Many have asked the question, “Why are churches considered ‘non-essential’ during the Coronovirus shutdown and places like restaurants considered ‘essential’? Why are churches closed while grocery stores and restaurants remain open (at least for carry-out orders)?” The insinuation is NOT that food isn’t necessary; but the focus of the inquiry is on why churches are not considered ‘essential.’ After all, if social distancing is practiced in the church building and if surfaces are sanitized, how is being around people in a church building any different than being around a few hundred people in the Walmart or Meijer or the grocery store (especially since most church gatherings in the US number 100 people or less)?
Part of the answer lies in worldview analysis. Everyone, whether a person realizes it or not, has a worldview. Everyone thinks with their worldview. And our worldview assumptions drive the decisions we make. For instance, if we believe that God is real, knowable, and cares for mankind, we will pray to God because our basic worldview assumption tells us that God hears our prayers. If, on the other hand, we don’t believe that God is real, knowable, or caring, then we won’t pray because we would consider doing so a waste of time. It’s my assertion that the average person in the US holds to a worldview that I call “Popular Secularism.”[i] Popular Secularism (PS) is a softer version of classic Secular Humanism (SH). SH flatly denies God’s existence. It also explicitly denies any spiritual realm beyond the physical, material world. PS, on the other hand, allows for a person to believe in whatever spiritual realm and religious view that he/she chooses. God may or may not exist. PS however considers spiritual concerns as being less important than physical, material concerns. Thus, a person can believe whatever he wants with regards to spiritual things. But PS treats a person’s spiritual beliefs like a parent views a child’s fairy tale. These are nice things to believe, but when its time to get serious there is little-to-no room for certain spiritual practices.
Thus, enter the current discussion about why church gatherings are deemed “non-essential” while restaurants and other retail businesses are deemed “essential.” Because the average person in the US is a Popular Secularist, and because our politicians are elected from the general populace, we see Popular Secularists making the decisions for our country. And since PS views spiritual concerns as less important than physical and material concerns, church gatherings are deemed “non-essential” while food concerns are deemed essential.
Someone might object, “It makes sense to limit gatherings of people to protect the populace from getting sick.” Yes, but the question raised is this: If the populace is already gathering together (several hundred at a time) once or twice a week at the grocery store, how is the church gathering together once a week any different? The answer from the Popular Secularist might be that “people need to eat but they don’t need to go to church?” Here, though, we see the Popular Secularist reasoning from his worldview which considers spiritual things less important than physical and material concerns. Again, the point to making this statement is not to say that I don’t think food is essential, it’s to point out WHY church gatherings are officially considered “non-essential.” PS considers spiritual things less important than the material.
When the dominant worldview of culture says, “This world is all that we can be sure exists,” of course those who think with that worldview will prioritize this life, the here and now. PS reasons, “This life is all there is. We need to make sure that we extend it as long as possible.” While the Biblical, Christian worldview says, “Life is a gift from God. We will take precautions to stay healthy and to help others stay healthy. But gathering as a church is just as important as going to the grocery store, because spiritual things are just as important as the physical. And we are confident that eternity with God is far greater than life here and now.” As the Apostle Paul said, “To live is Christ; to die is gain.”
[i] [i] Popular Secularism is the dominant worldview in the West today. Popular Secularism holds the following assumptions about reality:
- God may or may not exist.
- If god does exist, no one knows which god is true.
- No one can rightly say one religion is right and another wrong.
- To make such claims is intolerant.
- As such, no one can claim to know what God wants mankind to do to the exclusion of the claims of others.
- Thus no religious book (the Bible, the Koran, etc…) can rightly claim to be the word of God.
- Each book carries the same weight; but less weight than the wisdom of elite educational progressive knowledge today.
- Morality is probably real but has more to do with the survival of society rather than the pleasure of God.
- It’s undeniable that “evil” is real.
- Yet since we don’t know if God is real or who he is, no one can rightly say that someone’s actions are objectively wrong unless the majority of society agrees.
- Thus, morality is a construction of society rather than a product of God’s revelation to us.
- Comfort and happiness are the highest human considerations.
- Humans should work to make sure that everyone is comfortable and happy.
- Anything that denies comfort and happiness should be avoided and possibly forbidden.
- Economic considerations should always be held in higher regard than religious claims.
- Public policy/laws should be decided by considering whether something will provide more money for society rather than based upon “religious” claims about morality.
- As a contemporary example: If legalized gaming with bring added revenue to a city to alleviate budget shortages, that knowledge should be considered more important than religious claims that added gambling opportunities are not “good” for society.
- “The good” is defined in economic, sexual, and environmental terms.
- (Near) total sexual freedom is something to which everyone is entitled.
- Homosexuality, Transgenderism, sex outside of marriage, are all legitimate lifestyle choices as people should have the right to do what they want.
- Only those sexual activities that “harm” others are wrong.
- A growing number of Popular Secularists believe that each person should be entitled to freedom from being offended, including silencing dissenting voices.
- Ignorance and the abuse caused by “the rich” are mankind’s two main problems.
- If we educate people, many of the world’s evils and inequities will disappear.
- Governments also need to pursue income redistribution to bring about economic justice.
- If all would cooperate, we could usher in near utopian conditions and life would improve for everyone.
- No one knows what happens when we die.
- If there is no God, there is no Judgment Day to worry about.
- On the other hand, some believe that just about everyone goes to heaven.
- In the minds of those, only the really bad people go to hell, if there is such a place.