April 12, 2020

Most Christians Are Not Attending Church This Easter

easter eggs

The topic of some Christian pastors holding face-to-face church services despite shelter-in-place orders has been receiving considerable attention. This should not be surprising. After all, this sort of thing endangers us all, whether we believe the religious nonsense being spewed at such services or not. It is in this context that I'd like to mention that most of the Christians I know are not attending face-to-face church services this Easter. Most are not attending any sort of church services.

For the Christians who are serious about celebrating Easter as a religious holiday, I would not think that the shelter-in-place orders would be a big deal. If they believe their god is everywhere, it should not matter whether they worship it from a church or from home. If they really think they have a personal relationship with Jesus, it seems like he would understand why they are home. Moreover, they shouldn't need any sort of clergy to navigate their relationship. And those who have actually bothered to read their bibles should know that they should be avoiding the spectacle of public prayer. Perhaps this Easter can simply be a time to spend with family and acknowledge Jesus from the safety of their homes.

Throughout much of the year, we hear from Christians about what a deeply personal matter their faith is. They tell us that it is between them and their god, that it is sacred, and all sorts of other things along these lines. If any of that is accurate, they shouldn't need others to practice it. Perhaps they'd even find it more meaningful if they stripped away all the extraneous components and went back to basics: no clergy, no hymns, no church.

The problem is obvious, though, isn't it? The thing that so many Christians find attractive about their faith has little to do with what they believe in some abstract or detached sense and far more to do with what some refer to as "fellowship." They are drawn to it because of the other people. Not only does this help them meet their social needs, but it serves the vital function of reinforcing beliefs that quickly fall apart under scrutiny. By surrounding themselves with like-minded believers, they fend off reality a bit longer.

I suspect the main reason we are seeing some churches going ahead with services is financial. But as far as why anybody is showing up, I suspect this fellowship component is even more important. Their faith seems to be fragile enough that it depends on others to a greater extent than it initially appears it should. It needs the shield provided by like-minded believers, and so they have the urge to gather.