Those of you who have followed this blog for a few years may remember a feature I used to do called Bad Theology. It was something I enjoyed doing until I didn’t anymore, hence why it drifted away. (For examples, click here or here.)
In any case, during this COVID-19 pandemic, Bad Theology has reared its ugly head to an alarming degree. Especially at first when so many seemed eager to pin it all on God, implying it was God’s disfavor that brought us the virus to begin with.
To that I can only reply: Just what sort of god do you people worship anyway?! ‘Cause it ain’t a god of love, that’s for damn sure.
So yes, I could have rebooted this feature several times over. But it wasn’t until recently that I felt compelled to dust off the Bad Theology graphic and raise my outraged fist in the air…
In case you missed it, a Trump rally took place June 23 at Dream City Church – an Assembly of God mega-church* in my old stomping ground in Arizona, with locations in Scottsdale, Phoenix, Glendale, and more! (Seven all together.)
Here’s a picture from the rally:
You’ll note there were few masks worn and no social distancing taking place. Plenty of red caps though.
A similar event occurred at a mega-church in Dallas, Texas. This time it was our Vice-President visiting a Baptist church for a “Celebrate Freedom Rally” during a Sunday service.
Here’s a picture of that:
According to reports, about half the people were wearing masks and little social distancing was happening.
And here we come to the crux of the issue: Despite scientific advice that wearing masks and social distancing helps prevent the spread of the virus, many church-going folk do neither.
But to be clear, it only applies to certain church-going folk. By and large, the more conservative evangelical churches are the ones who not only rushed to reopen, they are the ones not following the recommended guidelines for gathering.
And why is this? If the Bible tells us to love our neighbors and to put others before ourselves, why are they risking spreading the virus at all?
To find the answer, all we have to do is look at their politics. For them, casting their allegiance to Trump has trumped biblical mandates. (And yet they claim to take the Bible literally.)
Here’s a truth: when you bend your faith to fit your political beliefs, your political beliefs will overshadow your faith. This has always been true and always will be true.**
“You cannot serve two masters.”
(Name who said that for 10 points!)
But let’s not stop here. What can we make of their rush to reopen churches?
That has followed a pattern as well. The more conservative the church, the more likely they pushed to reopen or blatantly disregarded stay-at-home orders.
Many of them say it’s about religious freedom. How gathering together as a community is an essential part of their faith. Several even claim “God will protect them.”
But seriously. It’s about money.
If you have doubts, consider this: How many churches were pushing to reopen their homeless ministries or start food pantries? How many longed to renew their care of widows and orphans?
How many proclaimed release to the captives or demanded the oppressed go free? (Name that verse for 20 points!)
None, that’s how many.
The fact is, closures are hurting churches financially and it’s affecting the largest churches most, particularly mega-churches. This is true for most non-profits as well (museums, public radio stations, charitable organizations, etc.). So if you are able and have a favorite charity, consider donating. And if you belong to a congregation, don’t forget to keep up with your offering.
We have now arrived at the part of our Bad Theology post where we see how our selection has scored:
For placing politics and money before compassion and public safety, these churches have earned…
and FOUR Get-Thee-Behind-Me-Satans!
Our worst rating to date!
Stay safe out there, people.
Until next time,
Vaya con Dios
*When I was in high school, my best friend attended this church back when it was known as First Assembly and there was just the one location. There were a handful of times I went with her. For context, my family attended a fairly liberal Lutheran church and this was a charismatic fundamentalist church. (I was what you might call a theologically-curious child.)
**Bending your faith to meet your political agenda happens both ways, not just for conservatives. It’s something we must be mindful of because otherwise we risk letting our ideas matter more than people. (Jesus had some pretty strong opinions on that too – 30 points if you can cite two verses!)
An explanation for my headline: Traditionally, the Bible Belt refers to a geographical area of the U.S., made up of the southern states from Texas over to North Carolina. In reality, the Bible Belt is a state of mind. You can find these conservative evangelical folk most anywhere, and their allegiance to a certain political agenda is deeply troubling.
22 thoughts on “Unmasked in the Bible Belt: A Bad Theology reboot”
Glad to see the return of Bad Theology (the topic, not the actual theology). It’s my favorite.
I thought of you as I wrote this. Thanks for waiting patiently. 😉
Our church started meeting again with invitations sent to about a third of the members at a time, in shifts. We were socially distanced, wore face masks, and didn’t have coffee hour or Sunday school. Bulletins were in the pews, so people didn’t cluster around a table to get them. Rest rooms were closed except for emergencies. Those who weren’t there could stream from home. The collection was taken on line only. It was still beautiful, hearing voices singing through their masks and seeing tears of joy in the eyes peeking over them.
P. S. Right after the lockdown started back in March they started up a special fund to help members who were out of work or otherwise had a hardship. A week after the announcement, the pastor said not to give to that fund any more, they had WAY more than they needed! Did you ever hear of such a thing?? (I love my church.)
