I live an hour and a half south of Redding, California, an economically depressed city of roughly 92,000, 10% of which attend the megachurch Bethel Redding. If you aren’t familiar with this lovely little place, allow me to enlighten you.
First off, it has a “school” called Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, or BSSM (not to be confused with BDSM). I put “school” in scare quotes because it is unaccredited, meaning that your degree doesn’t really count. After all, it’s kinda hard to pitch your expertise in “The Supernatural Nature of the Gospel,” taught by Bill Johnson, to a prospective employer, unless of course said employer is also into gold-dusted mumbo-jumbo of the highest order.
Second, BSSM is a bastion for Trumpian groupthink. Now, to be fair, in order to keep their tax-exempt status, they don’t, as Bethel mouthpiece Aaron Tesauro says, “promote or endorse any political candidates.” But, to be honest, that’s exactly what they do. They just do it without doing it, if you catch my meaning. For instance, in an op-ed for The Christian Post, Senior leader Bill Johnson endorsed FORMER President Donald Trump. And Senior associate leader Kris Vallotton prophesied (read: guessed) that God wanted Trump reelected (sorry God, but the people have spoken).
And lastly (at least for my purposes here), their leadership sucks at science and seems to care very little for keeping their community safe. And in the midst of a global pandemic that has, as of writing this, killed over 1,400,000 people, this is a very, very bad thing.
Now, putting aside my disdain for churches who embrace anti-intellectualism by founding an unaccredited school that hands out certificates with as much value as a Schrute Buck, what really grinds my gears is their disdain for the health and safety of the community they claim to love as they spew nonsense about how masks don’t work. But more than that: That they are going out of their way to harm others, all in the name of Jesus (you know, the guy who went out of his way to heal others).
For instance, Sean Feucht, a volunteer worship leader at the church, “led a nationwide ‘Let Us Worship’ tour in defiance of health mandates.” And Beni Johnson (wife of “professor” Bill) said in a now deleted Instagram video that she wouldn’t wear “a stupid freaking mask that doesn’t work.”
It’s good to know that the wife of a teacher at an unaccredited school knows more than the leading epidemiologist of the nation.
But I digress…
You’d think that no matter what you personally thought about masks, or social distancing, or washing your hands, or wiping down potentially COVID-infected surfaces, that you’d respect the people you claim to love by holding yourself to the standards set by the chief scientists in charge of studying this stuff. I mean, what better way to “love thy neighbor” than by putting aside your opinions, as well as some of your comforts (who likes wearing a mask all day?), for the sake of those you come into contact with?
You know, I often scoff at the question, “What Would Jesus Do?,” but it seems apropos here. What WOUD Jesus do? Well, I can’t be sure, since he lived in a pre-scientific age who didn’t understand virology. But I bet he wouldn’t be so arrogant to be responsible for the largest outbreak of a deadly disease in his county.
Love thy neighbor, my ass.
At the end of the day, what should matter to Christians is not what you believe (though that is important), but how you behave. Even if you erroneously think this isn’t a serious pandemic, you could at least do your community a favor and act like it is. I know the demigod who used to be the President, and who sat at the right hand of Jesus, gave mixed messages about the science of the situation, but news flash: That guy also started an unaccredited university. Are you starting to see the pattern here? I am.
So, unless you have a serious medical condition that prevents you from safely wearing a mask, wear a f****ing mask. Wash your f****ing hands. If you want to love your neighbor, you’ll do these things. To seriously love Jesus, you’ll put your own comforts behind the health and safety of others.
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