Pandemic Unveils Ugly Side of Some Fundamentalist Christian Beliefs: God Only Cares for Them

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Today is Sunday, a day of worship for many religious organizations. But because of the pandemic and California’s executive order against mass gatherings, churches are not allowed to open their doors for in-person services.

While the majority of religious organizations are obeying the orders, there’s a rebellious group of outlier churches – many located here in the north state – that are demonstrating their defiance by throwing their doors open and holding services, sans masks and social distancing.

I reported yesterday about some north state churches that chose Mother’s Day as the day when they’d officially re-open, including a church in Palermo in Butte County, in which one parishioner tested positive for COVID-19 the day after the church service. More than 180 people who attended that service are now being scrutinized and tested and contact-traced by Butte County Public Health officials. Some churches opened May 1st, and others are planning to open May 31, on the Day of Pentecost, with or without the governor’s approval.

One source who helped with background for today’s story provided me with the names of some churches that are now open; churches that are not even that discreet about it. They post their activity calendar and photos and videos on Facebook.

I considered listing those churches, but why? We know that here in the north state there are no consequences to civil disobedience in the middle of a pandemic. Hell, this is a county in which the Mother’s Day Cottonwood Rodeo served as a cautionary tale for the entire world, except not really, because there was virtually no fallout, not counting 2000 attendees’ exposure to COVID-19.

My overall stereotype of religious groups is that they’re the gentle peacemakers inclined to obey rules – God and man’s. My stereotype of Christians in particular is that they’re Christ-like, and that they preach love, not just for their people, but to all living humans and creatures large and small.

Inexplicably, though, the onset of COVID-19 seems to have unveiled a sinister, selfish side of some fundamentalist Christians. You can find plenty of evidence on church and believers’ Facebook pages. There, it’s not uncommon to see angry, hostile messages against those who take COVID-19 seriously, or those who wear face masks, or businesses that require customers wear face masks.

This all seems counter-intuitive. After all, if you’re a Bible-believer, you know that Jesus gave two instructions: 1. Love God. 2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Judging by the high level of hatred and hostility expressed by some fundamentalist Christians, I’d suggest they return to square one and familiarize themselves with No. 1 and No. 2, above.

A recent Facebook post on a “friend’s” page made me wonder what’s caused so many of God’s children to behave like such cruel, disrespectful and selfish little brats. Here’s the post in question, written by a high-level Christian leader who I won’t name here today. But trust me when I say he’s a big deal in the Christian world. His recent rant was born from a visit to a Sam’s Club (not here in the north state), where he encountered the recommendation that customers  wear masks “to help support the health” of store employees and customers alike. Below, is this Christian leader’s reaction on Facebook.

“I caused a ruckus at Sam’s Club today because their sign said “we recommend wearing masks” but the employees were trying to intimidate me by saying it was required. I thought there was going to be police action (not kidding.) Finally, I showed the manager the picture of their own sign and she relented. I was getting the stink eye from one pudgy “I’m the king of video games” employee who followed us out to the car and took a picture of our license plate.”

Most of the comments that followed the Christian leader’s post were written by fellow believers, and were the antithesis of Christianity.

“You just need to get a paper mask and write on it ‘Trump 2020’ lets see how fast they allow you to take it off??”

“I wore mine through the door at Costco and it was off before I admired the first TV inside the entrance.”

“Fight the good fight brother.”

“Should have coughed right before you walked out.”

“Just wear a mask guys. It is considerate for others.”

“NO!”

I am happy report that there were a couple of comments that seemed more Christlike, like this one:

“I’m with the employees. They have families to go home to who may be old or like us have someone with a lung problem… it would be a better kindness and Christ like to think of those who work to pay bill and serve you and not add to their fears no matter how you believe you are safe.”

Other than that one considerate post, the rest were mean, sarcastic and nasty. I just didn’t get it. What better way to demonstrate that you love your neighbor as yourself than to wear face masks during a pandemic? My mask protects me and it protects you. I can’t fathom why that concept continues to be such a sticking point for so many people, especially fundamentalist Christians.

