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BY REV. POSEY KRAKOWSKY

August 18, 2021
Greg Locke is one of many pastors and Christians failing their neighbors on COVID safety.
Pastors in some churches continue to spread anti-vaccination and anti-masking disinformation from their pulpits - via WKPN News 2 Tennessee.
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” - Matthew: 22:37-40
Many ordained clergy are required to do chaplaincy training in a hospital, hospice, or prison setting before their ordination. A key skill for chaplains to internalize is to meet those they are counseling where they are” — in other words, to ask questions, listen, make observations, listen, offer comfort, prayer, and solace, and then listen, listen, and listen some more. Even when encountering a person who expresses a vastly different theology from their own, chaplains dont confront or seek to argue with them theologically. This is especially true if the person they are attending is in a time of great distress. If one is blessed with an opportunity to propose a different point of view, by all means, it can be gently suggested. Sometimes such an offering bears fruit, because it comes at a time when the person is open in a different way than they ever have been before.
 
Moments of vulnerability are sacred — and the Spirit knows how to work through a chaplain to use them. But heres the thing: such Spirit-driven moments are an offering. They are a knock at the door. They are never an indoctrination attempt. People hold on to their particular beliefs for a reason, often one so deep that they may not even be aware of it. In such times, the responsibility of a chaplain is not to pummel, but instead to listen, to love, and to reassure. Maybe the Spirit will be able to change a heart. Maybe not. The chaplain is there to walk beside, bear witness, and be the vehicle through which a Spirit-filled message could be sent.
 
In the summary of the law from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus reinforces the connection of our love of God with the love of neighbor, because the two are inextricably bound together. In tying them together, Jesus reaffirms that each and every one of us is beloved of God, as we are, where we are, and however we are. To love our neighbor is to recognize that just as we are Gods beloved, they are Gods beloved also.
 
So how does that relate to the pastors spreading anti-vaccination and anti-masking disinformation? It seems to me that these pastors are utterly failing when it comes to living up to their responsibility to their congregations. They are not being good shepherds to their sheep. To threaten that a congregant will be removed from the assembly for wearing a mask or for getting vaccinated is to twist the words of Jesus by denying the sacred nature of their humanity. One way of loving ones neighbors and honoring that they too are beloved of God is to do everything one can to protect them. This is never more true than in a global pandemic.
 
Right now we are living through a time of enormous uncertainty and transition. The Spirit is offering us an opportunity to see the world differently — to put others before ourselves. It has been a harder year-and-a-half than any of us ever expected to encounter. And yet so many of us are honoring God by loving our neighbors, doing whatever we can to keep them safe. Do not let the angry shrieking of those whose hearts are hardened cause you to despair. Even now, the Spirit is seeking, seeking, seeking a way to reach them.
While it is hard not to despise those who lie and spread disinformation about the virus, responding with our own vitriol will not help. One good response is to pray for them, to pray fervently that their hearts will cease to be so hardened. Pray that the Spirit will find a way to reach them and let her light in.
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 231)
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