My fingers gently massaged every crevice and fold of my 3M respirator, which I had pulled from a storage box in the garage; the two filter cartridges lay on the kitchen counter awaiting attachment. The present reality felt so unreal as I stood there staring into that warm, soapy water which filled my kitchen sink.
“I can’t believe I am doing this… I can’t believe I am going to have to wear my respirator just to safely venture to the grocery store. I can’t believe this is happening,” I thought to myself.
While I am immeasurably thankful to own a respirator, I was born with a health condition which makes it impossible—and dangerous—to wear a respirator for more than an hour or so. Resultantly, like millions of other Americans, I am stuck at home without an income (even though my employer is currently operating as an essential business).
“I can’t believe this is happening,” I continue to think to myself.
According to the most current CDC data, 90% of those hospitalized due to the novel coronavirus have preexisting health conditions. Since I am an individual with preexisting health conditions, these statistics make the pandemic of the novel coronavirus especially frightening. Observing the rapid spread of the virus in my own community, there have been days during which I have wondered whether or not I would live to celebrate my upcoming birthday.
All this being said, I have generally been appreciative of the common sense social distancing measures enacted by my local officials. Elsewhere, however, common sense among local officials appears to be far less common.
In my own state of Tennessee, the mayor of Chattanooga, Andy Berke, announced on April 10, 2020—two days prior to Easter Sunday—that churches in Chattanooga were henceforth prohibited from conducting “‘drive-in’ worship services” even though congregants remain “in their cars with the windows rolled up.”
Any such gathering, said the mayor, “will be considered a violation of our directives.”
We respectfully ask that churches in our area not move forward with "drive-in" worship services or any other kind of public assembly. Allowing people to gather, even in their cars with the windows rolled up, will be considered a violation of our directives. 2/
— Andy Berke (@AndyBerke) April 10, 2020
Coronavirus pandemic and the suspension of reason
In 2016, one headline read, “Tony Robbins asked them to overcome fear and storm across hot coals. Dozens were injured.” At a conference entitled “Unleash the Power Within,” attendees were told to walk barefoot across hot coals. This exercise culminated in multiple fire and rescue units responding to the scene. According to the report, some “30 to 40 [people] were evaluated after sustaining ‘burn injuries to their feet and lower extremities.’”
The Lord equipped humans with brains with which to use, with which to reason.
If a self-help guru, or your pastor, or your spiritual adviser, or even your best friend, “Bob,” ask you to walk across hot coals, your brain—your reason and common sense—should tell you that walking on flaming hot coals will result in bodily harm. The correct response to being asked to participate in such a risky activity thus is, “No, thank you.” An enthusiastic, “Heck, no!” will also suffice.
Unarguably, social distancing saves lives during a pandemic of a novel disease for which we have no vaccine and no cure. Period.
As one priest recently mentioned:
“For us to to stupid things is not respecting life… Now is not the time to do stupid things…. Jesus tells over and over in the Gospels, ‘Do not be afraid,’ but he never tells us to do stupid things… Let’s respect life now more than ever.”
Dear Christians who think they have to go to church and put thousands of others to danger because they can’t just stay home and watch a livestream but then claim to be pro-life : pic.twitter.com/CioHG72Op7
— Anita Oberlin ???? (@AnitaZereshki) April 13, 2020
Out of love and respect for the lives and wellbeing of vulnerable parishioners, the Anglican Church in North America suspended in-person worship services on March 18, 2020, noting:
“We realize these are extreme measures that we had hoped to avoid, but for the health and welfare of everyone in our churches and communities, this is something we all must put into practice immediately.”
Thousands of other churches have done likewise.
However, some pastors around the country appear to have forgotten Christ’s command to Peter to “care for my sheep” (John 21:17-19), insisting on holding in-person, un-distanced church services during the COVID-19 pandemic; and thousands of congregants appear equally willing to forego all reason and risk contagion by attending. This disconnect from reality and from common sense reasoning is reminiscent of self-help guru camps gone wrong, like the 2016 incident noted above.
On the flipside, local officials—such as Mayor Andy Berke of Chattanooga, Tennessee—have equally suspended common sense and reason by prohibiting citizens from engaging in activities which pose no risk for contraction of the novel coronavirus, such as “‘drive-in’ worship services” where parishioners remain “in their cars with the windows rolled up.”
Executive orders such as Mayor Berke’s defy both logic and the United States Constitution.
The coronavirus and “vehicular osmosis”
On Facebook, Mayor Andy Berke further elaborated upon his executive order, stating:
“Under the terms of our most recent executive order, you may drive-through a specific drop-off point at your church to make donations or pick-up food and other supplies.”
Therefore, according to Mayor Berke’s order, citizens in Chattanooga are effectively banned from sitting in their parked cars—with the windows rolled up—in a church parking lot, but are free to exchange items—possibly contaminated with the novel coronavirus—with church personnel, an activity which logically poses a much higher risk for contraction of the coronavirus contagion than the former.
Has the mayor of Chattanooga—along with local officials in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Nevada—discovered a stunning new scientific phenomenon that researchers have yet to uncover—that the novel coronavirus is so powerful that it is capable of “vehicular osmosis”? Can the coronavirus pass through metal and glass, through the exterior of automobiles?
If that were the case, then all of humanity would be in for a far greater world of hurt. We might as well pack our bags and head for Mars.
“Beyond All Reason”
On Saturday, April 11, 2020, a federal judge issued a restraining order stopping the mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, from prohibiting drive-thru church services.
As the New York Post reported:
“On Fire Christian Church had been holding outdoor Sunday services drive-in style — with all congregants confined to their cars, each vehicle parked six feet apart — to comply with state-ordered coronavirus social-distancing guidelines.
But Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, a Democrat, outlawed the services, including the one planned for Easter Sunday, spurring the church to sue.”
In his ruling, the judge called the Louisville mayor’s edict “stunning,” adding that “it is, ‘beyond all reason,’ unconstitutional,” (emphasis mine).
The judge further stated (emphasis mine):
“Here, Louisville has targeted religious worship by prohibiting drive-in church services, while not prohibiting a multitude of other non-religious drive-ins and drive-throughs….”
“Moreover, if sitting in cars did pose a significant danger of spreading the virus, Louisville would close all drive-throughs and parking lots that are not related to maintaining public health, which they haven’t done.”
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) April 11, 2020
Meanwhile, on April 12, 2020, ABC reported on a story taking place elsewhere in Kentucky. The video posted to Twitter by ABC News shows a parking lot filled with police and firefighter vehicles at the Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital in Somerset, Kentucky, during a “Light It Up” tribute to health care workers.
The video shows many of the vehicles parked directly beside each other.
— ABC News (@ABC) April 13, 2020
Perhaps Kentucky’s police cruisers have miraculously developed an immunity to the coronavirus’s “vehicular osmosis” capabilities, unlike the automobiles driven by the citizens of Chattanooga and elsewhere…
“It’s a miracle!”