Faith, Not Fear, Is Calling us to Close

I’m gonna push back against churches boldly proclaiming that they intend to meet tomorrow and, by insinuation, calling the rest of us chicken or “afraid.”
Because of the lack of wide-spread testing, because we don’t *scientifically* know just how widespread this pandemic goes, churches, schools, community groups, etc…are making the decision to close to the public.
SOME pastors, including Robert Jeffress at First Baptist —whom, as I have written about several times, is an absolute idiot— are boastfully proclaiming that they will continue to meet Sunday.
This is akin to old evangelical “snake handlers.”
(If you don’t know what this is, look it up…)
Spiritually, God does tell us to “Fear Not.”
I have that tattooed on my arm, from Luke 2, just to remind me.
God *does* call us to live without fear.
But God also gave us our brains. God gave us science. God gave us our ability to reason. And, above all, God gave us the ability to look beyond ourselves and to do what’s best for the COMMUNITY, not our own selfish wants and desires.
I respect any decision churches make, theologically.
But when preachers conflate choosing to meet with “faithfulness” and choosing to *not* meet with “fear,” you have lost me.
And it pisses me off so much that I want to let loose…well, a string of words I probably shouldn’t say here.
Look, here’s the thing…
We have a lack of leadership that starts at the very TOP of this crisis. It’s well documented now that the United States is WAY behind on “testing,” and that the Trump Administration REFUSED the help of the WHO to begin more widespread testing back in *January.*
(Go ahead, look it up….)
That lack of scientific knowledge means that everyone else who is a public leader —City, State, County Governments, Preachers, School Administrators, Business Owners— we are *all* left to struggle with a moral an ethical question, somewhat BLINDLY:
— “What is safe?”
— “What is harmful?”
— “What is over-reaction?”
— “What is under-reaction?”
The lack of basic scientific information as to the exact extent of this pandemic in the United States means that we are flying BLIND.
Therefore, many houses of worship, schools, governments, etc., are acting with extreme caution.
Is this “over-reacting?”
Please understand this: NO ONE CAN SAY.
And if they *say* they can, they are LYING.
But, because of a lack of actual information, reacting with *caution* becomes the “default” choice of any thoughtful, caring leader.
Read that last sentence again. Read it again and again if you think everyone is now over-reacting.
Any leader who is closing or limiting their organization’s public access is making a THOUGHTFUL, COMPASSIONATE AND COMMUNITY BASED choice.
Teaching God’s lesson of “FEAR NOT” involves also looking at science and using our rational minds. Closing worship tomorrow is actually *not* a fear-based choice. It’s a calm and rational one.
Further, this choice points to the amazing ability of leaders to look beyond their own self-interest to what is best for ALL. Business, Schools, Houses of Worship, will all financial suffer in this time. And yet…they are *choosing* to self limit…
It speaks to the BEST of thoughtful human nature. It speaks to something proudly RIGHT about our human nature: The ability to see beyond ourselves, for the good of the whole.
And…to be clear…it is NOT a “fear-based” over-reaction.
So, if you are a preacher, and you are planning to be open tomorrow to the public, I say to you….
You are the snake-handlers of early evangelicalism.
You are NOT showing your fearlessness.
You are making this about YOU.
And our faith is *never* about us. It’s about serving God and about serving the world.
Your grandstanding –claiming you are acting “fearlessly”– is both untrue theologically and shows your LACK of compassion for the community you claim your church serves.
So there.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. His passion for social justice goes beyond mere words. He’s been arrested at the White House, defending immigrants and “The Dreamers,” and he’s officiated at same sex weddings in his churches, in defiance of what some believe is Methodist teaching. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

One thought on “Faith, Not Fear, Is Calling us to Close

  1. Thanks for you thoughts on this matter. Someone I know was saying to me that the closing of my church because of the pandemic was showing a lack of faith in God. My hackles went up but I didn’t say anything and the conversation did not go further. I am going to allow wisdom to prevail not fear or shame.

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