Pastors are making huge decisions this week, the choice to resume worship as normal, or wait a little longer… or somewhere in between. This means filtering through all the “spin” that everyone is spewing right now.
This post has no spin.
I have no political or religious agenda.
I’m just tired of hearing people make important decisions without all the facts. You can’t just read the headlines.
Here’s four statements I continue to hear out of people’s mouths that really need rethinking… (and the research you need to see)
1. “Doctors say masks really don’t help.”
I understand the confusion, and it’s frustrating. But the fact is… it’s just not true.
When I first saw ignorant emails being forwarded around mid-March, I went to two places to find truth, and I have to admit, I was highly disappointed. I went on the World Health Organization (WHO) website and the CDC and read both their instructions in detail. The first thing both these sites said was something like, “masks won’t protect you.” (Some of the first words out of their mouth on the WHO website video is still, “Medical masks like this one cannot protect against the new Coronavirus when used alone.”)
But that wasn’t the complete truth…and here’s why.
Whenever people in power talk, they don’t really communicate what needs to be said, instead they communicate what they think people need to hear, and sadly what “can’t be used against us” later. Both WHO and the CDC made a huge mistake here. These websites were both practicing CYA. Plus, masks were in short supply for health workers. So it’s probably best to tell people they don’t need them, right?
Both sites conveyed, “Masks don’t help.” And since most people read no further than the headlines, immediately I began hearing people saying, “Masks don’t work anyway.”
Here’s the thing. If people would have kept reading, even back then they would have found the following truths:
1. Both sites recommended from the beginning that if you are going to be in the vicinity of someone with COVID-19, wear a mask. (But wait… I thought they didn’t work?) Then both sites also said that you never know who has COVID—19. Hmmmm.
2. Both sites said masks aren’t good if you get COVID-19 on your hands, then touch your face while removing your mask. So wash your hands! And learn how to take on and take off a mask.
3. Both sites said masks are good in that they actually keep most people from touching their face.
And here’s the thing: Now on the WHO website you’ll see it says:
Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
Read that again. Masks are effective….Uh… that means masks work.
And now the CDC website posted the following update: (emphasis mine)
CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States. We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.
Bottom line: when you’re going out to the grocery store, please just put on a mask (my daughter made some cool ones with dinosaurs on them). And if you’re going to go in a church building with other people…wear a mask.
Speaking of going to church, that brings up the second statement we need to rethink…
2. “The government is just trying to suppress religion. They allow marijuana dispensaries to stay open, but they aren’t allowing people to worship.”
Oh man. We’re opening a can of worms here, so let me be very clear (and again, I’m going to show you several helpful studies).
I don’t like marijuana dispensaries (and no, I’m not against your aunt getting medicinal marijuana when she got “the cancer”, I’m against college students smoking a bowl every morning because they claim it’s helping their stress. More on that here in my article, Just One Thing Your Kids Need to know about Weed.)
The point is, don’t let our frustrations effect our wise judgement.
Here’s the facts. Whether you like smoke shops or not, typically a person can go into one wearing a mask, practice social distancing, and then leave. Just like CVS (except CVS doesn’t give you the munchies).
Church is much more like a concert or ball game. You’re sitting right next to someone for an hour, you’re talking or singing or shouting, all indoors. (And yes, if you’re already getting amped up and saying we can solve each of these, I agree with you… just hold on).
If you don’t realize how serious this is, look at several examples, like the Skagit County Washington choir practice, as reported by the CDC. (And if you’re going to open your church, PLEASE read this study in full)(and yes, I’m quick to forgive the CDC for their earlier impass).
The short of it is, one person was symptomatic in a 122-member choir, and eventually 53 people became ill, three were hospitalized and two died. And in case you’re skeptical about the validity of the 53, I encourage you to read the report, because 33 of them were confirmed, and 20 probable (and even 33 is huge).
The CDC study reads: “The 2.5-hour singing practice provided several opportunities for droplet and fomite transmission, including members sitting close to one another, sharing snacks, and stacking chairs at the end of the practice.” The study goes into even greater detail.
This isn’t a fluke example. In fact, The CDC reported about another church in rural Arkansas where 2 symptomatic people attended church, later who tested positive for COVID-19. 35 of the 92 attendees got COVID-19, and three died. Sadly, it didn’t stop at the church doors. An additional 26 cases linked to the church occurred in the community, including one death.
And these churches aren’t alone.
Bottom line: we need to rethink the way we do church while COVID-19 is still a threat. And yes, I understand that the Coronavirus was much more rampant in March, which is when many of these examples happened. But consider this: in each of these situations it only took 1 or 2 people.
Are you willing to bet the lives of your congregation?
Yes, I know life is full of risks.
Yes, I know that it’s not fair that gun shops and churches are closed, and smoke shops are open.
But that doesn’t change the facts. I’m not saying don’t do church. Do it. But you need to rethink the way you’re going to do church this coming Sunday (in the same way the world is seriously postponing and rethinking the way they do large events), which leads me to the third statement we need to reconsider…
3. “I don’t care what anyone says, we’re going to sing this Sunday.”
Our governor in California laid out guidelines for churches this week and one of them was “no singing.” If you just read the above reports, you see why. But for some reason this is a point of contention for many. Some of you might have seen some viral videos this week of people speaking out about this (some from people who are typically dogmatic on issues, speaking first, thinking later…)
Here’s the thing: If any doctor were to truly read the above CDC reports about church, I know they would recommend the following to be safe: (And I’ll keep it simple)
1. People need to wear masks. Period.
2. No singing.
3. Practice social distancing.
4. No communion, snacks, eating or drinking of any kind.
5. Have hand sanitizer widely available.
Are these logistical messes? Yes. But that’s okay.
And honestly, I think if churches have the option, it’s probably even smarter to meet outside rather than in a petri dish… I mean… building.
And finally, I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard this one…
4. “We’re done with this. We’re not social distancing anymore.”
Last week I was shopping for my family. I have three “high risk” people on our property, two people over 75 and a pregnant woman. So I’ve been wearing masks, washing hands, and practicing social distancing every time I go to the grocery store.
Less than half the people in my community wear masks.
Last week I was in the grocery store and a dad and his 7-year-old son (both unmasked) came down the same isle as me, got so close to me he literally brushed up against me, and then they went on their way. I watched them and they did the same to others. Their body language was reeking, “Get out of our way. This whole COVID thing is stupid.”
A little reminder: We are almost at 100,000 COVID deaths in the U.S. alone.
Sorry to inconvenience you, sir.
Guess what. If you don’t want to wear a mask, I can’t make you. But if you’re rubbing up next to people unmasked, it only takes once. Again… your risk. But if you are now a carrier, you might not even know it, and you are now “forcing” others to engage in that risk with you.
Just to be clear. I think we need to be proactively reopening businesses, surgeries, etc. But we need to get rid of this attitude of, “I’m done with this.”
“It’s no big deal.” I’ve heard some say.
Tell that to my friend who lost both his parents to COVID-19.
This Sunday churches have an opportunity to show wisdom and grace to their congregation and their community. Don’t look back a month from now and regret saying something in ignorance.