Evangelicals are hella worried. You should be using this downtime on studying your Bible and doing church services via Zoom, but are you? John Piper is out cautioning —
Watching Pornography during the Coronavirus is like a person sentenced to house arrest because of arson setting his own house on fire.
Let me explain? The virus is seen as divine wrath for you being bad, and if you go watching porn, you’ll burn yourself alive. In Evangelical theology, the fire always catches up to you.
And that’s how they’re trying to understand the COVID-19 outbreak: as God punishing the world for being bad.
Not them, of course. You.
Many Evangelicals, to be honest, seem to be welcoming the harmful effects of the virus.
Rick Wiles — as seen at White House press briefings — notes that many of the people who’ve died must surely have done something wrong. “There is a judgment, I’m telling you, a plague is underway,” he says. “Get under the blood of Jesus Christ. Do not be in opposition to the Lord Jesus Christ and his church!”
Ralph Drollinger, the key Evangelical cleric for Republican politicians trying to get Evangelical votes, publishes a manifesto on how homosexuals, environmentalists, etc., are being “judged.”
Lori Alexander, the great Evangelical commentator on women’s issues, is just glad that mothers are back home where they belong. “The coronavirus is pushing a lot of women back into their homes with their children, which is a good thing in my opinion,” she says.
A number of public gestures by prominent Evangelicals seem puzzling, until you reflect on the theology at work. When we read about Liberty University trying to re-open, or Hobby Lobby, the store, staying open because of “God’s request” this is because they believe Christians won’t get sick.
A key tenant of Evangelical theology is that if you follow “God’s laws,” He will keep you healthy. Beth Moore warns Evangelicals from taking this line:
But the thought processes are deeply ingrained. If you follow “the rules,” God will keep you safe. Disease is for bad people.
The exception would be if, like Job in the Old Testament, you are being ‘tried’ for the purposes of higher service, or if you’re being ‘cleansed’ in some way. An Evangelical man in Georgia got infected and went through a rough patch. It was, he believed, God purifying him of evil for future service.
“What kept me going? I just have had to spend a lot of time with the lord,” Bentley told Insider, while waiting to be discharged. “I’ve never been this sick in my entire life … He’s healed my body and I’m ready to be a witness. I’m ready to be alive for Him.”
The key to getting better, to being free of the virus, would be to dedicate oneself to Evangelical messaging and come under the control of its clerics.
A Republican state lawmaker says the virus is “punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins.” Not hers, probably — but yours. She proposes “A State Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer,” which didn’t happen.
A church in Louisiana defies orders to close.
On Sunday, Pastor Tony Spell said his Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge bussed people from five parishes in for the service, assembling the 1,000-person gathering despite orders to not hold gatherings of more than 50 people.
He says he plans to hold another one on Tuesday.
“If they close every door in this city, then I will close my doors,” Spell told CNN this week. “But you can’t say the retailers are essential but the church is not. That is a persecution of the faith.”
When religious responses to virus mix with politics, legal problems multiply. Virginia has to threaten church-goers who defy the ban. And people jeopardized by their clerics may create health crisis that the state must then act on, and a terrible insight begins to form.
If the virus is God punishing His enemies—that’s good, right?
Christians taking this line are celebrating as a divine objective the misery and death of their fellow citizens.
And everyone else has to realize they must live amongst Christians who are welcoming the deaths of people outside their religious control.
I wouldn’t use the Bible as a guide here, since these concepts are not to be found in any text of the Jewish scriptures. The concept of viral contagions is never contemplated in any biblical text. The ritual washing, including ritual hand washing, was not done to prevent disease. (In Israel currently, the mikveh’s have been closed.)
Note that Jesus, in Luke 11:38, declines to wash his hands before eating. This ‘washing’ was purely a ritual act with theological and not health motives.
Rather, what is happening now is a separate religion, ‘Evangelicalism’, being largely devised on the spot. I study a memo by Hobby Lobby owner David Green, explaining why his stories aren’t closing. His wife got a message from God, is part of it.
