Category Archives: religion

Christians Sing while People Die

 

The Winnipeg Free Press (Tom Brodbeck) has again reported on the effect that Christians have been having on the health of Manitobans.

“First the reporters explained how Intensive Care Units are working.  According to the Free Press

“Manitoba’s intensive care units can handle close to one new admission a day, on average, without disrupting normal hospital operations. Two per day, on a sustained basis, may force hospital administrators to redeploy staff to ICUs from other wards.

More than three daily admissions can lead to disaster — the kind Manitoba experienced earlier this year, when officials airlifted 57 COVID-19 patients out of province for critical care treatment. ICU patients tend to remain in hospital for long periods, which means they pile up fast when admission rates are high.

That’s how Manitoba Health described its ICU capacity in October, when public health officials pleaded with people to get fully vaccinated and follow public health orders to reduce pressure on hospitals.”

 

Of course, the Winnipeg Free has already reported how many people in Southern Health particularly in the Winkler area (though Steinbach is not much better) have been repeatedly ignoring Manitoba’s public Health Orders. Worst of all, dozens of people have been gathering in “secret churches” in barns and sheds ordinarily used for farm equipment. They want to gather together and sing together, even though such activities are dangerous at this time.  At the same time the region has the lowest rate of vaccine acceptance in the province and among the worst rates in Canada. All of this is done in the name of religion and freedom. The results have been disastrous, not just for the Southern Health Region but for all of Manitoba. As Tom Brodbeck of the Winnipeg Free Press opined:

“Since then, the ICU situation has gone from bad to worse, largely owing to scores of unvaccinated patients — mostly from the Southern Health region— clogging up hospital beds and threatening to collapse Manitoba’s health-care system.

ICU admissions from Southern Health alone over the past month have been enough to trigger contingency planning at Manitoba hospitals.

By mid-November, the number of newCOVID-19 ICU admissions from Southern Health exceeded an average of one a day, according to statistics compiled from the province’s online data portal.

There were two ICU admissions from Southern Health some days in November. On Dec. 6, there were four. No other health region, including Winnipeg, had more than one ICU admission in a single day over the past month.

Between Nov. 12 and Dec. 12 (the most recent available data), 33 of 69 COVID-19 ICU admissions were from Southern Health. The region is home to about 15 per cent of Manitoba’s population.

During that same period, 15 ICU admissions came from Winnipeg, 13 from Prairie Mountain, five from Interlake-Eastern, and three from the Northern health region.”

 

It is reasonable to infer, that because so many people from Southern Health are using the ICUs, and because so many of them are unvaccinated and flaunt public health orders, that the Manitoba Health system is jeopardy. This is despite the fact that Southern Health accounts for only 15% of Manitoba’s population. Sadly, a small group of recalcitrant people who resist vaccine and health orders, is putting the lives of Manitobans at great risk. And in many cases, this is done in the name of religion.

Added to that, Brodbeck asserted,

“There is incontrovertible evidence that low vaccine coverage and a stubborn refusal to follow public health orders, including masking indoors and adhering to proof-of-vaccination policies, is killing and hospitalizing people from Southern Health at disproportionate rates.”

 

Moreover, during this time we constantly hear reports about over worked nurses and other staff who are on the verge of emotional and physical collapse as they try their best to help people who are harming themselves and others as a result of their failure to follow health orders.  As a result Brodbeck informed,

 “Hospitals have been forced to redeploy health-care staff and cancel thousands of procedures to accommodate that, leaving tens of thousands of Manitobans suffering in pain and misery on growing wait lists.

This is the direct result of a misguided and misinformed anti-vaccination campaign that has taken a foothold in parts of the province. It is also the result of a provincial government that has refused to effectively enforce public health orders.

Manitoba hospitals are averaging over three new ICU patients a day (around half from Southern Health, the vast majority of whom are not fully vaccinated). Instead of having enough capacity to absorb another wave, Manitoba hospitals already have 34 COVID-19 patients in ICUs and 135 in hospital overall.”

