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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