I love your church too! What a fantastic testament to their faith, that they respond so quickly!
My church hasn’t opened up yet, we’re sticking with the online services for the time being. Though some have brought up doing outdoor services, especially as our weather is so beautiful right now.
Thanks for your comment!
I love the idea of outdoor services if you can do it.
Doesn’t seem much different than the protest rallies – except after the Trump rally people didn’t loot and burn things etc.
Given the evidence that the frail elderly have suffered the most deaths from COVID and that the rest of the population is at far less risk, the ‘Flattened curve’ (which says the same number of people ultimately get infected, but over a longer period of time) will continue to run its course. Herd immunity, either through infection OR infection AND vaccination is pretty much a given.
Sad, in some many ways.
I agree, very sad.
Great post, Christi. Looking at the picture of the church-goers in Arizona made me think they are not there to worship God…but sadly, they are there to worship tRump. It’s a cult.
Yes, this is the only explanation that makes any sense at all.
I believe you’re right. Of course, they don’t see it that way. They never do.
When a woman at a family reunion said to me “I don’t know if you believe in the Good Word…” I said “No.” Then she essentially predicted something terrible would happen to me and then I’d see the light, and that some people were just “slower” to see the “truth.” I just stared at her until she looked a bit ashamed. Really, what a nice god she worships.
You’re so right about these churches just going for the money, no concern for their fellow humans and the chances they will get sick. It’s disgusting to me.
Wow. Nothing like family to bring out the warm fuzzy feelings. Yeesh!
Hopefully you made her think a little, though I wouldn’t bet on it.
Hopefully you’ll remember that I really relished these pieces in the past, so I’m quite pleased at this rebirth, however tentative. I’ve always admired how you incorporate true faith into your words in an honest, wise, inclusive and clear-eyed manner that is worthy of both respect and honor. To be fair, I like everything you write (I’m sure you know, but I’m saying that just in case), but these posts are especially satisfying. You’re the bee’s knees, Sister, you really are…
Aw, you’re so sweet! Thank you, Brian. Seriously, your words mean a lot.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always get things right, but every day is a new opportunity to try again. That’s all we can do, right? 🙂
Bending your faith….how so very true is that. But they don’t see it that way. Reminds me of a line in a Jimmy Buffet song, “there’s a fine line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.” People believe what makes them feel better about themselves and many times, that means, being the faith.
Well, George, now it’s my turn to thank you. Your comment made me look up the song and watch the video. Great fun, but also great lyrics. Especially that verse:
Where’s the church, who took the steeple
Religion is in the hands of some crazy-ass people
Television preachers with bad hair and dimples
The god’s honest truth is it’s not that simple
It’s the Buddhist in you, it’s the Pagan in me
It’s the Muslim in him, she’s Catholic ain’t she?
It’s the born again look its the WASP and the Jew
Tell me what’s goin on, I ain’t gotta clue
Ain’t that the truth? We’ve been bending our faith so long, we need a guy in a Hawaiian shirt singing it to us before we see it.
It is a fun song and so very true. Amazing how music gets us to think and reflect. It’s so much more than some people think..:)
Some folks take both religion and politics as an excuse to believe what they want to believe, and damn you if you have the audacity to question those beliefs. The irony is, both of those institutions work far better if approached with an open mind.
Yes! Open-mindedness is key. Though sadly it’s in short supply.
Interesting thing, in today’s Times there’s an article on the recent uptick in cases associated with churches reopening. It ends with a quote from a pastor: “If God wants me to get Covid, I’ll get Covid. And if God doesn’t want me to get Covid, I won’t.”
Kind of reminds me of the joke where a guy kept refusing help in a flood, died, went to heaven and asked God why he didn’t save him. And God said, “what do you mean? I sent a raft, a boat and a helicopter!”
Christianity and Face Masks
“Thou shalt Love thy Neighbour as Thyself” (Marcus 12:31) is the greatest teaching of the Bible in the morality and ethics of Christianity. Your Neighbors are all people and much more.
What has this commandment to do with face masks?.
As a sign of love we protect those we love as we would protect ourselves. A face mask protects our Neighbors more than ourselves. If you are infected by a virus it catches the virus you exhale effectively when the are still embedded in droplets and reduces the risk that your neighbor inhales those viruses because you have removed most of them. Every person you see wearing a mask does it because he respects and loves you, because you are his/her Neighbor.
I am a Christian and I can’t fathom the fact that some of my fellow Christians get upset when asked to wear a face mask. Yes, I agree that we have certain unalienable rights defined in the Declaration of Independence and codified in our Constitution, but as Christians we also follow the moral and ethics “codified” in the Bible. And in the fight against the current pandemonium I urge every Christian to love and respect their neighbor by wearing a face mask when asked to do so. It is the right thing to do.