As the coronavirus wave slowly winds down in Russia, many of our Orthodox Christian churches and monasteries are open again. In large part, at least according to my own observations, one can walk into a church and see two-meter spacing marks on the floor (we stand throughout our services), and in one temple the priest caused all of us receiving Holy Communion to be given our own paper napkins rather than “risk infection” by having all our mouths wiped with the chalice’s own altar cloth as is the usual tradition.
Nevertheless, my experience in Russia shows full church attendance, no one paying much attention to the markings on the floor and people are just there as they always used to be before the pandemic became an issue. Here, the understanding appears to be when I am in crisis, I need to be in church more, to pray more and to get more serious about correcting where I have been wrong.
Apparently the Orthodox Church communities in the United States do not share the same reaction, though, thankfully, some other Christian believers do.
It is sad to see that this is not being repeated among the Orthodox Christian parishes in the United States. While some communities have indeed disregarded various lockdown restrictions, closures, attendance caps, and all manner of utter silliness, many others easily and completely acquiesced to the restrictions, including ethnic Russian Orthodox temples in the United States. The Orthodox Church in America published an article on their own national website basically championing the need not to sing in services (all our services are sung all the way through; it is like a 90-minute to three-hour singing fest, each service, and often twice a day or more often), and in situation after situation I still see streaming Church services with hardly anyone in attendance, whether that limit is imposed by COVID restrictions or not.
Yet, by contrast, there was a recent Supreme Court decision that in Nevada, casinos could keep running during the pandemic, while churches of any kind had to buckle under to restrictions. This, as you will see, tipped off a revolt among Christians.
Regrettably, that revolt has yet to spread among Christianity’s oldest and deepest Church in its outposts in the West, and I do not know why. By contrast, I have read clergy posts insisting that they will not allow anyone into their parish if they are not wearing a mask. I see, and am saddened, by parish updates talking about how the state has “graciously allowed” higher attendance rates, and so on.
In one sense, the humility of Orthodox Church priests and other pastors is commendable. But the question that rises every time is “Whom do we serve?” After all, the Christian world has suffered pandemics and severe epidemics nine times before this very mild pandemic (consider the deadly nature of Bubonic Plague and Spanish Flu for comparison, among others) came to light.
One Protestant pastor rises to light in this video, offered by Orthodox Christian Dr. Steve Turley. That pastor, John McArthur, runs a megachurch of several thousand members, and he is not closing or obeying these restrictions. He is further being defended by President Trump’s own personal attorney.
This brings a thought to mind. There is great support for Christians in the US now under this President. But so many Churches would rather fold to the state’s gross abuses of power than to stand for Christ. Why?
This is a question for each of us to consider personally and answer. I will offer one hint: At the Last Judgement, I do not think we are going to be asked if we masked up and practiced our social distancing properly.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.