Scholtens: Should Churches Reopen if Gyms Can’t?

“I’m not speaking on behalf of any particular church in anything vaguely resembling an official capacity. And it’s not the only possible response to the idea that churches are “essential.” I’m not even necessarily sure it’s the best response. But it’s definitely one possible way of looking at it:

Thank you for your kind gesture, Mr. President, but we respectfully decline your generous offer of special treatment. Although we agree that worship is an “essential” part of human life, we do not wish to receive privileges that are being denied to our friends who own restaurants, gyms, and other public service venues. We’re not really sure why it would be safe for us to reopen but not safe for them. If prevailing wisdom is not in favor of a general reopening of public gatherings, then we would prefer to do our part and stay closed. We believe God wants us to seek to the good of our city, and not only ourselves.

We’re also concerned that making houses of worship exempt from public quarantine discriminates against our neighbors who don’t practice faith. We would prefer they not see us given permission to violate safety guidelines that continue to cost them their livelihood. We don’t want them to hate us, and more importantly we don’t want to deserve that hate. If it’s unjust that we can’t meet, then we want justice for all, not only for us.

If you would like to declare us “essential” because we are non-profit charities that help the poor, then we would prefer to see soup kitchens, food pantries, and other relief centers reopened first. On average, they do more good than we do with a crowded room, and if they can’t open we shouldn’t either.

Finally, we would prefer not to be the rope in a game of tug-of-war between politicians. There are people who will have to decide whether the President should overrule a governor, or what the process is for the public to review the effectiveness of their own elected officials. Individual passions aside, we as churches can’t have a position on that. We can only respectfully decline to be used as ammunition in a battle between Federal and State powers. We’d really be more comfortable in a secular system where the government no longer uses us for propaganda purposes.

Thank you for taking the time to consider us, and for the compliment of calling us “essential.” Best of wishes in November.
. This is idea talk.

-Eric Scholtens, originally shared on Facebook,

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