I am deeply opposed to the government shutting down churches and arresting preachers. But I am also deeply opposed to churches meeting right now. Let me tell you about Albany, Georgia.
There are 490 cases of COVID-19 in Dougherty County, Georgia. The county seat is Albany. There are 29 deaths in the county. For perspective, I started writing this piece on Wednesday, and there were 466 cases and 26 deaths. By the time you read this, the number will be over 500. Dougherty County has 89,000 people, making it, per capita, the hardest-hit part of Georgia and, again per capita, on par with New York City.
All the COVID-19 cases in Albany can be traced back to an unknowingly infected preacher who preached a funeral there on February 29. The virus spread among the attendees, who then spread it to the community before anyone realized they were infected.
Ninety percent of the deaths are African American. The youngest victim was a 34-year-old male. The oldest was a 92-year-old female. The local hospital is out of resources, out of doctors and out of bed space. The Georgia National Guard is shuttling resources to the area, but the situation is dire with only one significant hospital. Outpatient facilities are being converted rapidly.
The models so many are relentlessly trying to undermine got it wrong in Albany. The models undercounted the expected spread of the virus and rates of hospitalization. According to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, though the state has relied on several projection models to help figure out hospital capacity and spacing concerns, the models got it wrong in New York City; they underappreciated the toll the virus would take.
Let me tell you about Evans, Georgia. There are over 20 cases there. Though epidemiologists are still tracing the viral spread, at least some cases come from a man who drove 190 miles away to Bartow County, Georgia to bury his father. He attended church in Bartow County, and several members were unknowingly infected. He got infected and carried the virus back home, where it began to spread.
In Bartow County, there are now 147 cases and 4 deaths. Almost every single one can be traced back to that one church and one church service. In neighboring Floyd County, there are 71 cases and 2 deaths. Most of those can also be traced back to that one church service at that one church.
Most of the churches have stopped worshipping in their buildings now. But for some, the church building has become their prideful idol. A pastor in Florida got himself arrested by not only openly defying a general ban on assembly but also bussing people in to give the government the middle finger.
Churches are not being singled out for closure. The whole nation is going on lockdown. But at a time when Christians need to show Christian humility, some pastors have decided to engage in false bravado in defiance of the common community good.
The character and nature of many of these churches is not to serve but to bring in crowds and cash. They are not demonstrating Christian humility and seeking the welfare of their cities. They are not even demonstrating faith. They are demonstrating disrespect to their communities and showing a very weak faith more grounded in a building than a body of Christ.
Where the law does not clash with Christian conscience, the law should be obeyed. The church is a people, not a building, and the gates of hell will not prevail against the body of Christ, but a virus can cull a herd of congregating idiots.
The government should not be targeting churches. But churches should be responsible. Go volunteer in the community, and seek the welfare of your cities. On Easter, join a livestream to worship together with the global body of Christ. Christians need to reject false bravado for Christian humility right now, and they need to seek the welfare of their communities through service and by staying away from in-person gatherings.
To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.