The following is an excerpt from Rev. Sharon Wylie’s sermon “Maybe We Make God” offered on October 3, 2021:
These are hard times to be a churchgoer.
When I first joined a Unitarian Universalist church in 2004, the first church of any kind I had ever joined, it was still very mainstream to attend church, and there was some pleasure for me in being able to say to friends and family that I had attended church on Sunday. It felt adult, like having a mortgage payment and going to bed at a reasonable hour.
Seventeen years later and attending church is, more than ever, associated with conservative politics. Surveys show that the more frequently someone attends church, the more likely they are to be politically Republican. And of course, in the last several years, being Republican has come to be associated with white supremacist behavior and extremist behavior.
In our current historical moment then, being a churchgoer is associated with an irrational anti-vaccine, anti-mask stance. Throughout the pandemic, churches made news throughout the country for refusing to observe safety precautions in gathering. And now, the most visible religious people in our country, those with the loudest voices, make news by screaming at school board meetings and protesting outside hospitals.
There has never been a more embarrassing time to be religious, even though the majority of faith traditions support vaccination and have been cautious in resuming gathering for worship. Moreover, many faith traditions, including ours, do not support religious exemptions to receiving vaccines.
The reasons we hear about why people—the loud people, anyway—are refusing to be vaccinated, are things like believing God will protect them, believing that strength and prayer are what’s needed to face illness, and believing that everything happens according to God’s will, so accepting whether you get Covid or not is a matter of faith.
One person described their anti-vaccination beliefs saying, “God gives us everything we need.”
For those of us with a different understanding of God, and those of us who can understand the world without believing in a God at all, those of us with faith beliefs that are synchronous with the findings and teachings of science, those of us who believe that our actions matter, that we have free will to participate fully in how our lives will unfold, for us, hearing these beliefs that are bringing people into reckless danger of themselves and their families, watching people die from the belief that God controls everything, is painful, heart-breaking, and traumatizing.
It is hard to counter the loud, news-making voices of the irrational with the voices of a calm and reasonable faith.
Blessings and love to you,