It really looks like Manitoba and Southern Health in particular are headed for disaster and people in Southern Health have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. They have illegally exercised their religious  freedom while they wreak havoc on the community. That is a strange kind of religion. If it is religion at all.

 

Religion of Thugs

 

I recently read about a strange  Kind of Christianity—Churches flaunt rules as People Suffer and  Die.

Here is what was reported in the  Winnipeg Free Press by Brenda Suderman,

“Christian worshippers are secretly holding church services in farm sheds and machine shops in southern Manitoba communities as a way to evade Covid-19 public health orders.

Held on private properties, the Sunday services, attended by dozens, and up to hundreds,, have been organized to circumvent current public health rules, which required mask use and limit the size of religious gatherings if attendees are not full vaccinated for Covid-19 Communities in the Southern Health region have some of the lowest vaccination rates in Manitoba including Winkler and the Rural Municipality of Stanley, where the services are reportedly being held.”

According to Suderman, attendees gather in large insulated and heated farm buildings used for equipment maintenance, repair and storage. Usually, the buildings are equipped with overhead doors large enough to accommodate big farm machinery and have one two doors for pedestrians and perhaps an occasional window.

It appears nothing is being done by the province because the local MLA and current Manitoba Minister of Justice who oversees the criminal justice system and is responsible for making sure Manitoba’s laws are enforced said,

“It’s very sensitive. We’re also trying to send the message that we know how important it is for people to gather to meet their spiritual needs… If there were some groups of people looking to meet in clandestine ways in undisclosed locations, it would be very challenging to monitor.”

 

Perhaps Manitoba’s police are too busy checking up on drivers driving without wearing seat belts.

What makes the negligence of the Minister of Justice even more disturbing is the sharp rise of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in this region where Christians flout the law. Christians are flouting the law to facilitate their personal desires for freedom and as a direct result Manitobans are dying and being put at risk of further harms.  What kind of Christianity is that?

In a previous post I called this the religion of thugs. Actually, it’s not religion at all.

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The religion of Us vs. Them

 

I have bravely commented before in this blog that when religion leads to hate, it is no longer religion.  I still believe that. More firmly than ever in fact. But obviously, many religious adherents, though not all, think otherwise. Unsurprisingly, this is coming up during COVID-19.  Dan Lett a Winnipeg Free Press opinion columnist has written a recent piece commenting on this phenomenon.

He commented on statements made by Manitoba’s Minister of Justice Cameron Friesen who happens to represent the region of Manitoba that contains Winkler and the Rural Municipality of Stanley, that have the lowest rates of vaccine uptake in the province and the highest rates of COVID-19. For more than a month now, the Southern Health Region of Manitoba that contains those two communities, and of course, Steinbach and our surrounding rural municipality of Hanover, which also have similar rates, have had very low rates of vaccine uptake and very high rates of new COVID cases. Friesen was recently asked about the news that many people in his region were attending church services in private homes and bars in efforts to get around Manitoba’s public health orders that prevented them from meeting together in churches as closely as they wanted.

Friesen was asked if the province would start enforcing those health orders.  That was hardly a surprising question, but his response was surprising. As the Winnipeg Free Press reported,

“Friesen assured Manitobans that enforcement was taking place but that it would be difficult to find the underground churches, and that the government’s efforts may not necessarily result in fines or tickets.

“We’re also trying to send the message that we know how important it is for people to gather to meet their spiritual needs.”

 

Holding both of those positions at once is about like riding two horses at the same time. When they inevitably ride apart, the rider is bound to get a splitting headache or worse. As Lett said, “In one sentence, Friesen confirmed this government’s tolerance for the deliberate actions of some that has sparked and driven a dangerous fourth wave of COVID-19.”

