Rating the Evangelical Church’s Pandemic Performance

Over the last 18 months, I have become a student of plagues, partly out of curiosity and partly out of necessity because of my job as an employment lawyer.

I had previously read John Kelly’s The Great Mortality, about the Bubonic plague of 1347-1351, which ravaged Europe, killing as many as 30% of the population. It was a book I could not put down. Then, when the pandemic really began in full force in March 2020, I read John Barry’s, The Great Influenza, a book about the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic in the United States, probably the pandemic most similar to the one we are currently experiencing.

In addition, since the pandemic began, I have studied the Plague of Cyprian and the Plague of Justinian. My interest in studying plagues was not just to put the current pandemic in perspective but to determine how the Church has responded in the past for guidance on how it should respond in the present. I hold up the Church’s response to the Plague of Cyprian as the standard.

The Plague of Cyprian lasted nearly twenty years but was most deadly 249 A.D. – 262 A.D. It is so named because of a famous letter written by Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, describing the plague and the Church’s response to it. Cyprian noted that the plague was so contagious many believed it was passed by “corrupted air.” The symptoms of those infected were grizzly, and I wont repeat them here.

Cyprian noted that Christians’ mortality was no different than the pagans, but what was different was that while many pagans fled the cities, Christians stayed and cared for the sick at risk to their own lives. As a result of their selflessness, the church experienced great growth when the pandemic ended because the pagans wanted to know about the God who could inspire people to such selflessness.

Polls today show that evangelical men in the United States are among the demographic groups least likely to be vaccinated (45%). Anecdotally, I also find more resistance to wearing masks from among my Christian friends than my non-Christian ones. And, churches have sued and are suing to have the right to hold maskless church services at the risk of infecting and killing those who attend.

All this is even worse when one considers that unlike the first three plagues mentioned above, during the Covid-19 pandemic Christians have not even been primarily responsible for nursing the sick because those seriously ill now have the benefit of hospitals. So, Christians haven’t even have to do the riskiest thing that in past plagues came at the greatest cost to christians individually.

Instead, the Evangelical Church during this pandemic has refused to wear masks, refused to get vaccinated, and insisted on suing, none of which shows any concern for the sick or others, only for itself. The Evangelical Church has not impressed the world during this pandemic with its compassion or a desire to lead them to the Lord in a time of fear.

I asked here when the pandemic began how historians might remember the Church’s response to the Covid-19 Pandemic, and unfortunately now, I can say with some confidence, the Church will be remembered as having been politicized and litigious, which is a sad legacy indeed. GS

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