Freedom to Cough Together

Posted on December 19, 2020
Tags: 100DaysToOffload COVID-19 freedom religion

Tim Lavoie

Keep ’em Coming!

can’t keep them away!

I’ve been living in BC for a few years now, and grew up in Manitoba. Following the news in both places, there seems to be a common thread in the insistence of some church groups on in-person worship.

It’s certainly not all churches, or even most. The bulk of them are apparently appreciative enough of the risks to follow public health orders. After all, everyone needs to breathe.

As a very, very lapsed former Catholic, I spent an awful lot of time in church, and attended a couple Catholic schools growing up. The denominations are different here, but I think I might have some insights into the behaviour. Two common drivers are a fear of dwindling numbers, and a need for financial support. The extent to which the latter is a real problem probably varies, but it’s always expressed as a great need.

For the attendance issue, I’ve wondered if the perceived threat is just that people may get used to not going. For both issues, in-person attendance is likely to be a huge boon:

  • The attendance behaviour is self-reinforcing, because it identifies you as a member of the group. There are also other members who will notice, and comment, if you aren’t there all the time. You don’t want to be one of laggards who’s only showing up for Easter and Christmas, do you? Well, DO YOU?

  • Also reinforcing is the physical passing of the collection basket. Larger churches are probably very aware of the more willing donors, but even the more parsimonious will notice those who simply shake their head or pass the basket on by without adding anything. If you’re not there in person, that anonymity has to hurt the bottom line.

Manitoba is currently locked down harder than BC, with far more restrictions on what’s open. I believe they’ve relented now, but had banned even in-car gatherings in church parking lots. Perhaps the concern was that people would combine households in order to car-pool. There’s nothing like sharing a tightly-packed space to ensure that you’ve breathed in whatever droplets your car-mates have to offer. Perhaps it really is one car per household,

B.C. is doing somewhat better relatively speaking, but still not great. Our numbers are still around record levels, but COVID-19 has spread to regions not affected much early on. Some regions are worse off than others, and industrial work sites are still problematic.

My Humble Offering

In the comments of one of the stories linked below, I made the following suggestion:

“I’ve got an idea. Instead of trying to keep people out of churches, can we simply keep them in? Make the church responsible for its own congregation, everyone can leave once they’ve had their second vaccine shot.”

Yes, I was being snarky. Someone even called these, “horrible ideas.” But are they really? Let’s dig further into this.

After all, we don’t want to keep people apart, if they really must be together. We’re just not wanting them out here with us after they’ve done so.

  • These people really, really want to spend time together.

  • God wants, nay, demands that they pray together. At least the humans in charge tell us this.

  • Churches by definition have room for their congregants. Most typically have some fair-sized kitchen in the basement, and at least a couple washrooms.

  • Between the pews and the basement, there’s probably enough room for everyone to stretch out for sleep.

  • If everyone brought sleeping bags, and the kids brought their school stuff, most could get by with what they need to do each day.

  • Some folks would lose income, because they can’t go to work. Maybe we could offer some sort of “shelter in place” tax benefit. Everyone gets the same amount, so that the church knows how much to ask for in tithes. If the church gets its coin, you know they’ll encourage participation.

Now, this might seem to some that I’m proposing is a version of Edgar Allan Poe’s, “The Masque of the Red Death”, or the updated version from Cory Doctorow in his anthology, Radicalized. After all, in these stories, some high and mighty muckity-mucks choose to isolate themselves to wait out the plague, or end of this civilization. That doesn’t seem quite the same at all! (OK… Maybe a little bit.)

Anyway, it’s not like there is a precedent, where other people ignoring the pandemic get sick and die for hanging out in groups, not at all. Those other church-goers and their pastors were in other churches. If there’s one thing that is consistent in Christianity, it’s that the other variants are God-less heathens who believe in silly sky-fairies, while ours are all believers in the One, True God. We’ll ignore the fact that they were the same church up until some split a few tens or hundreds of years ago. Now the others are deluded believers in sky fairies, but we’re good.

Besides, it isn’t like the people choosing to enter a church building for a few months would ever do so while infected. It’s probably just a little cough, no big deal.

Story links:

Note: This is post #5 for #100DaysToOffload.

Comments? Complaints? Nah, that can’t be.

I don’t have a comment system on here, but can be reached on Twitter