Lett concluded this was clear evidence that the Manitoba government was prepared to acquiesce in allowing Christians to break the law. Lett believes this suggests the Conservative government of Manitoba is prepared to permit the perpetual pandemic that could follow. As Lett said,

“A combination of tolerance, education and enforcement has not been able to convince tracts of people in some communities in southern Manitoba to embrace public health orders. The Morden-Winkler area in particular has become an epidemiological and ideological battleground, with the province’s health-care system caught in the crossfire.”

 

As I mentioned, Steinbach is really in that same community though with a little less rebellious vigour.

Lett suggested that at the very least Friesen ought to have told Manitobans

“While acknowledging the importance of worshipping in person, Friesen could have said now was not the time for worship in large numbers not permitted by public health orders. Further, he might have shown the courage to serve his fellow Christians an inconvenient truth: in-person worship is important, but it is not a transcendent Christian value.”

 Lett pointed out that for some reason Churches in southern Manitoba in particular have put in-person worship during the pandemic as a tradition that trumps all others. He asked, what happened to other Christian values? The vast majority of other churches have accepted, though often not without reluctance, that Manitoba has the right to impose restrictions on gatherings, even religious gatherings, to try stem the tide of the disease.

 As Lett opined,

 “Increasingly, the leaders of these churches turn to the Bible in an effort to justify their emphasis on in-person worship. And to be sure, worshipping in a group is an important element in the Christian identity.

However, many other religious leaders have made it clear: this one element of faith was never intended to take precedence over other Christian imperatives like loving one another, and making sacrifices for our family, friends and neighbours.”

 

After that Lett asked a very good question, namely, how did we get into this mess?  Lett suggested the cause was “many of the truly die-hard anti-vax, anti-mask and anti-social distancing citizens find community with each other through churches.”

 This leads me to the point I wanted to make. Many churches have shown their willingness to abide by Manitoba’s health orders and have recognized that God does not require in person church services at all times. But these churches, mainly from southern Manitoba, have instead demonstrated that they have, what Lett called,  an “us against the world” philosophy” that  runs deep.That is precisely the attitude I believe is deeply anti-religious. When churches find that attitude running deep, they should consider whether or they are still religions at all.

Lett concluded his column by saying,

“Whether he’s deferring to constituents in an effort to preserve his political career, or he truly believes individuals should be allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want, his comments are irresponsible. But he utters them with knowledge and comfort that in certain faith circles, he is a hero.”

 

I would go even farther than Lett. I would suggest that perhaps he is not even catering to a faith group at all, but rather, a group of thugs who think they can do whatever they want in the name of religion. Is thugs too strong a word? I think not. You can call them Christians. I call them thugs.

 

Health Care workers say they love Jesus, vote Conservative, and abandon their patients

 

The number of Manitoba’s front line health care workers has been rising since Monday when they were required to show they had been vaccinated or agree to undergo test before working in the health care system. Here is the latest according to the Winnipeg Free Press:

“The number of front-line health-care workers who are on unpaid leave because they refuse to provide proof of vaccination or take a COVID-19 test has grown to 158 — more than half of whom work in the Southern Health region.

Management has had to redeploy staff from other programs in the region to Eastview Place in Altona and Salem Home in Winkler “to ensure ongoing quality care and services,” a Shared Health spokesman said Wednesday.”

 

In other words, even though the Southern Health region includes only about 1/5th  of the population in Manitoba, it still has more than half of the health care workers who refuse to get vaccinated and also refuse to take the Covid-19 tests to prove they are not carrying the disease. In fact, only 17 of the 158 of the workers who declined to get vaccinated and declined to get tested,  were employed by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and 83 in Southern Health. That means per capita the Southern Health region has 10 times as many health care workers refusing to come to work than Winnipeg had.  We should also remember that the Southern Health Region has a lot of Christians and Conservative voters.

So, they abandoned their patients instead, letting already badly over run fellow employees do their work for them so they could protest what they felt were unreasonable requirements. What is the reason for opposing tests? Many jurisdictions, unlike Manitoba, don’t give them an option. Manitoba is trying to accommodate them by giving them a reasonable option. I really am not sure what their objections to taking tests are.

