Members of religious organizations should not be shamed for heeding the warnings of government officials and staying inside. This pandemic has unimaginably shaken the physical world, but spirituality has remained strong. Faith in a higher power is an indelible force during a crisis, but engaging in worship in large numbers is impolite and mindless during a pandemic.
Louisiana, the land of leisure and everlasting festivity, has remarkably high rates of coronavirus sufferers. Many doctors now suspect that the influx of tourists during Mardi Gras has largely contributed to the spread of the virus. This factor explains the crucial need to adhere to social distancing.
Tony Spell, the pastor at Life Tabernacle Church in Central City, has held services with more than 1,000 attendees after Gov. John Bel Edwards strictly prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people. Hundreds of people were in close quarters, touching and praising in the name of the Lord.
I applaud Spell for wanting to enliven low spirits, but gathering in a physical space is incredibly irresponsible. There are many Christians who have forgotten the overarching power of God. Spirituality is not limited to the church building. If you are truly a child of God and believe in his reach, you can worship safely from your home.
Spell is not the only person defying the safety orders of the CDC. This is an ongoing problem throughout the country. Many churches rely on the tithes and donations of members, and following the social distancing orders may not be economically sound. However, church funds should not be the reason people are goaded to risk their lives. People can donate if they can and want to from the safety of their homes.
There is still a lot that we do not know about this virus. No one knows what the lasting effects of contracting it are or how long the pandemic will last. With all of the uncertainty, it makes sense to find assurance in a higher power.
However, we must be cognizant of the risks at hand. Some people find solace in being a part of a large religious community and being able to sit with other believers. Unfortunately, that is not safe. There is no way around the fact that there is a virus wreaking havoc on our community, and being in other people's faces is the antithesis of allaying this pandemic.
I, like everyone else, am tired of being in the house. I am tired of being unable to go out and about as I wish. I am tired of hearing about it. But I am especially tired of seeing the amount of infected people rise, knowing that people are foolishly gathering in large numbers. I am ready for this pandemonium to be over, but if we continue to disobey the social distancing rules, the spread won't stop. It's time to follow the rules, and respect the people who do.
God is everywhere, especially in trying times such as the present. You can reach him from the comfort of your bedroom; don't feel ashamed of not being able to attend services.
Erin Stephens is a 19-year-old journalism sophomore from Brusly, Louisiana.