Canadian Reformed Church in Chilliwack. (GoogleMaps)

Canadian Reformed Church in Chilliwack. (GoogleMaps)

OPINION: Churches that defy the law and public health orders are in the extreme minority

The nature of news coverage means that aberrations from the norm are what make the headlines

When people stop at red lights, don’t pull guns in arguments, and respond to orders from police, it isn’t news.

Sometimes people complain that the news is always “bad” but that’s usually the definition of hard news.

(We do report much good or neutral news, including features, community news, arts and sports.)

If you wake up, shower, eat breakfast, go to work, come home from work, eat dinner, watch TV and go to bed, that’s “normal” or, more accurately, “average.”

If your shower starts spewing sewage or your house catches on fire at breakfast or the industry you work in collapses, now we are talking news.

So please accept my apology right now for often reporting on what is newsworthy, and so therefore, often what is out of the ordinary and not average. It can skew reality.

I move from this long preface to the point of this column, that of churches and the ban on in-person worship services currently being fought in the BC Supreme Court.

RELATED: As many as 19 Fraser Valley churches have defied a COVID-related ban on in-person worship

RELATED: B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

The vast majority of Christian churches and other religious institutions, whether it is 90 per cent or 99 per cent, are respecting the rule of law and respecting the public health orders put in place by B.C.’s chief public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry amid a global pandemic and a provincial health emergency.

Too much ink may have been given to the tiny group of Reformed Christian churches seeking publicity and notoriety, and the “Onward Christian Soldiers” attitude as a pastor from the Canadian Reformed Church in Chilliwack put it in a recent newsletter to his flock.

“Do the words ‘onward Christian soldier mean anything to you?” the anonymous individual wrote.

“Think carefully about the stats that are now coming out from the death rates of last year, the misinformation of the virus, the medications and remedies that are not made available to help you out of the flu-like symptoms, or the fact that the COVID testing is being condemned by so many other countries because of inaccuracies.”

The spread of misinformation such as this is not new, and clearly is happening in some church groups. But the lies above and those shared in anti-mask groups are those of severe outliers. The vast majority of the population, including the vast majority of Christian churches in Chilliwack, are respecting the law and the science.

While at least four local Reformed Christian churches have been violating public health orders on the ban on in-person worship services, it’s unclear exactly how many churches are doing so. An elder at one church told me that it’s more than three, closer to half a dozen.

There are more than 100 churches in Chilliwack. If just six per cent are violating public health orders that’s not a large number, even if it is larger than it should be.

Clearly there is division in the worship community about following public health restrictions designed to keep the entire community safe in a pandemic. And in that newsletter sent out last week, the author himself admitted there is division in his church.

“The congregation is split on this,” he wrote. “And yes, every congregation across our nation is divided on this and this will have huge consequences for our churches in the future. By God’s grace alone will we one day be united again. Until then, get to work, research what your God-given rights are.”

Most religious people understand and respect science, the science being explained by public health officials and translated into policy by government officials.

Most churches are respecting the orders designed to keep the vulnerable in our community safe from this novel coronavirus.

Media reports on the outliers who deny science and spend thousands of dollars in court to fight public health officials do not equate to a criticism of Christians or even a criticism of this small handful of church leaders in a couple of churches.

Most churches are doing a great job of respecting science and public health.

These churches that defy those orders are newsworthy not because they are Christian it’s because they are ecclesiastical aberrations.

READ MORE: B.C. churches in court to attempt to overturn ban on in-person services

READ MORE: B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

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