I believe I stumbled across one explanation after many hours on Facebook last night during my research for today’s story about the defiant churches.

First, I learned that many of these believers in God do not believe in the COVID-19 virus in the first place. They just flat don’t believe it, and think it’s a scare-tactic drummed up by the government and media to wreck the country. For the sake of discussion: Why would the government and media want to destroy the place that’s home for us all? Beats me.

Second, even those believers who do believe there’s a such thing as a pandemic, are not afraid, and with good reason. They believe they are protected by God from all kinds of calamities. They are convinced that the blood of Christ will offer some kind of a spiritual immunity against COVID-19. Their Facebook pages showed that they have scripture to back up their beliefs, like this one from Psalms 91:

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 

You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

‘Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him,’ for he acknowledges my name.”

Did you catch that? A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

Basically, if there is a pandemic, or a plague or pestilence, the true believers are safe, whiles thousands of the rest of us will drop dead. Not their problem. Not their concern. Those who don’t belong to their religious club are screwed. More to the point, the believers don’t care. (See cough comment, above.)

From Church of the Redeemed of Redding Facebook page.

Here are excerpts of what one Redding Church posted on its Facebook page regarding about COVID-19:

Do you really think this is the FIRST time Our King Has Loosed the “Coronavirus”? Exodus 12:13, 29-30: “The blood shall be a sign for you on [the doorposts of] the houses where you live; when I see the blood I shall pass over you, and no affliction shall happen to you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt…….Use [communion] wine or in a pinch; ANYTHING red showered in Prayer! READ ALL of EXODUS 12, while you DO it. Not to worry My Shulammite….I Love you!

I guess that belief system explains for me Facebook memes like this one; funny at first, but upon further reflection, is sad, because it’s so true.

Source: Facebook

Luckily, for society’s sake, this kind of extreme religious fundamentalism is rare, in or outside of a pandemic.

And just about when I felt at my lowest after reading so many hateful Christian Facebook comments, I found this post on a north state church Facebook page by Pastor John MacArthur, who addressed the idea of churches re-opening during the pandemic, and whether they should do so prematurely, despite a government ban:

Yeah, let me make very clear this question because it keeps coming up. If the government told us not to meet because Christianity was against the law, if the government told us not to meet because we would be punished, fined for our religion and our religious convictions, we would have no option but to meet anyway. And that takes you to the fifth chapter of Acts where the leaders of Israel said to the apostles, “Stop preaching.” And Peter’s response was very simple. He said, “You judge whether we obey God or men,” then he went right out and preached.

If the government tells us to stop worshiping, stop preaching, stop communicating the gospel, we don’t stop. We obey God rather than men. We don’t start a revolution about that; the apostles didn’t do that. If they put us in jail, we go to jail and we have a jail ministry. Like the apostle Paul said, “My being in jail has fallen out to the furtherance of the gospel.” So we don’t rebel, we don’t protest. You don’t ever see Christians doing that in the book of Acts. If they were persecuted, they were faithful to proclaim the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ even if it took them to jail; and that’s been the pattern of true Christianity through all the centuries.

But this is not that. Might become that in the future. Might be overtones of that with some politicians. But this is the government saying, “Please do this for the protection of this society.” This is for greater societal good, that’s their objective. This is not the persecution of Christianity. This is saying, “Behave this way so that people don’t become ill and die.”

Now you may not think that you’re going to have that impact on somebody, you’re not going to be the one that becomes a carrier and causes something to be passed on to somebody else down the road and somebody dies. You may think that’s going to be you. But you cannot defy the government. And I don’t think pastors should do this. You cannot defy the government and say, “We’re going to meet anyway because God has commanded us to meet, no matter what damage we do to people’s lives.”

