There’s seeking guidance from God, and then there’s following the foolish and dangerous directive of a misguided man.

For one local congregation, Cross Culture Christian Center, the latter holds true. Sounds harsh, but as a wise man once said, it is what it is.

On Sunday, a couple dozen members of the congregation attended a morning service, some mingling outside and greeting each other with hugs before entering their church. Sounds innocent enough, except they were defying state and county orders barring public gatherings as our community takes drastic measures to stop the spread of a highly contagious and deadly virus for which we have no vaccine and no cure.

So for the time being, social distancing to slow the spread is one of the best courses of action to confront a pandemic that has killed thousands, wreaked havoc on our health care system and wrecked our once-thriving economy.

The church’s justification: The orders are an attack on their religious freedoms, and their defiance of the orders a constitutional stand. In ordinary times, yes. But these are extraordinary times.

I think it’s safe to say that most residents in this community — those who live in Lodi and are law-abiding citizens, those who have hunkered down in their homes, those who have shuttered their businesses, those who have been sent to the unemployment line, those who have buried loved ones without a proper service, those who have canceled weddings and birthday parties, those who have missed out on their final high school games, their proms and maybe even their graduations, those who are elderly and confined to their rooms, those who tend to the hungry hordes, those who protect and care for us at their own peril — don’t appreciate your Sunday shenanigans.

The people of this community are making painful economic and social sacrifices to ensure the safety of their families, their friends, their neighbors. Your selfish and senseless act of defiance will only serve to undermine those efforts.

This isn’t about protecting freedoms, it’s about abusing them. You’re not defending our constitutional rights, you’re offending our sensibilities.

We respect the role that religious institutions play in our community and understand the importance of protecting the freedoms granted them. With that said, simply following orders during a temporary state of emergency does not jeopardize your religious freedom. However, recklessly disregarding the orders does jeopardize our public health.

There are reasonable alternatives during this time of crisis — many places of worship are holding online services — but Cross Culture Pastor Jon Duncan told the News-Sentinel that gathering in public is “non-negotiable” for the church and added that online services “don’t cut it biblically.”

An argument steeped in deep faith, yet devoid of deep thought.

It’s not my place to judge, but if your spirituality is confined within the walls of a church, then your faith seems to rest on a faulty foundation.

Duncan went on to say that he’s disappointed that other churches haven’t taken a stand.

Yet, if you look closely, united they stand. United in protecting the safety of their congregations, united in protecting the safety of the communities they serve.

You should join them, Pastor Duncan.

If not, if that doesn’t cut it, perhaps you and your congregation can shelter in place for a 14-day service. That’s a stand we can all get behind.

You can contact Editor Scott Howell at scotth@lodinews.com.

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