We have been discussing churches holding mass services in defiance of orders for people to stay at home and avoid groups of larger than 10 people. Some of the churches insist that faith alone can protect against the virus. Now, the Awaken Church in Jonesboro, Arkansas has not only announced that it would remain open for services but assured the faithful that “Jesus died with COVID-19 so you didn’t have to bear it.”
The Church cites 2 Corinthians 5:21:
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
Obviously, the church is not saying that Jesus actually had COVID-19. The Church posted that “The Bible tells us that Jesus took on every sin, sickness and every disease . . . Jesus bore it so you wouldn’t have to. Salvation provided forgiveness and healing . . . if you’ll believe it, you can receive it!” but its decision to stay open is based on a literal reading not of the bible but the public order. The church also said on Facebook that
“The Dept of Health has stated that all gatherings of ten or more do not apply to houses of worship and yet suggest to follow CDC safe practices, of which we are doing.
“For us to not have services due to a virus would be for us to go against our extremely strong convictions of the power of God to protect and the power of God to heal. Jesus knew the world He was sending us into contained sickness and disease. Instead of telling us to retreat from sickness, He told us to go into the world and to heal the sick.”
Pastor Chad Gonzales has posted claims of faith healing in the past, including repeated cures of “short leg.”
Unlike some, the Church is encouraging “those that are elderly, have weakened immune systems and/or those that have any concerns for their well-being” to stay at home. The problem is that the virus is spread by asymptomatic carriers who are unlikely to know that they are carriers.
In my view, states can close churches since online services are available. These pastors may well thin the ranks of the faithful by resisting the advice of health care professionals.