I mean, what should mark Christians is mercy, compassion, love, kindness, sacrifice. How are you doing that if you flaunt the fact that you’re going to meet; and essentially you’re saying, “We disregard the public safety issue.” You don’t really want to say that. That does not help the gospel cause.
What helps the gospel cause is to say, “Of course, we don’t want to be the cause of anyone’s sadness, anyone’s sorrow, anyone’s sickness, and certainly anyone’s death. So we will gladly comply. This is consistent with what Scripture says, that we are to live quiet and peaceable lives in the society in which we live.

We don’t rebel, we don’t do protests, we don’t fight the government, we don’t harass and harangue, we don’t march, we don’t get in parades, we don’t stop traffic; we lead quiet and peaceable lives, and we pray for those in authority over us, and we submit ourselves to them.

In Romans chapter 13, Paul says, “You submit yourself to the government, the powers that be.” But Peter adds to that, “You submit yourself to the governor and the king,” whoever that personal authority is. I’ve heard people say, “Well, this isn’t constitutional.” That’s irrelevant. That is completely irrelevant. When you’re told by an authority to do something and it’s for the greater good of the society physically, that’s what you do because that’s what Christians would do. We are not rebels and we’re not defiant, and we don’t flaunt our freedom at the expense of someone else’s health.

How do we back out of that to communicate the love of Christ? Look, Jesus came and basically banished disease from Israel. He was a healer. The last thing the church of Jesus Christ would want to be is a group of people that lived in defiance and made somebody sick, caused somebody’s death. So you restrain yourself from that.

Again, the issue is so clear that even going back to Richard Baxter back in 1600s, Richard Baxter has a great section in one of his books where he says, “If the magistrate,” as he calls it, “asks you to refrain from meeting because of a pestilence, you do not meet. On the other hand, if the magistrate tries to force you not to meet because of persecution of Christianity, you meet anyway. I think that’s the dividing line. – John MacArthur

Meanwhile, it’s Sunday, a day when many religious organizations observe their beliefs. Consider this our spiritual message for the week. And just think, we did so without setting foot inside an actual church.

I’ll leave you with  comments made by some Facebook friends who offered wisdom regarding being away from church during a pandemic, but still tending to spiritual needs.

“I’m a Christian. I go to St. James in Redding. We gather on the internet. I have Jesus in my heart. He’s portable. He goes everywhere with me.”

” If God is a spirit that dwells in your heart, do you need a building or a quiet place to feel him?”

“God helps those who help themselves and can hear your prayers just as well from your home. This will not last forever but will last much longer and end up more deadly if we do not all work together. This is not about one person or one congregation. It is about all of us. Be considerate. God would like that.”

“I was always taught (raised Catholic) that God is with us everywhere and all the time…he’s not confined to just one building or strike on the clock.”

“If you must have a church to continue your faith, you should re-evalutate your beliefs.”

Amen to that.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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43 Responses

  1. Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

    Outstanding article (although I would have named the offending churches – it might be helpful to know exactly who is irresponsibly putting the community at risk).

    I was personally disabused of the notion that fundamentalist “Christian” churches are filled with loving, compassionate people long ago, through my years of research into Bethel Mega-Church in Redding. I’ve read countless posts by Bethel leaders over the years – followed by thousands of comments from their adherents – that openly promoted intolerance, prejudice, and hatred toward members of the gay community, women’s rights isues, Democrats (and Progressives in general), immigrants, non-Christians, and a whole slew of other groups.

    I also recognize several of the scriptural passages quoted above as oft-used by Bethel leaders to imply that true believers will magically be spared the effects of this deadly disease.

    And although some local fundamenalist churches are outwardly conforming to State mandates to suspend large gatherings, church leaders are encouraging their followers on social media and elsewhere behind the scenes to show contempt for safety measures, and to view pandemic “hysteria” as nothing more than a liberal plot to damage Trump’s re-election prospects.

    • Avatar Kathy says:

      Again, great column. Doni . Thank you.

