ON A PERSONAL NOTE/ By Maramis
There has been much talk lately about what should be closed during these trying times and what might be left open. In particular, some people strongly feel that closing churches is going too far. It’s as if not going to church is somehow turning one’s back on God, or that going to church has got to be all right because either being Christian might somehow protect one from the dreaded COVID-19 disease, or that God would protect those who are willing to “risk all” for the sake of worship.
Many people equate God with church, as if God wouldn’t really listen to anyone who tried to talk to him at home. They go to church to “be” with him, and feel they’re doing something wrong when they don’t go. Some religions even consider not going to church a sin.
There’s something peaceful and spiritual about being in church, whether or not it is filled with people. I know some dedicated folk who still attend church today while also still following the social distancing requirement for their own safety. While that may work for some, it obviously can’t work for a whole churchful of worshippers. No regular-sized church can accommodate that much six-foot distancing necessary for all its churchgoers.
The main point being that one never has to give up worshipping their God, or praying to their Lord just because one can’t be in church. It always amazes me how “being in church” seems to be such a big thing for some people, but acting more like Jesus is not something that seems to matter all that much to the church-going crowds who leave church and resume their usual habits of lying, cheating, using foul language, or far worse. This is not to cast stones at anyone in particular nor to sit in judgment of them, but it is to suggest that those who know this applies to them, to perhaps be aware that their behavior during non-church times is very noticeable, making what I said far from judgmental and very much observational. Churches often bring people together, and they should—when they can.
But it makes no sense at all in wanting to go right back to crowded pews, not knowing who might be sitting next to you, or where they’ve been, or who they’ve been in contact with. You can’t tell by looking, and often the person himself might not have any clue that they’ve been infected.
I’m not a big fan of closing down everything, as we have, but I have to compare doing that to having traffic lights. If everyone really dealt with traffic according to the rules of the road, coupled with a huge dose of common sense and a bit of kindness, we would not need as many traffic lights (if any) that we have, but man cannot be trusted to obey the rules of the road, and common sense is not very common, and kindness on the road is hard to find. So rather than leave it up to hoping people will do the right thing, the best thing has to be forced upon them for their own sake. Traffic lights enforce the rules of the road, and for those who do not obey, if they are caught, they will be fined or more. Traffic lights make those who use the roads feel comfortable enough that others will comply as well, giving them confidence that if everyone complies, traffic will flow smoothly. Many will get annoyed at the many so-called traffic delays at red lights, stop signs or any of the other devices created and used to keep us safe, but let them try to imagine how those roads would be without those traffic lights and stop signs to keep us aware of how we are driving.
In lieu of better methods to keep us safe during this coronavirus pandemic, those in charge are doing the best they can under the circumstances. Sure, if we still choose to “disobey,” to go out unnecessarily, to overdo our contact with friends or even strangers, and to just be rebellious about the whole thing, we can, and we might not “get caught” doing it. There might not be any penalty, unless of course we end up paying with our health or our life. And we might not even have to go out and about to be caught up in getting infected if others are allowed into our homes, or those others in our home have
gone out and inadvertently brought the virus back to us.
God is available anywhere, mainly because he is always with us. If you don’t believe that, what makes you think he’ll be waiting for you inside your church or so-called building of worship? I think the camaraderie of those who enjoy church-going can be a good thing.
Joining together and sharing in all those mutual thoughts, prayers, songs and other forms of worship seems like a really great way to bring some people together, but not at the expense of anyone’s life. That would not be something that Jesus would want.
Maybe not having access to church services may encourage some Sunday church-goers to start a new kind of worship: that of being aware of their everyday thoughts, words, and actions, and maybe, just maybe, ending up all the closer to God for having been denied access to “his house.”
This pandemic will not last forever. In the meantime, we can all learn from this experience and find the good in it.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.