In Jeremiah 29:11, the namesake prophet wrote, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” It’s difficult for believers to reconcile this verse with the constant onslaught of human suffering, especially that which is brought on by the coronavirus.
Millions have prayed for the end of the pandemic, including Pope Francis himself, but so far, the disease is continuing to fester at the expense of the global economy.
So what does this mean on a divine level? Well, faint-of-heart believers often infer complacency on God’s part as hardships of this sort continue to happen, but zealous people of faith are always swift to vindicate God on this charge. Some believe the coronavirus is part of His plan, and that it is being utilized to test people’s faith. Others, however, believe something far less honorable.
Christian blogger Lori Alexander, for example, argued in a Facebook post that there’s some good behind the coronavirus because it is “pushing a lot of women back into their homes with their children.” In a blog post in which she also admitted to not being a hand-washer, Alexander wrote, “Maybe God will use this virus for good. Our culture needs a good wake up call,” then proceeded to claim that abortion and the existence of transgender people are “more destructive to our culture” than the pandemic and its effect on the stock market.
The megachurch leviathans have also responded to COVID-19 in idiotic ways. Fort Worth’s own Kenneth Copeland was quick to put his anointed hand toward the camera lens and “heal” viewers through God himself:
Kenneth Copeland healed viewers of the coronavirus through their televisions last night. pic.twitter.com/8lwHufTIy4— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) March 12, 2020
Another American pastor, Dionny Baez, offered help in a more predatory way. He said in a broadcast on a Norwegian Christian channel that viewers’ children would be protected from the coronavirus if they donate 2020 kroner (approximately $175 USD) to his church:
Hva man kan bruke CORONA-frykten til? Samle inn penger til Visjon Norge. "Dekk barna dine med et offer. Gi 2020 kr og tro Gud. Som Guds profet sier jeg: ingen skade skal skje dem." Dette er anti-kristendom. Grov utnyttelse av evangeliet og av sårbare msk. Jeg blir så sint.1/ pic.twitter.com/T4LwLjtITR— Erik Andreassen (@eandreassen) February 27, 2020
Jerry Falwell Jr., ever the political opportunist, appeared on Fox & Friends last week to suggest that North Korea created the virus for the purpose of subverting Donald Trump’s presidency:
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But perhaps the worst coronavirus message to come from a spiritual leader was that of Floridian megachurch pastor Guillermo Maldonado, who initially insisted that services at King Jesus International Ministry continue as originally planned. According to the Miami Herald, Maldonado said in a sermon, “Do you believe God would bring his people to his house to be contagious with the virus? Of course not.
“If we die, we die for Christ. If we live, we live for Christ, so what do you lose?”
Apparently, someone answered that question for him in private, because according to a March 18 post on the church’s official website, they are suspending public gatherings until further notice.