    • PB, I really DO NOT want to paint all churches with the same brush. In my previous day’s story, my source was a pastor from a fundamentalist Christian Church, and its congregants do not fit into the negative box you describe above.

      For this application, we can pull out out sophisticated cafeteria tray and call it Church, and know that within it, where the peas and carrots and mashed potatoes and chocolate cake might go, are spaces that contain a variety groups that range from downright despicable, selfish folks, to absolutely divine, loving and compassionate people.

      I never want ANC to be a place of hatred and negative stereotyping. It’s not helpful.

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        Doni,

        There are other measures by which a church can be considered “fundamentalist” aside from whether or not they prematurely hold large services. They don’t necessarily escape the “mold” based on that criteria alone.

        A fundamentalist church is one that teaches a literal interpretation of the brutal Old Testament. In my experience these churches are also almost exclusively anti-gay, anti-women’s rights, white nationalist, anti-dark skinned immigrants, pro-forced religion in government, anti-non-Christian, and rabidly pro-Trump. I can think of quite a few churches in Shasta County that are not holding services, but that otherwise fit this description.

  2. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    More head shaking. Yep, adulting is hard. Two great columns, Doni.

  3. Avatar Chris Solberg says:

    “Meanwhile, it’s Sunday, a day when many religious organizations observe their beliefs. Consider this our spiritual message for the week. And just think, we did so without setting foot inside an actual church.”

    Should one be a believer to deliver spiritual messages of the Christian order Doni?

    Must one posses the Holy Spirit to interpret the Holy Scriptures ?

    Even though I believe I know the answer , why the animosity towards God and Christians ? Did I miss something in your previous writings ?

    “If there is a God why did he allow such horrible things to happen to me” is a familiar theme in this group.

    Fascinating as I believe these are the very end times.

    And Psalm 91 when broken down in Hebrew concordance is far deeper and terrifying than you could ever imagine…. Like the old BTO song…

    “You aint seen nothing yet”

    The night Carr fire raced through Redding did non believers mock Gods Devine protection ?

    We hear all sides but one on A Newscafe, ….how about a local Redding priest or pastors take on the situation?

    • Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

      Chris, I have written LTTEs on all subjects that have been printed on Anews, many have exposed me to harsh criticism by posters. I hear all the time on here about those who oppose Anews articles yet they seem to not want to take the time to write their own LTTE.
      And Anews has posted responses from Bethel and politicians with opposing views.

      • Avatar Chris Solberg says:

        Well with all due respect I said a pastor or preacher not the feathers and gold dust folks

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          Chris sez: I was talking about the preachers who preach about 3-in-1 monotheism, immaculate conception/virgin birth, resurrection of the dead, and redemption via belief that “one-third of the God-triad died to pay for your sins” (the exact same logical construct as “Bob smashed his big toe to pay for your parking tickets”). Not the crazy feathers and gold dust folks.

          The above isn’t to say that Christianity is a collection of far-fetched beliefs based on faith, but to say that it’s amusing watching Christians accuse other Christians of far-fetched beliefs based on faith.

          Something something the splinter in your neighbor’s eye something something beam in your own eye. — Jesus

          • Avatar Chris Solberg says:

            Mmmmmm im thinking not….. With Grace of God im a little deeper student then your perception

            11 Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly—and indeed you do bear with me. 2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the [a]simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!

            Paul and False Apostles

            5 For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles. 6 Even though I am untrained in speech, yet I am not in knowledge. But we have [b]been thoroughly manifested among you in all things.
            7 Did I commit sin in [c]humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. 9 And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no one shall stop me from this boasting in the regions of Achaia. 11 Why? Because I do not love you? God knows!
            12 But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”

            2 Corinthians 11

            But if Christianity is a tale of the “flying spaghetti monster” to you I understand not all are believers here and Bible language to some is a mystery and speaking in tongues.