As the Free Press reported,

“Last week, Salem Home and Tabor Home in Morden sent letters to residents’ families advising them of possible staffing shortages Monday when vaccination or COVID-19 testing became a requirement for direct-support workers, and they could be asked to help care for their loved ones.”

 

Once more this establishes that where there are Conservatives and Christians there are more likely to be people who don’t trust the science and are more likely to abandon their patients. In Winnipeg they just go about their jobs of helping vulnerable people. If Jesus were around here today he might ask, ‘which of these loved their neighbours?’ I think the answer is obvious.

 

Loathe Thy Neighbour

 

Recently Malak Abas wrote an article reporting that in Winkler, another community like Steinbach, civility is in short supply as shown by residents and businesses being harassed and abused at their places of work for following and enforcing provincial health orders. The headline for the article was a slight poke at the reported Christians in town: “Loathe Thy Neighbour.” It seem like the good citizens of Winkler think that is what the Good Book tells them to do.

 

The Free Press reporters visited Winkler and found that at a dozen businesses none of  implemented provincial wide public health orders that mandated actions to curb an expected fourth wave of Covid-19. The authorities want to avoid what is happening around the world in many places. Manitoban seem to think we can avoid the disasters elsewhere. Maybe because they think we have a direct line to the Big Guy.

What is really disconcerting is that Winkler has the second lowest vaccination rates in Manitoba.  The lowest of course, are in the surrounding Rural Municipality of Stanley. Steinbach and its surrounding Municipality, Hanover, are not far behind.  So far faith in God is not helping much, because Southern Health in which these communities are all located also has the highest rate of Covid-19. As the Free Press reported,  recently, “The province reported 88 new COVID-19 cases Friday; 30 of them — the highest number of any of the five regions — were in Southern Health, where Winkler is located.”

There seems to be a direct link between religious communities and high rates of Covid-19 and low rates of vaccination uptake. I have been exploring in this blog why that might be the case.

According to the Free Press, the vast majority of patrons in the restaurant the reporters visited were unmasked and were not asked to show proof of immunization as Manitoba’s health orders require. It seems, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, no one notices the sick when God is on their side.

Not only that but people in Winkler are getting nasty about their intransigence. As the Free Press reported,

Winkler is taking a break from being in Friendly Manitoba, it seems. “Not all, but some of them are just angry, they take it out on staff members at the store,” police Chief Ryan Hunt said. “We’re just seeing a lot of frustration.”

The Free Press also reported that a woman, who asked to remain anonymous because she feared a backlash toward her business or her family said,

“she hadn’t asked the Free Press reporter to wear a mask in the store out of a sense of defeat. People who aren’t following the rules in stores often get loud. And even violent. “They’re very negative,” she said. “They yell, they swear, they spit, they refuse to stand behind the plastic shields.”

Things were so bad that one business owner posted this sign on its door: “Kindness is mandatory. Proof of kindness required at front entrance.”

One would have thought Christians did not need such a reminder. One would have thought wrong.

 

Christians, Conservatives and Unreason

 

I do not think it is a coincidence that so many Christians and Conservatives have had such a mesmerizing journey to unreason. In both cases many among the groups have abandoned all standards of truth seeking. In fact, many in both camps have abandoned truth entirely. Once the standards of truth, and even worse, once all respect for truth itself, have been abandoned in one area such as faith without evidence, or belief in things that are so obviously untrue like stolen elections, it is very difficult to get those important standards back when they are urgently needed. For example, we need them now when we confront an international climate crisis that may be the crucial crisis of our generation, or when we confront an international health pandemic such as Covid-19, it is almost impossible to retrieve those standards no matter how urgent it is to do so.

That is why we must always be so careful not to abandon evidence based decision making and critical thinking Those skill are vitally important.

In the US the conservatives are led by the Republican Party. According to Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman,

“Here’s what we know about American politics: The Republican Party is stuck, probably irreversibly, in a doom loop of bizarro. If the Trump-incited Capitol insurrection didn’t snap the party back to sanity — and it didn’t — nothing will.”

