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A COVID-19 message for the clergy

The COVIC-19 virus is sweeping through North Dakota like an 1880 prairie fire, disabling thousands and killing hundreds.

While the virus is 20, 50, or 100 times as deadly as it was in March when we took to social distancing and masking, we have not escalated our protection commensurate to the threat. There is no significant increase in testing body temperatures or blood oxygen.

For all practical purposes the governor is out of the loop. He knows that the Trump followers want to keep the state wide open and he isn’t about to risk his political future by offending them.

It is sad to see business closed during the pandemic. The authorities are going overboard to accommodate the anti-mask hoax crowd. Actually, the national government is failing to provide the kind of financial support critical for small business and individuals.

Splitting hairs about COVID-19, the state is leaving the watering holes as free as possible. Invariably, it pussyfoots around churches, a good place to spread a deadly virus. And the churches seem to think they are entitled to kill their parishioners and it is none of the public’s business.

Some churches have pushed the responsibility on God. “We are going to trust God to rescue us from our own foolishness.” I’m not sure that God rescues fools.

Other churches are outright belligerent and have held services in defiance of government mandates.

Apparently, those clergy have not been reading their own guide book.

Romans 13:1-7: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.” Titus 3:1: “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities…” 1 Peter 2:13-14: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…..” Matthew 22: 21: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

So, clergy, you answer by quoting Acts 4:19 where Peter and John told the authorities that “we must obey God rather than men.” I am not impressed. That arbitrary response has been used to defend all kinds of behavior that is not in the will of God. In the COVID-19 endemic, it sounds arrogant.

When the health people have suggested broad shutdown, some churches have protested, noting that the bars and restaurants are exempt from closure while churches are expected to go online.

In the first place, Scripture calls for genuine obedience and humility. When Jesus said to turn the other cheek, he didn’t suggest that we argue the point.

But for the recalcitrant there is more. During this pandemic, the clergy has made statements about government oppression and discrimination. The agnostics and atheists seem to know how Christians ought to behave and are glad to point out the stark hypocrisy in rebellion.

If you are on social media, you know how Christianity has been taking a beating because of the behavior of the church. This is serious. All Christians are to behave in such a manner that it brings honor to the faith.

1 Peter 2:12: “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles…”

Philippians 1:17: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”

Romans 12:17: “Respect what is right in the sight of all men.”

2 Corinthians 6:5: “Giving no cause in anything in order that the ministry may not be dishonored.”

1 Corinthians 14:40: “Let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner.”

(All citations from a Catholic Study Bible.)

In recent decades, the Christian faith has become more and more secular. The gap between what we believe and what we do has been widening. We now have prominent preachers trying to be kingmakers in secular politics.

For some partisans, this has created ill-will.

The clergy should be solving the problem instead of feeding it.

Amen and put that mask on.

Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota and former political science professor at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.

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