            Never the less it is biblical for Christians to hold other Christians accountable when they stray……

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            Yes, Chris, it is Biblical for Christians to hold other Christians accountable when they stray. And boy, do they ever. That’s why there are almost 35,000 Christian denominations, almost all existing because everyone else is getting it wrong.

            It’s obvious that you’re an ardent student of the Bible. A critical, reasoning, historical student (like one of my favs, Karen Armstrong)? Obviously not.

            Let me suggest this: Every time you pluck a single passage or two from one of Jesus’s parables and quote it out of context (or even a line from one of Paul’s letters), you’re using it to prop up your own opinion. You’re stealing authority from the original authors and making it your own, in a dishonest way, by atomizing profound messages into various cherry-picked bumper-sticker sentiments.

            You be you, Chris—no skin off my nose—but don’t think I’m going to be cowed by your self-imagined Biblical scholarship anytime soon.

      • Bruce, you are a stellar example of someone who has submitted many letters to the editor over the years, and for that, I’m grateful.

  4. Avatar Chris Solberg says:

    “God Only Cares for Them”

    Words of Jesus Christ …

    “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. ”

    John 17

  5. Avatar Cynthia Devine says:

    Well said 🙂

  6. Avatar Kathy says:

    Faith is wonderful. Faith is powerful.
    I question whether today’s fundamentalist’s faith is stronger than the faith of the millions/billions who perished from the plague , the Spanish flu and every other pandemic that has ravished mankind.
    Pretty damn arrogant if they do. Same god? Right?

  7. Avatar Jist Cuz says:

    Saw this subject matter coming a million plagues away; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pride PRIDE COMETH BEFORE tHe FALL +!+

  8. Avatar Bill Vercammen says:

    Brilliant article…spot-on thesis…
    It’ s an important consideration that organized religion has spawned millions of deaths and displayed an zealous affinity for mass genocide since time immemorial. Lack of compassionate humanity might be a prerequisite for such relentlessly selfish devotion.
    There’s an Australian researcher in this week’s news – Nikolai Petrovsky of Flinders Univ – that has published on his findings of SAR COV2’s “exquisite affinity” for the ACE2 receptor within the human receptor domain. He states that the efficiency of this targeted binding is unlike any he has witnessed in 25 years of virus research. He offers no conjectures on the origins of the virus, makes no mention of the Wuhan lab, and proposes no new mammalian intermediaries than horseshoe bats, pangolins, and civets – though he postulates that SARS COV2 has no such “exquisite affinity” for any of these hosts.
    Doesn’t this make an interesting case for this evolutionary virus being an Act of God?
    I think Pastor Mike just stained his shorts…
    If prayer doesn’t work, try Tide with a prewar, Mike…

  9. Chris, reread my column, and then my response to Patrecia Barrett. I do not paint all Christians with the same brush.

    I hate to quote myself, but: “My overall stereotype of religious groups is that they’re the gentle peacemakers inclined to obey rules – God and man’s. My stereotype of Christians in particular is that they’re Christ-like, and that they preach love, not just for their people, Mother Earth, and for all living humans and creatures large and small.”

    Regarding other views, we welcome letters to the editor from people about all topics, and would love to hear from different faiths and denominations for their thoughts about church shut-downs, and creative options during this pandemic.

  10. Avatar Clinton Kane says:

    Very good read everyone. Years ago I was in the cosmetology school getting a haircut by one of their students. In our conversation we talked about what I was doing and when it came to what plans she had for her future she was very optimistic and ended with something to the effect that she “…waiting on God.” I’m sure had a plan and was have her God help her along the way. I hesitated a bit because I do not believe in God in the traditional sense. I do believe if you do your best good things will come with it and they may not necessarily have to be related…just good things. Met my wife that way you might say. I assured this young lady that if she indeed did have a plan her God would be there for her. I doubted this young lady just “waiting on God” because there she was in school learning a craft. I think her way of thinking was to express hope in her God that good things were there waiting for her. People, you and me, make choices based on religion, science, other influences. I can only hope that we all make the right ones. Me, I’m still going to continue to social distance and wear a face covering (mask) when near other people because heaven forbid I may be asymptomatic and I care not to pass this terrible disease onto anyone in our community. Don’t have to believe in God or wait on anyone (religious leaders) to tell me what the right thing is during this pandemic.

