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First things first, I want to acknowledge that churches often shine during times of crisis. Whether it’s providing meals, ensuring that people don’t become isolated or helping with all sorts of critical community needs, unforeseen disasters often (with rare ghoulish exceptions) provide a chance to model Jesus’ sacrificial heart to the world.
Which bring us to COVID-19. 😬
All of the above is certainly happening, and don’t get me wrong, that’s wonderful. First responders, medical professionals, warehouse workers, store clerks and delivery drivers deserve all the praise they’ve been getting, and it’s also been encouraging to see churches adapt to and embrace new technology, in an effort to keep spirits high and try to help soothe anxiety in difficult times.
Let’s be real though, the scope of this situation was by no means an unforeseen or unavoidable disaster.
While the top priority obviously needs to be getting through this, many evangelical churches also need to take some of this seclusion time to reflect on how we got here, and how we can do our very best to chart a new path forward.
For years and years now, many have been sounding alarms about the growing threat of misinformation circulating around the MAGAsphere (and overlapping evangelical social media bubbles), along with the church’s failure to call out the ongoing, ever-more-horrifying and immoral actions perpetrated by the Trump administration, usually dismissing valid concerns with the “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” verse, and stressing the importance of avoiding “divisiveness” at any cost.
Well, just as “the wages of sin is death,” the wages of kicking the can on misinformation is a scared and blindsided church, sheltered at home and scrambling to treat symptoms while continuing to ignore the source of the injury.
What’s done is done, obviously, but while the church continues to pray for an end to this situation, I propose that since “faith without deeds is dead,” they also start taking some concrete actions to prevent the next misinformation-centered tragedy. A few recommendations:
- Get involved in what fellow church members are saying and doing online. Whatever your excuse has been in the past for avoiding social media is just flat-out less important than staying aware of what’s being expressed by those around you (and doing your best to shut down misinformation directly). If someone went up to share communion and advocated for not vaccinating children, you’d say something about it. When they do things like this online, however, people either aren’t even looking or just let it slide.
- Pay attention to the news, and take time to educate yourselves on the validity of sources (as well as which tend to be biased in a certain direction but are still legitimate vs. which have become dangerous propaganda outlets).
- Seek out expert opinions from actual professionals. While it’s insane that I have to say this, Dr. Fauci does indeed know more about infectious diseases than Donald Trump (who is now straight-up encouraging people to try drugs unapproved for COVID-19 treatment). General mistrust of scientists and “the mainstream media” is precisely how we found ourselves in this situation.
- Think long and hard about your current reality (and other looming dangers that experts have been warning about, like the disastrous effects of climate change) when you vote in November.
Just as society adjusts policies and behaviors after major natural disasters, we need to do the same after misinformational disasters. To continue along the same path but expect different results would be the very definition of madness.