The Christian Medical and Dental Association is an enormous and influential group of over 20,000 Christian healthcare professionals in the U.S. who have been urging all Americans, but especially Christians, to love their neighbor and slow the spread of COVID-19 by abiding by social distancing guidelines. The group released a series of guidelines to help churches flatten the curve in their own communities, begging church leaders to both set a good example and keep people safe. Unfortunately, according to a new post, their guidelines have gone largely unheeded. Now, as the rising cases set daily records in the U.S. and the death toll climbs past a quarter of a million, the CMDA is pleading with churches to move online.
CMDA is saddened to learn not only that many churches have ignored our guidelines but that congregants have become infected with SARS-CoV-2 as a result of those decisions. One of us is personally aware of several recent weddings when people did not mask or engage in social distancing which resulted in the entire wedding party and family being infected with SARS-CoV-2. This is not only unfortunate; it is unloving.
The statement, written by Mayo Clinic bioethicist C. Christopher Hook and CMDA senior vice president of bioethics and public policy Jeffrey J. Barrows, urges Christians to continue to observe church from a distance. The statement stresses that their plea is not motivated by fear of the virus, but love for the vulnerable in American communities who are more susceptible to lethal cases of COVID-19. The elderly and folks with compromised immune systems don’t have the luxury being confident that any COVID infection will pass with no serious ramifications. Likewise, studies show that Black and Latino Americans are more likely to die of COVID-19 than white Americans are. In fact, nearly all of the kids who’ve died of COVID-19 have been either Black or Hispanic.
We believe the church is a major priority in our lives, but it should not become an idol by itself. Loving God with all our heart, mind and strength is our first priority, and it can be done with our families outside of church. It can be done via the gifts of electronic communication that allow us to join virtually with other church members. We are not being prevented from having Bibles, reading Scripture and singing songs of praise because we can do them at home and with the church through these virtual tools.
While many churches have safely abided by social distancing guidelines, several prominent church leaders have loudly defied them. Influential megachurch pastor John MacArthur has been locking horns with local California officials over his refusal to cancel in-person services while worship leader Sean Feucht has embarked on a nationwide concert tour in protest of the lockdown. The CMDA doesn’t name names, but does note that some Christians have become “reviled” because “we only appear to care about our individual freedoms.”
Voluntarily choosing not to gather allows us to make a statement that is not overshadowed by a government restriction. It enables a church to proclaim to their locality that they care so much for their members, family and friends that they are willing to give up their right to gather together. It allows each church to make a statement of love, not just by their words, but through the action of no longer gathering together. It is tragic to see Christians become even more reviled because we appear to care only about our individual freedoms and don’t care that we may be contributing to others getting this illness because of our selfishness. As Christian healthcare professionals, we will voluntarily restrict our “freedoms” for a time to help protect my neighbor.
You can read the full statement here.