  11. Avatar Laurie says:

    I don’t see any “animosity towards God and Christians ” in your post, Doni; in fact, you’re giving Christianity far more credit (“gentle peacemakers who preach love, not just for their people, but to all living humans and creatures large and small) than history does, considering not just the Crusades but the countless other massacres, oppressive governments and human rights abuses conducted and sustained in the name of the cross. Here, you’re just pointing out the latest anti-human hypocrisy that exposes religion’s all-too-common gulf between talk and walk.

    Though many compassionate Christians like our local homeless advocate Mr. Solberg and stellar faith-based groups like the Rev. William J. Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign do follow Jesus’s example by doing good work for the poor and homeless, nowadays, as you know, the most popular form of Christianity—and the only one that is gaining, not losing followers — is the very different NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) evangelical church, as exemplified by its most famous proponent, Bethel, and most other fundamentalist evangelical churches.

    As ANC has documented in your and R.V. Scheide’s revealing articles on Bethel, though NAR churches may toss big bucks to local LE to pave their own way into the local power structure, their underlying purpose is not on uplifting the poor and needy in their local community, but instead is bent on gaining political power and financial prosperity — which are viewed not as belonging to the secular realm, but as divine signs of God’s approval of his special in-club.

    And, as ANC has previously noted, their ultimate purpose is to replace secular government with a fundamentalist Christian one; in effect, Christian sharia law, overwhelmingly anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-progressive, and anti-democratic. That’s the origin of posts like the one you posted above from the local church: Scorn for not only the law protecting the separation of church and state, but of any secular government at all, and profound contempt for anyone who isn’t one of their flock.

    I’ve learned a lot about this from Jared Yates Sexton, an ex-evangelical author and blogger who grew up in this kind of church. As an ex-insider, he reveals the evangelical embrace of Trump’s me-firstism and rightwing antigovernment extremism as no surprise, as it’s been percolating for years, originating long ago in the post-Confederate white supremacy that is one of the founding (though often unspoken) tenets of the modern evangelical church’s prosperity doctrine.

    This toxic doctrine informed the path chosen by evangelical megachurch pioneer Jerry Falwell (with the equally mendacious son, JF Jr., galloping in his footsteps) to counter/foil the work of the man he regarded as his greatest threat — Martin Luther King’s truly compassionate Christian crusade of progressive activism on behalf of the poor and oppressed. Add a dash of Ronald Reagan’s ruthless corporate capitalism and bizarre religiosity (check out his Manly P. Hall worship!), and suddenly, poverty is viewed not as a spiritual choice or the tragic result of structural inequality, but as the work of the Devil and an individual sin. Hence, massive wealth is no longer the trap Jesus warned us about, but instead, a mark of God’s favor — and thus not an unworthy secular goal, but a noble and even obligatory spiritual one.

    This toxic brew requires some suspension of disbelief … and of reason itself, so the architects of the NAR supercharged the Christian climate by detaching its worshipers from their senses — and their bank accounts — using the tried-and-true antirational method: Mass hysteria as worship of a God who shows his selective favor by tossing around fake “miracles” (as we see in Bethel’s “glory cloud” (glitter in the AC vent), “angel feathers” (from Walmart pillows), etc. The cost of salvation has spiked dramatically now too, with demands for further “love gifts” and open criticism of those who tithe only the traditionally adequate 10%.

    The overarching goal is not only crowd control within the religious community, but the recasting of good old capitalism as a holy virtue approved by God, the poor as sinners condemned by God, and the acquisition of political power as a holy path to walk back the advances in human rights legislation that have helped so many — women, people of color, and LGBTQ folks, to name just a few.

