COVID-19 spread into Maryland and the Governor declared a state of emergency. McLean Bible Church Montgomery County informed the congregation of how they were going to proceed. Things however changed quickly. This post also looks briefly at the history of Christians and pandemics and asks the question how will Evangelical Christians react to the coronavirus? Will evangelicals after proclaiming Jesus riot over toilet paper in Aisle 5 of Target?
“We experience moments absolutely free from worry. These brief respites are called panic.”
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV
Mike Kelsey of McLean Bible Montgomery County
The coronavirus which has been a pandemic arrived in Maryland when three cases were confirmed in early March. On the evening of Thursday March 5, 2020, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency. The coronavirus had implications for a number of churches in the Washington, D.C. area, let’s look at McLean Bible Montgomery County’s campus.
How Mike Kelsey and McLean Bible Reacted to the Maryland State of Emergency
Mike Kelsey leads McLean Bible Church Montgomery County. Mike Kelsey served at the head of Frontline in Silver Spring. Though I also remember him teaching at Tysons Corner as well. Mike Kelsey’s family has a strong history of being pastors in the Washington, D.C. area. He is married to Ashley and has three kids. One thing I will recall is how at Tysons Frontline once Mike Kelsey preached that it wasn’t cool that his married friends could sow their wild oats but he could not.
When Maryland declared a state of emergency about the coronavirus Mike Kelsey sent out an email to the Montgomery County congregation on March 6, 2020 at 11:05 a.m. Kelsey announced they were following the situation and still planned to meet the following Sunday. Below is what Mike Kelsey emailed the congregation.
Please join me in praying for the three individuals affected by the virus as well as for health professionals and government leaders working to keep everyone safe. I look forward to gathering with you all this Sunday!
McLean Bible Montgomery County established a coronavirus webpage for their congregation to be updated on events. You can read that webpage here. In time as the COVID-19 spread quickly in Maryland McLean Bible moved to cancel all services and move them online. I will publish the communications that the church sent out in additional posts.
Brief History of Christians and Pandemics
In Christian history there are several situations of plagues and pandemics that the church has dealt. One of the most devastating was the Black Death that took place between 1347 and 1351. In one of the most destructive plagues in human history and estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia perished. The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe’s population. The plague was likely carried by fleas on the backs of rats. Catherine of Siena became known for working with people ill from the plague. At one point Catherine is known for commanding a Catholic priest who was ill to get out of bed help the sick. The priest according to Catholic tradition was cured. Catherine of Siena became a saint in the Roman Catholic church were she is held in high esteem.
The Black Death is not the only plague that brought suffering to Europe. In my research there were several and in this section I will talk to a couple of them. In Caesarea Maritima which is in northern Israel once had Bishop Eusebius who was also a church historian. In one of the he larger cities in the Roman Empire a plague hit in the early fourth century. The population in response fled for the country side but the Christians stayed behind. Eusebius recorded as to how the Christians stayed and took care of the sick and nursed those who were ill and dying. This is what Eusebius said, “All day long some of them [the Christians] tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.” The behavior of the Christians led Roman emperor Julian the Apostate who ruled from 361 to 363 to state that it was Christian compassion that helped transform the faith to a leading movement in the Roman Empire. Julian wrote that the Christians should be the model by the Pagan Priests when it came to compassion. You can read more about this here.
Another plague notable in the decline of the Roman Empire is the Antonine Plague which is also known as the Galen Plague. This plague was brought to Rome by troops returning from military campaigns in the Near East. This plague is suspected of having taking the life of Roman emperor Lucius Verus in 169. Lucius at the time co-ruled with Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. Due to how this struck the Roman leadership the plague is associated with the Antonine family. This disease came back nine years later and led to 2,000 Romans dying each day. Up to 25% of the Roman population was affected by the outbreak. This plague as well as Cyprian is thought to have been either smallpox or measles. Christianity also spread during this plague as well. From 249 to 262 you had the Plague of Cyprian which greatly weakened the Roman Empire an disrupted food production and logistics. The plague caused manpower shortages but most notably in the Roman Army. The Bishop of Carthage Cyprian witnessed the plague and wrote about it. In an essay called “On Mortality,” Cyprian wrote the following. “The intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; the eyes are on fire with the infected blood; that in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction.” Half of all people who came in contact with the disease died. Many Christians during this plague pointed out that the Roman pagan religion did not spare or help those afflicted by the pandemic which helped spread Christianity.
After proclaiming Jesus is this how many members of McLean Bible Montgomery County are reacting to COVID-19? Rioting and hoarding toilet paper?
How Will Evangelicals React to the COVID-19 Pandemic?
During the plagues Christians were known for their generosity and kindness. How does that shape up with what we see today? While this post does deal with the COVID-19 pandemic one cannot forget how many Evangelical Christians reacted during the early years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Some Christians took delight in watching people who were gay die. Others said that God was punishing gays through the pandemic and that HIV was his judgement upon them. Evangelicals in the early years of the HIV crisis were known for their hate and cruelty in many ways. But what about COVID-19? That is a different pandemic that is spread in a similar way to measles, meaning its respiratory through coughing or sneezing.
The question must be asked by this blog. How will many evangelicals react to COVID-19? Will many while proclaiming the name of Jesus resort to fear and act in ways that show the world the hypocrisy of evangelicalism? Did people from McLean Bible Church Montgomery County go to a Target, Wal-Mart, Costco or other stores and riot over toilet paper? Is that an evangelical does after a Bible study? Instead of showing love did Christians show fear and fight each other over and others over that last roll of toilet paper. Did a riot over toilet paper supplement any of the upcoming mission trips to Ethiopia, Dominican Republic, or Ukraine? Many evangelicals are known for their hypocrisy. Time will tell but for me that video up above of people descending on the toilet paper could very well be McLean Bible Montgomery County reacting to COVID-19.