Secular Court speaks on church COVID rules
Speaking from a secular platform, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel to roll back the limitations the State of New York had placed on gatherings of over 10 people.
As a secular institution, the Court was correct in its ruling to protect freedom of religion even when it is the people who temporarily need protection.
Most of the Court’s rational compared the variation in treatment of churches and business activities permitted in the secular community.
While the rebellious spirits in the Christian community may cheer this new open door, the Court’s decision should have no effect on Christian churches, especially if they are following Scripture instead of the secular Court. Christian churches are supposed to be marching to a different drummer.
Scripture prescribes conduct
As declared in an earlier article, Scripture prescribed the behavior of churches long before the Court’s pronouncement. To define themselves as Christian, churches should be following the teachings of Christianity, including respecting secular authority to govern and to value the lives of those placed in jeopardy.
Pope Francis quickly released an official statement for the Catholic Church in which he disagreed with the Supreme Court and the Diocese of Brooklyn. He took the Christian route of being concerned about the common good, the common good including preventing the pain and death of thousands of innocent people.
Common good obsolete?
Perhaps relying on the common good may be an obsolete. While we are seeing it in the health workers who jeopardize their lives every day to help sick and dying people, many of who wouldn’t wear masks, wash hands or socially distance. It is criminally unfair. However, the common good struggles for the sun in the pandemic.
While the Pope’s comments were welcomed by the health community, their effectiveness may be limited even among Catholics.
In a study of Catholics and politics, it was found that liberal and conservative Catholics take their cues from their personal ideologies rather than the Church. This explains why so many Catholics disagree with the Church on many of its important moral issues.
Decision gives license
The Supreme Court decision may be adopted by some Christian churches as license to open their doors to unlimited numbers of parishioners. According to the research, conservative Catholics will not be listening to Pope Francis.
It’s basic Christian theology to do no harm to others but to love everyone on their Jericho Road. If churches doubt this reading of Scripture, it is time to either accept it or to explain why it doesn’t apply to the spread of death in churches.
It was on the Jericho Road that the hated Samaritan did for a stranger what the religious travelers avoided by walking on the other side of the road. In society today, we have many atheists and agnostics outdoing Christians in fighting the pandemic while churches insist on walking on the other side of the road.
Let’s go back further than the Good Samaritan on the Jericho Road.
Question from Cain
According to the account in Genesis, Adam and Eve had two sons. Cain liked raising vegetables and Abel liked to bring home the wildlife. In the first show-and-tell, Abel was praised for his pottage and Cain was downgraded for his carrots.
God told Cain that he could do better next time but the pangs of jealousy and embarrassment overcame Cain so he killed Abel at the first opportunity.
Even though He already knew what happened, God saw Cain one day and tested him: “Where is Abel your brother?”
Cain replied: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
For his casual response, Cain was punished by the Creator who had ordained that we are our brother’s keepers.
So it should be in this pandemic.
Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota and former political science professor at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.