A local Mennonite Pastor in Steinbach, Kyle Penner, whose views deserve respect, recently wrote an article in the Winnipeg Free Press after all the negative press our community has been receiving as a result of the actions of some of the more conservative members of our community. Not all I must point out. Some conservative Christians were interviewed and demonstrated their scepticism about the accepted science about the coronavirus. In a free society everyone is entitled to give his or her opinion. But that doesn’t means they are exempt from criticism. Nor should they be. Even on matters affected by religion. Penner was upset because people were blaming the conservative Christians online in a non-Christian spirit.
Penner’s opening paragraph struck home:
“We are dying here. So please, everyone who has suddenly got it in for Steinbach: get off your high horse and lead with compassion instead of smugness.”
I must admit that opened a wound. I have probably been guilty of smugness in relation to these conservative Christians. My bad. But does that end the matter?
I want to be compassionate. I feel for the people who have become ill. I feel for the their families and loved ones. I feel for the people who might feel guilty about perhaps being the spreader of the coronavirus. I feel particularly sympathetic and grateful to the health care workers who have been working tirelessly to protect us. And that is exactly why I believe the conservative Christians deserve to be criticized. Not drawn and quartered, but firmly and clearly criticized.
It is precisely the conservative Christians and others like them who have been denying the Covid science often in favor of dangerous disinformation about the coronavirus. They have refused to wear masks or maintain social distancing. They have not been respecting our health care workers. The words and actions of these Covid deniers have been causing irreparable harm to others in the name of dubious claims from the Internet which they have been given an unseemly religious or constitutional gloss. They have lulled others into a false sense of security. They have helped to erode truth. They claim they have the religious freedom to gather and decide whether or not they will wear masks, thus endangering the lives of others.
They have contributed to the terrible heaping on of extra work on our health care system and it’s professionals and with it extra risks of serious harm, and they have been doing that in the name of God. By their reckless actions they have created serious health risks to thousands of other people young and old and particularly the most vulnerable members of our society. Those actions do not deserve acquiescence; they deserve criticism. That criticism should be delivered with compassion and kindness, but it must be delivered firmly. These people with their misguided views are a serious public health hazard. Their misinformation should be challenged or we are also contributing to that danger.
I don’t want to be a part of any mob laying blame for the pandemic on the conservative Christians. I believe their influence thankfully is not great. But it not non-existent either.
Mr. Penner says be kind and compassionate. I agree completely. That’s why we can’t let the conservative Christians off the hook on this one. Criticism is deserved.