It is becoming increasingly obvious that this pandemic has taught us one thing — people don’t learn.
In a column published six months ago by Technician, a colleague of mine wrote about how in-person church services are further worsening the pandemic. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but he was right. Just last week, The News & Observer reported that in-person church services are the third leading cause of COVID-19 clusters throughout our state.
The guidelines for attending in-person services are provided by the NC Department of Health and Human Services here. The guide provides a comprehensive way to attend in-person services; some of these rules include requiring masks for all attendants and workers, trying to hold in-person services outside and limiting the amount of people attending.
One rule I think some individuals throughout the state are ignoring is the first guideline, which clearly states: “Limit in-person worship when possible to mitigate the risk of viral spread. Provide an option for virtual services.” I was raised within Catholicism, and I am aware of how important a Sunday service is. Though I am not religious anymore, I can acknowledge the importance that faith and religion have through a time like this. However, just because people would like to practice their faith, it doesn't mean that we have to ignore all safety precautions and attend in-person large gatherings.
The message of God, or whoever you may believe in, is the same, whether that message is in a church venue or over Zoom. I know many individuals who attend their virtual services and have no issues at all. There are several virtual worship groups here on campus as well.
Not all churches are careful or dedicated to protecting their followers. I have witnessed a large COVID-19 spread-friendly church event at a church in my hometown. In the beginning of quarantine and over the summer, this church held large in-person gatherings with no masks in sight. While these gatherings were outside, they continue to be the reason that we see an increase in cases.
We can also thank irresponsible Trump rallies for the rise of COVID-19 clusters throughout the state. Specifically, last Friday, an RFA church in Raleigh hosted an event called “Evangelicals for Trump.”
The speakers of the event were Eric Trump and Paula White. With not a mask in sight and hundreds of people attending and not socially distanced, one can only imagine the rise of cases this event brought.
From the Charlotte Observer, “‘Faith in this country is totally under attack,’ [Eric Trump] said in an interview with The News & Observer. ‘During COVID, people were allowed to open liquor stores, but they couldn’t worship.’”
While it is true that liquor stores opened, this argument fails because liquor stores would never be the source of an outbreak of COVID-19 like an in-person church gathering. Liquor stores have been taking precautions, including shortening their hours and supplying their employees with masks and sufficient hand sanitizer. Liquor stores also don’t have anywhere near the same capacity that churches do. Also, faith is not under attack in this country, at least, not Christian faith.
Christians are so brainwashed by the belief that their religion is the most important one in our world and that, because they are Christians in America, they deserve special privileges during a pandemic. When President Trump instituted the Muslim Ban, I didn’t hear complaints from Christians throughout the country, or those who are so based in “faith.”
Many other religions besides Christianity have had to cancel their festivals, gatherings and holidays due to this pandemic. Since this country has a history of Islamophobia, it comes by no surprise that Christians had nothing to say when Muslims couldn’t celebrate Ramadan.
It is time that Christians stopped acting like they are immune to the virus solely because they attend an in-person service. I mean no offense by this, but this virus will not stop because you are in a church venue and God’s presence is there.
As I, and thousands of students across the country, are going through all-online courses and other online things, I think that going to one church service virtually will not affect your religious values. NC State’s last commencement service was online, as were many others last semester. It is not only unfair, but it is a lack of human decency that churches continue to hold these services while thousands of students are suffering from an all-online semester.
All churches must continue to avoid these large in-person gatherings and give virtual services instead. We must stop being selfish and putting people at risk for religious purposes.