By Norman Ridenhour
Baptist layman and retired newspaper editor
The coronavirus has reeked heartbreaking stories of people throughout the world. Anyone who reads or listens to the news receives daily reports of the death, hospitalization and fear across the globe.
Spousal abuse and divorce rates going through the roof, small business owners closing and losing everything they have spent a lifetime building. Government debt continues to rise to highs no one could have dreamed of, and suicides are at record levels.
The government has tried to ease the pain through unemployment dollars and direct assistance to the taxpayers.
Still, we hear stories of our elderly who lose their life when infected by others.
We hear of the despair worldwide caused by this virus. We read of the researchers around the world working tirelessly to find a cure and vaccine to defeat this pandemic.
Here in the Southeast people have often been referred to as “Bible Belt” folks, so where does religion fit during these troubled times? This question always comes up when tragedy hits and we demand answers from our faith leaders.
A good example would be the twin towers attack on Sept. 11, 2001. People were shocked, angry, demanding retribution. We also saw a record number of people attending church and praying for relief and answers.
The church has always been a refuge when tragedy occurs, but it was only a matter of time before the attendance numbers fell to previous levels. It seems Americans drop to their knees and beg for God’s assistance when no other answer is found to meet our needs. Once the crisis fades it seems believers take the attitude “Okay Lord, I can handle it now.”
Do we see a difference today in the attitudes of people across the world?
I’m not sure, but some statistics are interesting. Many churches have closed, some open with every other pew closed to maintain distance and masks are mandatory. In some states churches are not allowed to open, even when sitting in cars in the church parking lot. Those worshipers were fined or arrested. At the same time demonstrations against our government were approved and all safety precautions ignored.
Worship goes on through streaming services on television, computers and wireless phones. A group of pastors at Third Baptist Church in Murfreesboro was asked “If people become accustomed to sitting in their pajamas on their couch, will they stop coming in person?” The answer, which is probably shared by most faith leaders, “We hope not.”
When asked if streaming over the airways should stop when the pandemic is over, senior pastor Keith Myatt replied: “We can’t stop. More people are watching the streaming service than were attending before the virus.”
Statistics prove he is right. Normally attendance is from 500-600 people. On a typical Sunday they have 700-1000 viewers hearing the message. “We can’t stop trying to reach these viewers,” Myatt said.
While 200-300 are local viewers, a surprising number are viewers from different parts of the world. Streaming results showed viewers from all over the United States but 30-50 are from Canada, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates with the largest total from India.
It would seem God is working when no one else is allowed to work. B&R — Ridenhour is a member of Third Baptist Church, Murfreesboro.