Render Unto Science Things That Are Science
John J. Dunphy
(Originally published in the 3/21/20 edition of The Telegraph of Alton, IL)
The coronavirus pandemic is challenging religion the world over. The Sacramento Bee reported that Bethel Church, a megachurch in California “whose members believe their prayers heal the sick and raise the dead is advising the faithful to wash their hands, urging those who feel sick to stay home, canceling missionary trips and advising its faith healers to stay away from local hospitals.”
The Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared at Lourdes, France a couple of centuries ago. This holy shrine is blessed with a marketable commodity: its water. Pilgrims to Lourdes who seek healing from various maladies bathe in this water. Even Lourdes water is no match for the coronavirus, however. “Our first concern will always be the safety and health of the pilgrims and the shrine’s working community,” according to a February 28 post on the shrine’s web site. “As a precaution, the pools have been closed until further notice.”
Some Christians, however, adhere to the belief that faith can vanquish any illness. Archbishop Andrzej Dziega of Poland wrote in a recent letter that Catholics should continue to attend Mass and receive communion because “Christ does nor spread germs and viruses.” He also exhorted Catholics to dip their fingers in holy water since the devil is “afraid of it.” Dziega believes our fear of the coronavirus can be attributed to Satan. “You have to tell him, ‘Go away, Satan,” he advises.
The clergy of a Greek Orthodox church on the island of Cyprus recently announced that communion in the form of wine and wafers will continue to be served to its congregants. “The Holy Communion does not symbolize but it is the Body and Blood of Christ,” this church declared in a released statement. “It would be blasphemous to think that Christ’s Body and Blood could transmit any disease or virus.” This statement provides an out to the faithful, however, by noting that those who wish to abstain from communion “are free to do so.”
Some Protestant evangelicals have tackled the coronavirus head-on. Cindy Jacobs, whose web site describes her as “an author, speaker, and teacher with a heart for discipling nations in the areas of prayer and prophetic gifts,” declared before an appreciative audience that God has “promised we have all authority…and we say in the name of Jesus, ‘Virus, you are illegal. This is God’s earth.’ ” Jacobs made this declaration about three weeks ago and the coronavirus, illegal or not, is still among us.
Eighty-three-year-old evangelist Kenneth Copeland recently claimed that viewers who have the coronavirus would be cured if they simply placed their hands on their television screens while he extended his hand toward the studio camera. Copeland told his viewers, “I am not the sick trying to get healed. I am the healed, and the Devil is trying to give me the flu.”
Older Americans recall Jim Bakker as the host of the long-ago “PTL Club” TV show. He served a prison sentence after being convicted on charges of mail fraud and conspiracy. Bakker successfully re-entered televangelism, where he emphasizes an apocalytpic message. He even markets buckets of freeze-dried food to enable his followers to survive during the coming hard times.
Until recently, Bakker also sold a silver-based product that supposedly cures those who come down with the virus. The State of Missouri sued Bakker for offering this fake cure. The Food and Drug Administration sent Bakker a letter stating that it “is taking urgent measures to protect consumers from certain products that, without approval or authorization by FDA, claim to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose or cure COVID 19 in people.” Baaker no longer offers the product for sale.
To paraphrase Jesus, we should render unto science the things that are science’s and render unto God the things that are God’s. Dealing with the coronavirus definitely falls into the former category.
John J. Dunphy’s books include Abolitionism and the Civil War in Southwestern Illinois and Unsung Heroes of the Dachau Trials: The Invetigative Work of the U.S. Army 7708 War Crimes Group, 1945–1947.