Decisions on religious practices in trying times


America’s religious landscape is changing, In an Oct.17, 2019, report by the Pew Foundation entitled “In U.S. Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace,” reporters wrote that in a telephone survey conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians, down 12 % over the past decade. While this population is on the decline, those classified as religiously unaffiliated , that is, atheists, agnostics, or nothing in particular, is up to 26% from 17% in 2009.

Religion is especially important to believers in times of crisis such as our current pandemic. At the same time the need for solace is a top priority, religious groups are being encouraged to find alternative and safer ways of practicing their religion.

Some, however, are refusing alternatives and among several reasons are citing the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which prohibits interference with the right to the free exercise of religion as a fundamental right of Americans.

While some Americans feel an absolute need to practice their religion as they always have, others are putting their regular practices on hold in order to protect themselves and their families from the coronavirus.

With persons working in the immediate White House environment testing positive for the coronavirus, we know that no one is exempt. We are told to wear masks in public, and yet we see President Trump with no mask getting too close to the World War II veterans who were celebrating V-E Day in Washington recently. Trump indicated the wind was a problem when confronted about not wearing a mask as he greeted these most elderly of our population. Wind could easily have carried his sputum as he talked to each to the very places we would not want it to land.

A new poll by the University of Chicago Divinity School and The Associated Press- NORC Center for Public Affairs Research indicates that “most in the U.S. support curbing in-person worship.”

A participant in a creative writing class I just completed teaching for a major telecom company, JK Metz, explores this issue in micro-fiction entitled “Faithful or Foolish.” The results are not pretty for her characters who opt to ignore science and continue with their regular religious practices.

My cousin, Sharon, posted on Instagram that she was going to church on Easter Sunday. She had written over the image of an empty cross in front of a sunrise:

‘I am covered in Jesus’s blood and am protected. Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death…’

She can’t be serious, I thought. The virus is just getting started in the US. Thousands have already died around the world and many more are falling sick. What if she catches it from someone? How many will she make sick? Will it kill her?

I’d seen pictures of the many church events she had attended over the years. Her church always has a full calendar of fund raisers, pancake dinners, mega sales, and missionary trips. A couple of years ago, the church had nearly twelve hundred members. I wondered if it had grown in size since then. My finger hovered over the search box, but I couldn’t move it to type Evangelical Life Church.

Sharon has a heart of gold, but right now she needs common sense. I looked at the comments.

Jacobs_Mom15: I can’t wait. You going to the picnic afterwards?

SharonG: Sure am. Don’t know what everyone is so afraid of

Torch9: Ya’ll are crazy. Gov asked everyone to stay home

ImSaved: @Torch9. Nah. It’s all good. You’d know that if you had Jesus in your heart

The pit of my stomach hurt; I tasted sour in my mouth; my breath caught in my throat. I few comments down was another entry:

Rapture_Bound: U remember Tom Grable…he’s been called home. Said it was the virus, but don’t believe it for a minute.

Torch9: Sorry but ya’ll need to stay home. Gonna get sick and kill someone’s Granny

I sat down hard on the stairs. Tom Grable was my all-time crush in high school. He was always kind and had a genuine smile.

Rapture_Bound: @Torch9 have some compassion. He was married. Has two kids and a 3rd on the way. He was only 36…

My eyes teared up before I could read any more. The phone slid from my hand, landing between my feet. I wrapped my arms around my legs and curled into a ball. Sobs racked my body.

What do you think? World literature is going to be filled with stories about the impact of this virus, so my students are gravitating to it.

I’ve been out briefly four times since mid-March, and we have had one visitor, my son Quentin, who wore a mask and talked to me from the sidewalk. I’m hoping it gets warm enough today that my grandson Tyler can bring his son Cohl over to play in my yard I’ll stay on the front porch as I absolutely do not want to be responsible for the lives of others.

By Vivian Blevins

Contributing columnist

Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., a graduate of The Ohio State University, served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and to work with veterans. You may reach her at 937-778-3815 or [email protected].

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