    Sexton exposes the origins and outcomes of this curious form of religious cultism — and its increasing political influence in the U.S. on our previously democratic government. It’s a fascinating (and deeply disturbing) journey. I recommend his writing to anyone who wants a clearer picture of the existential danger to democracy that modern Christianity has become: https://twitter.com/JYSexton/status/1241725545341235202

    • Laurie, lots of food for thought for this Sunday morning. This sentence of yours sums up exactly what bothers me most about some fundamentalist Christians.

      “…Scorn for not only the law protecting the separation of church and state, but of any secular government at all, and profound contempt for anyone who isn’t one of their flock.”

      Bingo.

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        That’s the main issue. Few people care what fundamentalist church members do in the confines of their churches and homes. However, these churches (helmed by Bethel Church locally) have become well-oiled political machines with the capability to elect politicians who help them inflict their prejudices and primitive superstitions on the rest of the population through force of law.

    • Avatar Kathryn McDonald says:

      Excellent piece.

  12. Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

    This reminds me of Sodom and Gommorah consumed by fire/plague because of their evil, mentioned in the Bible and the Koran and probably Budda too.

  13. Avatar Jim says:

    Happy Sunday ?

    My own thankfully short experience with organized religion as a child living in the Bible Belt was far from pleasant and nurturing. This was in a fundamentalist Pentecostal church in a small town in the outback of New Mexico… the basic message at that time was that anyone that wasn’t one of US was going to Hell…. this included basically every aspect of society…. different church, different race, different politics…. sexuality was too taboo to even acknowledge….. almost any difference you could think of….. It was us vs them…. This was during the civil rights era so of course they all had their vote for Wallace stickers and signs everywhere…
    Thankfully I recognized these extreme beliefs as evil even as a child….
    Unfortunately I believe that many if not all of these extremist beliefs have crawled out from under the woodwork and are deemed acceptable by a growing number of people….. It feels like us vs them all over again….

    On another note, is anyone getting harassed for wearing face masks? As always I was wearing mine while grocery shopping Friday and actually had a woman cough on me… it seemed purposeful….

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      I’ve caught a couple of sneers. A couple of other instances of people seeming to make a point of invading my personal space, which I didn’t care for (from strangers) well before the pandemic. Mostly people are still doing the opposite and giving me some extra space when I’m masked up, even if they’re not.

      The really obnoxious rectal orifices aren’t that common, but they stick out like pregnant pole vaulters.

    • A.J. A.J. says:

      A very dear friend whose brother was one of the listed COVID-19 deaths in Butte Shasta County, was wearing a mask day before yesterday and a woman called her a “*****ing fascist.” To say this upset her is a massive understatement. Heck, I’ve been upset about it for the last two days. Christianity aside, can we at least have good manners?

  14. It seems some fundamentalist Christians who believe, think that this Covid pandemic is a sign from God for end times and the like. They refer to the bible in feeding the fire of the conspiracy theorists. Their purpose is to refute the use of modern science (especially in this case) and use it only when it supports their belief system. The bible was written long before the advent of modern science in a metaphorical tone. I don’t see how one can look at it as fact myself. Just be a Christian and love your brother man. Isn’t that what Jesus taught?

  15. Avatar Jist Cuz says:

    AH BUDDHA SAY, “ENLIGHTENMENT COMES FROM SOLITARY MEDITATION IN tHe MOUNTAINS. FOR YOU- WASH YOUR GRUBBY HANDS AND WEAR YOUR N95 MASK OR BAD KARMA MAY GET YOU IN tHe FORM OF A VIRUS.” +!+

  16. Avatar Kathryn McDonald says:

    More good publicity for the North State: The Palermo church story is the lead story on the CNN website as I type this.

  17. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    In Buddhism, “sin” (actions committed with evil intent) causes clouding of the mind, delayed progress toward enlightenment, and thus an inevitable and unnecessary increase in suffering. Nobody is consumed by fire. Punishment is self-inflicted.

