Coronavirus, the Church and the Lockdown, by Ezekiel Kayode
NEWS DIGEST – The Nigerian church has been struck like never before. Surprisingly not of persecutions within and without, religious scandals, prophetic failures or the threatening fulanization of Nigeria. But for the same cause as schools, organizations and sports —Coronavirus has truly plunged everything in its path.
Churches can no longer open the arms of their mega buildings to embrace seekers of the Lord. Some say the government won’t let them. First, from reducing large crowds of hundreds and thousands to fifty, then to twenty-five and now to zero, the government has raced to approve anything it felt could mitigate the spread of the virus.
Conspiracy theories are now rife and some clerics backlash now make the round. Yet, every step this government has made in that regard has been everything good to write about.
Anyone who advises against the measures of the lockdown is clearly not a friend of the people. Because these backlashes now wear off on many uninformed Christians. I now read and overhear people say the NCDC is doctoring figures and this is intent on stopping the church from functioning —the pepper seller off the street may not be capable of these propagandas had it not filter down to them from the very top.
But this is not surprising. Government’s decisions have long been used to advance religious and tribal grievances. Some justifiable, others ridiculous. Is the church being targeted? Has it ever been? Yes, but not of any government decision in relation to the lockdown. Even men of God, in all their divinity, can be guilty of gross misjudgment.
What do we say about Muslims whose mosques, although less closely packed than many churches, are being banned from holding religious gatherings? Do we now say that this “Fulani government” is working against its “islamization of Nigeria” agenda? A house divided against itself can clearly not stand.
Or what do we say about the academia, both students and staffers, although already on strike, has also been affected by the ban? Nobody is comfortable. Nobody likes putting on face masks in the heat of noon. In as much that we cannot drastically reopen the economy because unemployment and consequent hunger is a much solid reason to uplift certain restrictions, the church must remain closed to better control the spread of the virus.
And some of the arguments are baseless too. The church will not be able to take in its normal capacity if the restrictions are relaxed. At least, not until there is a vaccine. Social distancing will make sure of this. It doesn’t matter the concerns on spiritual needs of the people when half, if not three-quarter of its capacity, will be absent. What is that spiritual rust that is not being lubricated by the many services on cable networks, on social media and on radio?
Now, this is not to mean that the church all subscribed to the sentiment of a misdirected few. It has indeed risen to identify with the crisis and support the effort of the Nigerian government —The Catholic church is one of many.
Whatever the unfounded reasons of some rebellion may be, churches are truly under threat. Again, not of any government unpleasant persecutions. There is the threat that the positions of Christians on godly worship may now rather be remote. That many may now choose to worship God from the comfort of their homes. And this may have been the issue all along.
Whatever the reasons may be, shall the church continue to stir divisions until its integrity becomes undermined?
At a time like this, when people are increasingly despaired by deaths, left and right, some of friends or family, and the loss of their livelihood, the church should preach hope and not find itself guilty of unfounded rebellion.