In the U.S. the Republican Party very briefly after the insurrection on January 6, 2021 flirted with the idea of dealing with Trump. Their Senate leader Mitch McConnell said what Trump did was impeachable but then soon abandoned that position and now seems to support him as do so many other of his party. The leader of the party in the House of Representatives also briefly said Biden won the election and Trump bore some responsibility for the attack on Congress but soon began to kiss the ring of Trump. It does not matter that Trump is unhinged. This is how Krugman described the Republicans: “In other words, the G.O.P.’s national leadership, after briefly flirting with sense, has surrendered to the fantasies of the fringe. Cowardice rules.” In Texas the party adopted the QAnon slogan “We are the storm.” QAnon is about as loopy as it get, but the Republicans are close behind. In Oregon the Republicans endorsed the claim that the insurrection on the Capitol was a left-wing false flag operation.

Part of the problem is the incredible rise in extremism fuelled in part by their cheer leaders at Fox News. This is what Krugman said about that,

This opens the door to a process of self-reinforcing extremism (something, by the way, that I’ve seen happen in a minor fashion within some academic subfields). As hard-liners gain power within a group, they drive out moderates; what remains of the group is even more extreme, which drives out even more moderates; and so on. A party starts out complaining that taxes are too high; after a while it begins claiming that climate change is a giant hoax; it ends up believing that all Democrats are Satanist pedophiles.

Like I have been saying, when you give up evidence based decision making, it is difficult to get it back when you need. Republicans show no signs of wanting to get it back. Instead, as Krugman said, “One of America’s two major political parties has parted ways with facts, logic and democracy, and it’s not coming back.”

In Manitoba we are currently plagued by an evidence free zone created by conservatives and Christians particularly in our southern health region where I have the misfortune of living. Particularly in a time of pandemic this sleep of reason is a very dangerous thing.

Know Jesus; Know Peace

Winnipeg Free Press Photo August 24, 2021

 

Southern Manitoba continues to lead the way on the stupid Olympics. When Umberto Eco, the Italian author, talked about the invasion of stupid he could have been talking about us.

A Municipal councillor from the Rural Municipality of Stanley, that surrounds the city Winkler, which have the worst and second worst rates of Covid-19 vaccine uptake in Manitoba,  permitted a sign on his property that clearly disparaged the vaccine. It had a graphic of a syringe with the word “Experimental” written inside it referring to the fact that it has been approved on an emergency basis. I don’t think that makes it experimental, but many in our area believe that is what it means. Clearly this was intended to sow distrust in the vaccine among the undecided. Or perhaps to mock those who had taken it. It also had the words “Know Jesus Know Peace” written on it as well. This was a reference to the Black Lives Matter protesters who often carried signs that said, “No Justice No Peace.”

This is dangerous stuff in a Rural Municipality where about only 20% of eligible people have taken the vaccine when we desperately need all the confidence in it that we can get to encourage people to take the vaccine and prevent a deadly 4th wave of the virus that might again overwhelm our health system.  With my wife Christiane finally having a tentative date for her brain surgery we cannot afford to take the chance of another 5 months delay like we just experienced in the 3rd wave. Hopefully the vaccine can help us avoid that, but if everyone was like the people around Winkler we would be in trouble.

 

The sign on the councillor’s property was actually installed by Travis Fehr a local farmer  who told the Free Press that he believes he has important information that indicates the authorities have been hiding a drug treatment for the virus. Presumably that is because the government wants to use the virus to control us.  He has placed other signs in the community that explain “his goal is to spread a religious message that encourages people to trust in God before ‘Pastors, or politicians, or doctors or anybody else.” I suppose when he needs his appendix removed or heart surgery he will trust in God rather than doctors or politicians. According to a local doctor, Don Klassen, there is in his area a common belief that  “a wide network hiding is information about a treatment for Covid from the public.”

