Call it Covid-19, or the Corona Virus, or by its old name The Wuhan Virus; we all know that the world has a dangerous viral infection, and it is spreading. Anything that I write about the infection will be out-of-date in a week, and I am not a medical expert with many things to say. The infection has been called a crisis, an epidemic, and maybe a pandemic. Words are important because the spreading infection is tied to politics and the economy. Governments are being criticized, and markets are losing money.
It’s a perfect storm, caused by a virus that is too small to see, even with a microscope.
Did you know, this viral infection is changing religion in a big way? All religions are changing and they might never change back. Life as we know it might be changing forever. I am not making this up.
In South Korea, a Christian went to church. She specifically went to a congregation of the “Shincheonji Church of Jesus” in the city of Deagu, South Korea. This person might be a 61-year-old woman, and she was infected with the virus. This infection can spread from people who are infected but a-symptomatic. The Christian who went to church probably did not know that she was sick, and she could infect others.
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The Christians in Daegu had their usual group meetings and worship services, and then they went home. Everything was innocent, except for the virus. The group meetings were an incubator for the spread of the infection, and then members took the virus to their families and friends. South Korea had a rapid increase in dangerous virus infections starting from one person, a Christian who went to one church.
As the disease continued to spread, an Iranian business man visited China. Possibly he visited Wuhan, the source of the infection. When he returned home, he brought the virus with him. Somehow, he became infected in China, and he travelled to the Iranian city of Qom. That city is described as “the conservative city of Shiite seminaries run by leading ayatollahs, about two hours from Tehran. It is also home to the Fatima Masumeh shrine—famed for its giant gold dome and intricate blue tilework—which draws pilgrims from all over the world.”
Religious pilgrims visit the shrine in Qom to pray for healing, or other spiritual blessings. They crowd into small spaces to pray, and they touch some walls or doors, and then they touch their faces. They all touch the same walls and doors. Their ancient religion has created a place where a viral infection can spread easily, and then thousands of worshippers return home, and their homes are in many parts of Iran, or some parts of the Middle East, and possibly anywhere in the world.
Apparently, the government of Iran told the religious leaders in Qom to stop the pilgrimages and change the dangerous practices, and they refused, with great indignation. No government was going to tell them how to worship God, or make them change ancient rituals, a thousand years old. As the infection rates, and the death toll in Iran increase I am sure the government will win the argument.
In Saudi Arabia, near Iran, the government might close the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam. The Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the most important events in the religion of Islam; every Muslim is supposed to make the trip once in a lifetime. The practice might end this year.
In Italy, the virus infection arrived in a northern city, probably from Iran. While the government struggles to fight the outbreak, there are concerns about the Pope in Rome, also in Italy. Recently, the Pope had an infection, and he was outside blessing the crowds. This included touching people and kissing at least one baby. I hope the Pope only has a cold, but some religious practices must change, because of the virus.
On Sunday, I plan to go to church but, in a few weeks, I might be told to stay home. My father is ninety-four, and I hope he stays home, starting now. I talked to my sister today about Dad’s safety. He won’t survive an infection.
And there are pilgrimages and community meetings for Hindus, and Buddhists, and Sikhs; and the Jehovah’s witnesses have huge conventions in sports stadiums, and the Mormons have their temples and special sites, and Christians like me have mega churches attended by thousands of people.
A tiny virus from China could change religion forever; all religions, everywhere.
We are living in interesting times.
If a vaccine is developed soon, and the virus is put down, we might all go back to what we were doing before. But if the virus wins, religion on this planet will change for everyone.
So, what should we do?
We should meet with God.
Jesus said to each one of us “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11: 28)
I was raised in a Christian family that went to a large church. Us children were told to attend something in the church three times a week, and we had some freedom in choosing the events. If a deadly virus had spread in our city, the church would have been a dangerous place.
I know that now, but my friends and I just got tired of all that religion. We outgrew it and moved on with our lives, or we had a meeting with God. I am on the God side. I learned the truth, that meetings with other religious people could not change me. I just learned how to conform and avoid criticism. I have learned the truth, that we all need to be reconciled with God. We need to become spiritual children of God, and no virus can change that.
In the Bible, the ancient Jewish believers lost everything when their nation was destroyed. Their holy city of Jerusalem burned and God’s temple was demolished. They lost everything, and then God spoke to them: