling the thoughts and minds of others to lift ones own belief system. Nothing Biblical about it, just the opposite! What was Christs message to the world of His day, love and care for others. The changes He came to make were not about scaring people as the current system was doing, but to bring joy, peace, health, etc,etc… Organized religion still tries the old scare tactics of past centuries and still failing, else why would they still be using it? I think Lucifer started it off at the tree, God is lying to you! John 3:16 is a total lie!


Great comment on the issue Jaray. The fear factor has always been abusively utilized to induce people into jumping in the baptismal tank. SDAs developed a new particular “fear tool” that has been used generously, the 1844 fairy tale. Certainly an effective tool geared toward, “controlling the thoughts and minds of others to lift ones own belief system.” Sad.


True Equivalence Covid-19 Protection:


@elmer_cupino - Elmer, what would be your Dx if someone showed up like this in your office for an eval?.. :wink:
@cincerity - Kim, can a guy like this be hyptnotized? … :laughing: