Although a great many governors have made allowances for religious ceremonies to be performed in their coronavirus lockdown orders, many churches, too, have acknowledged in these extraordinary circumstances that their congregants should not be expected to attend public gatherings just for the sake of religious ceremony. Even Pope Francis has suggested Catholics who are at risk should ask God for forgiveness directly rather than go to Confession — a remarkable departure from centuries of Catholic Church doctrine.
But not all those of faith feel this way. In an angry article published in the right-wing Christian Journal First Things, editor R. R. Reno took a different position, suggesting that Christianity does not, in fact, command the faithful to take steps to save lives from COVID-19.
“At the press conference on Friday announcing the New York shutdown, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, ‘I want to be able to say to the people of New York — I did everything we could do. And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy,'” wrote Reno. “This statement reflects a disastrous sentimentalism. Everything for the sake of physical life? What about justice, beauty, and honor? There are many things more precious than life. And yet we have been whipped into such a frenzy in New York that most family members will forgo visiting sick parents. Clergy won’t visit the sick or console those who mourn. The Eucharist itself is now subordinated to the false god of ‘saving lives.'”
“A number of my friends disagree with me,” wrote Reno. “They support the current measures, insisting that Christians must defend life. But the pro-life cause concerns the battle against killing, not an ill-conceived crusade against human finitude and the dolorous reality of death.”
Indeed, Reno even suggested that fearing the pandemic is a victory for Satan.
“There is a demonic side to the sentimentalism of saving lives at any cost,” wrote Reno. “Satan rules a kingdom in which the ultimate power of death is announced morning, noon, and night. But Satan cannot rule directly. God alone has the power of life and death, and thus Satan can only rule indirectly. He must rely on our fear of death.”
“Fear of death and causing death is pervasive — stoked by a materialistic view of survival at any price and unchecked by Christian leaders who in all likelihood secretly accept the materialist assumptions of our age,” concluded Reno. “As long as we allow fear to reign, it will cause nearly all believers to fail to do as Christ commands in Matthew 25. It already is.”