I’ve seen several different versions of Christians using memes which try shaming people into coming “back to church.” It’s beyond infuriating, it’s stupid.
The meme goes something like this. First, a picture of a sparsely attended church service 1 is shown. Next to it is placed a picture of a crowded beach or full bar, in which no one wearing a mask, is displayed. The question on the bottom is something along the lines of “What’s wrong with Christians?” The inference being if people feel comfortable to go out to bars then it’s shameful for Christians to not feel comfortable coming to worship in our buildings. These memes are presented as a call for people live in faith, in response to our culture’s reopening of economic hotspots. In reality they are calls to jettison Christian faith and do what everyone else is doing. It’s the wide path from Jesus’ parable 2 and, as we’re seeing, it’s leading to destruction.
On the other hand, I have no doubt these memes are calls to faith, it’s just that the faith to which they call has nothing to do with Jesus. The anger that churches are closed while the economy opens stems from a deep-seated, and often unconscious, worship of mamon—a literal false god. People are flooding to open hot spots without a care for distancing or mask-wearing, and businesses making money again. And in so doing all those involved are presenting their offerings to this false god—and these offerings may now include self-inflicted 3 human sacrifice. I find it distressing to see how many “church folk” want the body of Christ to emulate the false worship we’re seeing in crowded bars across the county—even as some of the most obstinate states are being forced to re-evaluate their reopening policies.
It’s no wonder so many people have zero respect for organized religion in this country.
Instead of a call to emulate the worship of economy and self that we’re seeing unfold in this country, Christians need to be asking ourselves a question. “How can we love our neighbors, in Jesus’ name, with such genuineness that even people who demonstrate no love their neighbors will take notice and be inspired to live better?”
Or, to phrase it a different way, “How can we love God, in this time, in the ways we love our neighbor?”
I would posit our shuttered buildings, or reduced attendance gatherings, are not signs of weakness—they are signs of faith. They reveal a trust that the bonds Christ has forged between us are stronger than distance, and can survive physical separation. They are a witness to our towns that we value the lives of our neighbors more than we value our own comfort. They communicate the hope that love for neighbor, shown by heeding guidance from folks who know better than us, is the best way forward toward a future where we will be back together again. That is the type of faith I want churches to communicate. Service over power, love over selfishness, and hope over security.
The church buildings are near-empty, praise God, may we reveal this as a witness to Jesus. May they one day be filled again, which will also be a witness, but until then may we never think the Church can be closed.
And wear your freaking masks.