“In her quiet prayer time this past week, the Lord put on Barbara’s heart three profound words to remind us that He’s in control. Guide, Guard, and Groom,” Green writes. “We serve a God who will Guide us through this storm, who will Guard us as we travel to places never seen before, and who, as a result of this experience, will Groom us to be better than we could have ever thought possible before now.”
There is nothing about Christians being helpful to those in distress or need. And a subtext intrudes. Green has been financially successful, so feels “blessed.” That means they won’t get sick.
In the Bible, of course, ordinary infirmity is never associated with “evil,” much less sexual behavior. And note please that sexualized terms used in Jewish theology are not relevant. “Adultery,” for example, is always a reference to idolatry. (Since the covenant community is seen as “married” to God, to go off with another deity is spiritual cheating.)
But the link between illness and evil in the Evangelical mind is concrete. Since they are “good” out of correct mental self-images, correct hand gestures, correct sexual behavior, correct tithing at church, etc., then the agreement with God is that “bad” things like viruses are expected to happens to other people, people who are bad—like those having unmarried sex, or watching porn. This calculation doesn’t apply to viruses like the cold or flu, or even to polio, etc., as affect children.
The viruses that matter are only those which can be thought to afflict people who are being sexual.
When it became clear that Evangelicals could get the Coronavirus, there was a momentary pause in messaging. Then there seemed to be an outbreak of magical, faith-healing thinking, with Evangelical churches defying the “social distancing” to hold church services. There’s been reports in Alabama, Louisiana, Indiana and other places — of churches intent on remaining open, and holding “laying on of hands” services.
The idea here would be that, if somehow some sin got on Christian people who are mostly good, then healing magic will flow from the fingers of other Christians, and bring them back to health. (Just like Jesus did.)
Perhaps they could avoid the virus by spiritual means, Evangelicals thought. The concept of ‘darkness’ or ‘invisibility’ might apply, suggests Christianity.com.
The coronavirus is truly invisible. We fear what we cannot see. Doesn’t this remind us of one Bible verse in particular that God has given us? 2 Corinthians 5:7 states, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
To “walk by faith” is therefore not to get infected. God will keep you safe and healthy because He loves you—not the other people, the bad people.
But as closures became required, the new message began to surface: God had served up a steaming hot pile of planetary judgement—for sexual misbehavior, mostly.
Religious outlets are now pumping that out.
It’s a way God prophesied would actually end with our annihilating ourselves from off the planet — if He didn’t intervene! . . . That means turning away from all forms of sex outside of marriage, including fornication, pornography and all lust and perversion (as God defines it, not as society does).
By a series of associations, and leaping from one Bible verse to another with the giddy freedom of gazelles, Coronavirus therefore becomes a matter of people touching, or looking at images of other people.
This seems a specifically Evangelical formulation. The Pope prefers to think that the virus is God’s payback for sin against the environment, but other Catholics aren’t so sure the Sodom and Gomorrah stuff isn’t happening.
However, we have no evidence like this in favor of the view that Covid-19 is a divine punishment. Yet God always brings about good when an evil occurs, and this pandemic provides a reminder that we must repent from our sinfulness while we have time to do so.
Right wing political outlets, as focused on the sexual agenda but not wanting to express it in overtly religious language, try to frame the porn issue as a mental health problem. As National Review writes:
The porn industry may pounce on the opportunity of a global pandemic. But at a time of isolation, boredom, and fear, it only adds more misery.
To have “misery” from sitting at home looking at images of people having a nice time works in the religious mentality. But it creates problems for David J. Ley and other sex researchers who point out that no scientific case for porn’s evil effects actually exists.
It is inconvenient to Evangelical theology if “science” doesn’t confirm that their sexual ideas are valid.
Because Jesus doesn’t affirm them either. He says to love enemies!
That leaves the eventual realization that the “judgement” stuff” was all them.
For a religious message I’d have liked to hear, Christianity Today is trying to push back against the hard-line stuff. Or you might try Dolly Parton?
“Keep the faith. God loves us.”