- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The vast majority of people who came to America in her founding days did so to obtain the freedom to worship freely. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland — they were settled as “plantations of religion.” The Pilgrims of Massachusetts were determined to live according to their Puritan biblical beliefs. Even Virginia’s colonists, commercialized in their ambitions as they were, were steadfast Protestants, dedicated to the firm establishment of their faith in the new land.

Fast forward to 2020, the time of the coronavirus outbreak, and churches have closed.


The pews are empty, the priests and pastors are preaching to online audiences — perhaps.

And yet, Walmart is open.

Target remains open for business.

Shoppers fill the aisles of retail giants — retail giants that have ostensibly been left open to meet the material needs of the people, the food, the toiletries, the medicines, the baby items and so forth.

But what of spiritual needs?

For that, we’re told: Go online. There’s live-stream.

It’s one thing for the nation to hunker down to wait out a crisis, to deal with a widespread health issue, to put the medical risks of others above the medical risks of self.

It’s another thing entirely to close church doors and keep open Walmart. Priorities, please?

This is hardly the stuff of strong Christian testimony — which is to also say this is hardly the stuff of America’s source of exceptionalism.

In the Bible is a story of faith that has Elijah, a prophet of the Lord, wagering with the pagan followers of Baal over bulls prepared for sacrifice, amid a massive national crisis — a drought and famine. Elijah said, “Let two bulls be given to us; and let [Baal’s followers] choose one bull for themselves,” but “put no fire to it. And you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, he is God.”

So they did.

And the followers of Baal called on their fake god’s name for hours and hours — but no fire appeared.

So Elijah mocked.

“Cry aloud,” he said, “for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone inside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”

When Elijah called on God, of course, God fired up his bull. Bold is an understatement. Elijah stood up to 450 of the priests of Baal, along with untold numbers of assembled Israelites. But it’s this type of bold that’s in America’s DNA.

That’s the spirit that drove America’s settlers to sacrifice all for the sake of their faith — to boldly sail to a new land, in the face of dangers and unknowns, in order to establish places of worship that would be free of meddlesome governments.

Where’s that spirit now? Where’s that bold faith in the face of adversity, in the midst of a health scare, in the throes of a national crisis?

Sadly, darkly — locking church doors and shopping at Walmart.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.

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