COVID-19 not only dominates the news, it dominates our minds. It takes a mental and emotional toll that the news media does not talk about nearly as much as it reports on the physical or financial toll. Yes, people get physically sick and a small percentage die. Yes, small businesses are being shuttered and workers are suffering financially. We should care about that. And we do. But what is the remedy for the mental impact that COVID-19 is having?
According to a recent Gallup poll, the only people who saw a positive change in their mental health from 2019 to 2020 were those who attended religious services weekly. And yet, ironically, the gatherings that seem to be particularly targeted in Democrat-led states are churches. Liberal leaders apparently think that limiting church attendance is the way to improve one’s health. But quite the opposite. The more isolated people become, the greater toll that COVID-19 takes, even if they are never physically infected with the virus itself. In fact, the same Gallup poll found that Americans’ physical health is holding up better than their mental health. So if anything, church attendance should be encouraged, as the overall mental and spiritual health benefits outweigh the physical risks for most individuals.
In May, President Trump was correct to declare religious gatherings “essential.” Despite this, the war against churches wages on. Just this week, in California, a Santa Clara County judge found Calvary Chapel San Jose and its pastor, Mike McClure, in contempt of court for defying COVID-19 state orders regarding public gatherings. Do governors, lawyers, judges, and state bureaucrats have any idea how they are adversely affecting people by denying them their most fundamental rights of freedom of worship and assembly? It’s as if they interpret the First Amendment to the Constitution as freedom from worship and freedom from assembly. They underestimate the value of church gatherings for the human soul.
A report published by the CDC in August, 2020 during the middle of this pandemic stated:
U.S. adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19. Younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation.
Our nation is facing a mental health crisis due to COVID-19 and the church has always been a place of refuge in times of trouble. To deny people the opportunity to gather freely and safely in their places of worship is to impose upon them a burden greater than the virus itself.
People are sensible. If they have health issues which put them at risk, they will stay home. But why quarantine the healthy or limit attendance at the very place that has proven to be the biggest positive contributor to mental and spiritual health?
Scripture teaches that a “sound mind” comes from the Lord (2 Timothy 1:7). It also tells us that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7 NKJV)
If ever there was a time when people needed God and each other, it’s now. The benefits of corporate worship far outweigh the physical risks, and may actually be the very thing necessary to save one’s life. There must be a holistic approach in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. It’s not just a physical or financial matter. It’s also about the soul of a person—the mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being of an individual that can’t be fixed by Pfizer or Moderna and that often goes unnoticed until it’s too late.
Of course one can meet with God anywhere, not just within the four walls of a church. But there’s nothing quite like people gathering together in places of worship for the health and well-being of the soul.
In Psalm 122:1, David declared: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’” (NKJV). If he were writing today under the present pandemic conditions that verse might read, “I was mad when they said to me, ‘You can’t go into the house of the Lord.’”
It’s time to open wide the doors of the houses of worship across America.
Gary Hamrick is the Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, Virginia. His radio broadcast “Cornerstone Connection” can be heard weekdays across the country in 27 states and the District of Columbia.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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