MH News April 16, 2020

Of all the churches around the country that defied the pandemic ban on gatherings none garnered the attention of authorities like Maryville Baptist Church, in Bullitt County, Kentucky, near Louisville. Governor Beshear of Kentucky had pointedly directed the church not to convene, but they did anyway, drawing a full house including some who drove long distances, from New Jersey, no less, to support the church and worship God. State police were on hand as well, taking down license plate information (to be used, they said, to contact participants in the event that anyone at the worship service is later diagnosed with the Coronavirus). Pastor Jack Roberts was defiant, saying that the state has no authority to shut down churches. One worshipper is quoted as saying, “I’m starting to feel like I’m in a communist country.”


Artists of all kinds took to the airwaves and cyber space over the Easter weekend to help fill the gap left by the worldwide pandemic shutdown. Besides millions of churches broadcasting elements of worship, the television networks played two Christian favorites: the movie “Jesus”, and the play “Jesus Christ, Superstar”. Scheduled square between them was the 20-minute, solo concert by the famed Italian tenor, Andrea Bocilli, singing in the empty cathedral in Milan. He prefaced his five pieces with the testimony, “I believe in the Christian Easter, a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone, whether nor not they are believers, needs right now” He concluded his concert on the front plaza of the church, popularly called a duomo (from the Latin for “house”), singing in English, “Amazing Grace” (with the first verse ending in the ironic line, “I once was blind but now I see”). Within days, the YouTube recording of the recital had been viewed 35 million times.


The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and other large, international evangelism enterprises report a significant surge in on-line or telephone inquiries during this global pandemic. Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ, Orlando) and Global Media Outreach (GMO, Dallas) normally report some 200 million gospel presentations on the internet each year. During a two week stretch in March, GMO saw a 170% increase in clicks on search engine ads about hope and somewhat less on those dealing with faith, anxiety, and fear. Their staff engaged in 12.4 million gospel presentations in that same period, a 16% increase over an average month in 2019.


The pandemic has motivated people to call for relief or suspension of numerous actions that normally gain much attention from people of faith. For instance, authorities in Alabama and Texas made efforts to curtail abortion, claiming it was “non-essential” during the quarantine. Federal judges in Texas sustained the action while a Federal judge in Alabama denied it. Numerous people, including the Attorney General William Barr and Birmingham pastor Van Moody, called for the release of prisoners during this outbreak, claiming it is inhumane to keep people confirmed when a deadly virus is at work. Advocacy groups working with immigrants (including the ACLU) have made the same appeal for undocumented peoples being held in confinement around the country. Federal judges have gotten involved as has the office of the Attorney General.