    It’s very similar the the POV expressed in Ecclesiastes, and hardly anywhere else in the Bible.

  18. Avatar Jist Cuz says:

    BRUCE WAYNE AKA BATMAN…JIST SAYIN +!+

  19. Avatar Miguel says:

    Thanks, Doni. Very nice piece. Topical, and completely relevant to our current times. Hard to disagree with much of what you said.

    I particularly honed in on the part where a religious leader is pitching a fit, quite publicly on FB, about being requested to wearing a mask into a retail establishment. I think this clearly illustrates that there is something quite different at play here other than a defense of any type of religious principle or freedom. It’s hard to read this as anything other some sort of knee-jerk anti-authoritism .. and in this case clearly directed at a topic or cause that hardly justifies the outrage. (So are we going to start beating up the Walmart greeters now? It’s a paper mask!) But there is an undercurrent of anger and resentment here that .. while it may be finding a hearing and a home in the church .. has really nothing whatsoever to DO with the church.

    And, again. Fine piece. Good comments.

  20. Avatar Robert Lincoln Hancock says:

    Hi Doni,
    A great read that objectively gives perspective on a church/state issue of importance to the well being our our communities. Your article gives timely focus to one of the first mandates of good government which is to protect the people.
    John McArthur’s quote in your article of Richard Baxter is a great summary where he says, “If the magistrate (government) asks you to refrain from meeting because of a pestilence, you do not meet. On the other hand, if the magistrate tries to force you not to meet because of persecution of Christianity, you meet anyway. I think that’s the dividing line.
    Sadly there are so many who take passages of scripture out of context to make their point. In the context of a pandemic their extreme will likely be their ticket to meet their maker along with all their fellow parishoners. The Sriptures also says “obey those in authority over you.”
    Unfortunately well intentioned independence and claiming higher authority can rationalize bad behavior and jeprodize the good of all. People steal, abuse and use people in the name of the Lord. Tragictly that becomes the excuse for rejecting spiritual truth and people “throw out the soap (God) with the dirty bath water.”
    Most people reject the claims of Christ because of the characterizations by those who claim to be His followers. Truth can stand the test of scutiny. Finite imperfect people cannot make that claim. All aberrant behaviors and thoughts flow from the disconnect with our divine design and purpose.
    Religion is not the answer. Reconciliation with God as we know Him in Christ is a choice. His claim sounds a bit arrogant but always with a choice in which he said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man can come to the Father except by me.” There can be no love without choice and God claimed to be Love.
    We would do well to find in our pursuit of truth to find a cleansing and dethronment of our egos for His enthronment as our maker, redeemer and sustainer. We need to ask ourselves the question, how is going our own way independent of God working for us….wars, divisive and abusive behaviors, brokenness, loneliness, etc. Maybe this can be a teachable moment for us to reflect on what matters most.

  21. Avatar Jist Cuz says:

    Ignorance says, “If I swim in de’Nile in flood stage and drown that’s my business. If I invite the community to join me and they do and drown also… its their own fault Lester.” Rodeo On Shasta +!+

  22. Avatar Jist Cuz says:

    Devout Christians often assume that scribes before and after Christ’s life were educated besides reading and writing and that somehow through a miracle there were no errors rewriting these ancient superstitions from laungauge to language, sect to sect. The earth was largely believed flat at the time Constantine. Ps; Where tHe “F” are the bulk of the Dead Sea scrolls you purged? Ignorance is bliss +!+

  23. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    Will be interesting to see how the Bethel group that runs the Redding Civic Auditorium eventually brings back their students who come from all over the United States and many other countries and what procedures they’ll take in protecting the students and staff from the virus, and the rest of the community. Especially if there’s a return of the virus in the Fall/Winter. I also wonder how much money Bethel has received from the CARES Act ? Just askin’.

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