Why Are They Still Going to Church?

Mainstream North American media recently have scoffed at white American evangelicals for continuing to meet on Sundays while, it seems, the rest of the world is in lockdown. And many of the rest of us, including many Canadian evangelicals, have been wondering, too: What is going on?

Even a basic explanation of what’s happening will take a little while, so let’s get a few things on the table right away.

First, there are more stupid and irresponsible people out there than perhaps you had recognized. But face it: Somebody has been watching all those outlandish religious broadcasters. Somebody has paid to watch another dumb Christian movie. Somebody buys all that crap advertised in that email spam you immediately delete each morning. Lots of somebodies. And a lot of them go to church in the good ol’ U. S. of A.

Second, the dynamic in some of these churches is just cultic. Macho pastors strutting their anointed authority in defiance of the Great Others: the Government, the Media, Hollywood, Satan—this is a moment nicely tailored for such narcissists and their adoring flocks to flaunt their superior spirituality.

Third, it’s not just white American evangelicals who are meeting. Since Donald Trump’s election they are the MSM’s favourite targets of shock and scorn, so they get the headlines. But Muslims in particular have been holding Friday prayers around the world to the consternation of civic authorities who want them, too, to stop.

By now, though, we have already picked up a few clues as to why those evangelicals are still meeting.

To be sure, most of them aren’t. Even someone as central to the American evangelical right-wing as Rev. Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention recently set out a long apologia for churches closing per the request or order of civic government. Most conservative churches are, in fact, closed.

The fact that Land felt obliged to set out a long argument, however, provides us more clues to the subculture he is addressing. So let’s ask our questions and see what answers might be found in that subculture’s history.

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Holy Week Prayers: What Do We Really Want?

Holy Week brings into focus a number of Big Questions. Among the most searching is this: What do we want?

In particular, what do we want from God? From life?

The Gospel according to Mark opens the Jesus story with a shocking surprise.

“The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way’—
‘a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.”’

“And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins…. And this was his message: ‘After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’”

The good news about Yeshua (“God saves”) Mashiah (“the Anointed One”), the Son of God, is supposed to be about Israel being rescued by the power of God from her enemies. It is supposed to be about Israel being restored to her ancient glory. It is supposed to be about Israel’s violent vindication, about Rome going down and a new King David taking the throne.

That’s what the excitement of the first Palm Sunday was all about: Jesus entering Jerusalem to make good on all those promises foretold by the great prophets, chief among them the very Isaiah that Mark quotes.

And yet: What a shocking surprise.

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Falwell Named President of Harvard University

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (AP)— Harvard University spokesperson Thurston Howell V announced today to a packed news conference that Jerry Falwell, Jr., has been appointed President of that university, effective immediately.

“President Trump recently suggested to the Harvard Corporation that delivery of certain much-needed medical supplies to the Cambridge area could be sped up, or allowed at all, if his friend and supporter Jerry Falwell were to be appointed to this position. The Corporation was grateful to oblige Our Dear Leader, and they voted last night in an emergency online meeting to follow the President’s directive.”

A beaming Falwell spoke to reporters about his plans for the historic school of higher learning. “First thing we’re going to do is ramp up what the covid-19 virus scare has already done, and that’s to move Harvard online with a vengeance! Now all those people who have Harvard T-shirts and haven’t come within a mile of Harvard Square can easily and economically take an actual course from the university. Someday soon, we hope, Harvard will be the Liberty of universities!”

Falwell then gestured at several of his new appointments standing in a row behind him, hastily convened by private jets for the news conference. Each of them spoke in turn.

The new Pusey Minister in Harvard’s Memorial Church, the Reverend Paula White, mentioned her tour of the building earlier today. “It’s pretty old-fashioned and dull,” she said, “but we’ll brighten it up with some nice big mirrors and colored lights. And once the giant screens go in, no one will notice that ol’ drab interior any more!”

Incoming Dean of Harvard Divinity School, Rev. Dr. Robert Jeffress, says that he intends to continue in his current positions as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, and Fox News contributor. “Doesn’t seem to me like much theology goes on here anyhow!” the Texas pastor said with a grin. Outgoing dean, Prof. David Hempton, was standing nearby and was heard to sigh, “Oh, my Lord….”

The new Head of the Psychology Department, Dr. James Dobson, seemed enthusiastic about taking over. “Once we give all those faculty members a good, loving spanking, they’ll straighten right up!”

Having been named Dean of Harvard’s famed Business School only hours before, the Reverend Kenneth Copeland confessed that he was just getting up to speed on his new position. “The main thing,” he said, “and I can’t say this often enough, is to make sure you bring the whole tithe into the Lord’s house and bless this mighty new work of God. That number you see right there on the bottom of the screen: that’s the one to call to sow a seed of faith RIGHT NOW! We need you to step up at this crucial time in the Lord’s mighty plan!”

When told that Harvard University already enjoys an endowment of over $40 billion, Copeland’s eyes got misty and he had to pause before replying. “Well,” he eventually said in a shaky voice, “that’s a start!”

New head of Harvard’s Medical School, the Reverend Rodney Howard-Browne, was unable to attend the press conference as he faces charges of unlawful assembly and violation of public health rules for holding church services in contravention of local ordinances aimed at stemming the pandemic. His spokesperson, Ima Toadie, told reporters, however, that “the Lord will surely release him soon—and he will bring the gospel of God’s healing right here into darkest Boston!”

Yale University president Peter Salovey was among several who sent greetings on the occasion. “We couldn’t be happier for Harvard!” his brief message said.