The world is in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, and in many areas all nonessential businesses are closing down. Some people are uncertain whether churches should be considered essential. Some churches have been slow to cancel their services, believing that gathering for prayer is more important than observing quarantines. Fortunately most churches are following the guidelines provided by the experts and are shutting their doors. Yet some people wonder, “Is religion important or even relevant to this medical emergency?” Can we rely on faith and prayer to heal us when what we actually need is more respirators and masks? Can we afford to pay attention to spiritual frills when we are faced with a life and death crisis?
I have had a life-long interest in religion, so I have seen many examples of faith turning into theological bickering or mindless rituals. I have noticed religious beliefs used to promote superstition, hate, and war rather than wisdom, love, and peace. Bad religion is pointless, divisive, and at its worst deadly. Religious faith and authority are powerful tools that can be used by selfish and greedy people to gain power and wealth for themselves.
Yet religion can also be the most powerful tool for doing good, and for bringing peace and healing to the world. Good religion is a matter of life and death, and far from being irrelevant it is what we need most when the world is in crisis. The Bible portrays religion as a matter of life and death:
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil…. Therefore choose life, that both you and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19)
“Why should you die? …I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezekiel 18:31-32)
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Swedenborg wrote, “All religion is a matter of life, and the life of religion is to do good.” (Swedenborg, Doctrine of Life 1) Now, especially during this pandemic, we need to focus on matters of life, on healing and doing good, and as this is the whole point of true religion, religion is essential to surviving this crisis. We offer 12 ways to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, along with some insights and support from a spiritual perspective. See the next article for one of the most important ways to overcome this virus.