Fehr also said, “I believe that God is going to start a fiery revival for Jesus in Manitoba, and so I want to be a part of that. So I do have some signs out there.”

The Free Press also reported that Fehr set up

“a rotating set of messages, including calling the vaccine a “#Clotshot,” suggesting the drug Ivermectin (typically used as a de-wormer for livestock) is a proven successful treatment for COVID-19 and implying the vaccination rollout violates the Nuremberg Code.”

According to the Winnipeg Free Press Fehr gets his vast medical knowledge on “Telegram, a messenger app that touts its privacy features and is known for hosting far-right personalities that are often banned on mainstream apps.”  Again we get that toxic connection between untruth, religion and conservative politics. I wonder why these people hide their cure that would no doubt enable them to earn hundreds of millions of dollars.

Just today I heard that Manitoba Covid-19 cases jumped again. More than twice as many today (105) than yesterday (41). And guess what—almost half of them in Manitoba were from our Southern Health region. Either the Lord doesn’t care about us, or Covid-19 knows where the idiots can be found.

It never ceases to amaze me what people in the Bible belt are prepared to believe. Know Jesus; Know Peace.

Vaccine Unreason and the offspring of credulity

I am still trying to understand why so many people are reluctant to use what many scientists consider the greatest medical achievement of modern times–vaccines.  What is going on?

When we give up critical thinking in favour of things like faith, or wishful thinking we can get into the habit of believing crazy things. That is why Patrick Moynhan an American sociologist, politician and diplomat made this very important statement about truth: “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” We must always respect truth and the truth-seeking process. If we are not on constant guard to defend this, we can become easy prey for demagogues.  There have been many of them around the world, not just America.  According to author Kurt Anderson, who was interviewed by Charlie Rose a couple of years ago, “Trump in effect says that anything that is inconvenient to me or that I disagree with is, fake news.”  If we give up on all standards of truth, we become dangerously bereft–babes ready for the slaughter.

Anderson also pointed out on the television show with Rose, and in his book FantasyLand, that “America has always been exceptionally religious compared to the rest of the world… Outliers in our religiosity compared to the rest of world, not just a little bit, but a lot. We are not like the rest of the developed world, we are much more religious.” According to Anderson that had radical consequences for America. That made Americans credulous—ready, willing, and eagerly able, to swallow all kinds of fantastic beliefs for which there was no evidence.

Anderson spoke before the Covid-19 pandemic, but it was the perfect example of what he meant. Instead of trusting in science, many of us, too many of us, have placed our faith in the Internet instead. That has led directly to catastrophic consequences in our failure to defeat Covid-19. When we experience an international health emergency, as we recently have been,  we need our best defences open to us. That in such circumstances is science–not fanciful Internet “research.”

All of this, as I have been saying for some time, has serious consequences well beyond religion. Anderson put it this way, “Once as a culture you are more inclined to believe in magic, in supernatural events, it won’t stay in its religious realm. It will leach out into not believing in climate change say.” Or it will leach out to distrusting medical experts like Anthony Fauci in favour of demagogues. And that can–as it did–cost an enormous loss of life and health. Credulity has serious consequences.  We are experiencing them now.

 

Kurt Anderson also pointed out how credulity, as bad as it is, can easily be supercharged by what he calls the “fantasy industrial complex.” This includes not just organized religion but everything in the entertainment industry. In the US, he pointed out, everything becomes entertainment. Real estate business for example, becomes entertainment. Everything becomes part of show business. Religious leaders are show men. Politicians are showmen. This fantasy industrial complex uses modern technology skilfully to convince us of dubious truths and bald faced lies. Then the Internet came along and jacked this tendency up to the stars.

As a result, we should not be surprised when ordinary people believe outrageous claims. Ordinary people are part of a culture that leads them to believe without evidence. When critical skills are lost, and we learn to believe without evidence, we turn ourselves over to fake news and the demagogues that take advantage of it.

Religious Sexual Predators

 

Most students came to Indian Residential Schools with little knowledge of sexual activity and were very confused by what was happening to them. As the TRC  described it,

“Abuse left them injured, bewildered, and often friendless or subject to ridicule by other students.  Many students thought they were the only children being abused. This confusion made it difficult for them to describe or report their abuse. Some were told they would face eternal damnation for speaking of what had been done to them.”

 

Some students did not report the abuse because they feared (often with justification) that no one would believe them. Some students who reported abuse were told it was their fault. After all good Christian leaders would never do such heinous things that were being alleged. Former students told of how betrayed they felt when nothing was done about their complaints. Many felt ashamed of what happened to them. Many felt it was their fault. After all they had been taught how unworthy they were. As the TRC reported,

“Family members often refused to believe their children’s reports of abuse, intensifying their sense of isolation and pain. This was especially so within families that had adopted Christianity, and could not believe that the people of God looking after their children would ever do such things.”

 

There was no safe haven for the vulnerable children in residential schools. Some students were “assaulted in the church confessional.”

 If there is no special place for religious predators in hell there is no  justice. I don’t really believe in eternal damnation, but iIf anyone deserves eternal damnation these religious predators did.

 

Which Church is more Christ-like?

 

I heard recently that the Winkler hospital was overwhelmed. Does anyone doubt that might have something to do with the number of vaccine hesitant people live in that region?

Yesterday I tried to describe what happened when a hospital is overwhelmed. It affects not just people with Covid-19, but many others who can’t get the treatment they deserve. Sometimes that can risk their lives. It is serious stuff.

We have also heard how Manitoba is considering sending Intensive Care Unit patients to the United States. Many have already gone to Ontario. This is serious stuff.

Now think about what some of the churches are doing. First there, are churches like Church of God Restoration near Steinbach,  and others that continue to disobey health orders, refusing to take Covid-19 seriously. They  have continued to have indoor services for at least 3 Sundays in a row, contrary to health orders because they demand the freedom to assemble to worship. They can worship from anywhere they choose of course.  Frankly, I think they are being selfish.

Then there are the people of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Winkler, also part of the Bible belt, in a region that has the lowest rates of vaccination take up in Manitoba. Yet this church, according to Brenda Suderman of the Winnipeg Free Press, unlike the Church of God Restoration,  “has consistently walked the straight and narrow path.” This church appreciates religious freedom too, but has instead “committed to keeping their southern Manitoba community of 13,000 as safe as possible.”

The pastor of family ministries of this church, Corey Hildebrandt, has said, “We’d like to follow the spirit of the law, not simply the letter of the law, so we’re not trying to find loopholes and backdoor ways of gathering…We’re trying to keep us safe versus restrictions telling us what to do.”

In the early days of the pandemic the Winkler church consulted some of the congregation’s 25 or so medical professionals, including 5 doctors , asking their opinion as scientists on how to deal with Covid-19 and got advice on what was the safest way to proceed. As a result, they quickly shifted to online worship as early as March 20, 2020 when Manitobans were just starting to see early effects of the pandemic. Since then, they only met in person a few times when that was permitted by provincial health restrictions being eased. As Suderman reported,

“After a second consultation with medical professionals, Hildebrant said the congregation decided to continue live streaming instead of reopening when religious institutions were allowed to have smaller gatherings earlier this year, fearing case numbers would rise again with the projected third wave.

“We took a fair bit of heat for that,” said Hildebrant, recalling talk on the streets his congregation was afraid.

We were not afraid actually; We were trying to be good neighbours.”

 

This church, unlike the Church of God Restoration, realized that safety precautions, such as keeping a safe distance, wearing masks, and obeying health orders were not just about keeping themselves safe; it was about keeping their neighbours safe too. They have tried to help Manitoba’s hospitals from being overwhelmed. The Church of God restoration instead spends its time challenging laws designed to protect the public while Manitoba has had the highest rates of Covid-19 in all of North America.

Who is the good neighbour? Which church is behaving more Christ-like?