The New Yorker‘s Elizabeth Barber profiles Kaytlin Butler, a 26-year-old hospital chaplain at Mount Sinai Hospital who is on track to be ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Normally she ministers to oncology and hematology patients, but since the pandemic began, all the hospitals chaplains have also become COVID-19 chaplains. Barber writes, “Recently, a nurse asked Butler where God was in all this. Butler does not believe that there is one right answer to that question. ‘For myself, I don’t see the disaster as something that is made or wrought by God,’ she said. ‘I think God shows up in the places where people are trying to save lives and clean up this mess that others have mismanaged.’ Butler told the nurse that God was right here, crying with us.”
The Washington Post‘s Peter Jamison writes that street preacher Landon Spradlin succumbed to covid-19 after his family’s annual ministry trip to Mardi Gras. In the Spradlins’ brand of charismatic Christianity, God could “heal anything.” Jamison writes, “In the days after Landon succumbed to covid-19, his death brought words of sympathy from people who knew him — and jeers from people who didn’t. … Landon was posthumously attacked as a victim of misguided beliefs — in the assurances of his president and the protections of his God.” His daughter said, “I don’t understand finding joy in a family’s sorrow.”
As a lifelong Mormon, The Atlantic‘s McKay Coppins writes about the Mormon practice of food storage, which has been on his mind during the coronavirus pandemic. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages its members to keep enough food and water on hand to last three months. “I am not a doomsday prepper, nor did I acquire this stockpile in a recent spasm of pandemic panic-shopping,” Coppins writes. “I am, instead, keeping up an odd religious tradition that stretches back more than a century—one that I’ve always found slightly embarrassing and anachronistic, but that’s felt a lot more vital lately.”
The New York Times‘ Elizabeth Dias reports that churches across the country were empty this past Sunday as congregations closed their doors because of the coronavirus pandemic. Dias writes, “Governors from Kentucky to Maryland to North Carolina moved to shut down services, hoping to slow the disease’s spread. Catholic dioceses stopped public Mass, and some parishes limited attendance at funerals and weddings to immediate family.” Pastors preached online through livestreams. Dr. David Anderson, pastor of Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, Maryland, said, “It might force people to really ask some deeper spiritual questions. What is the church? What is community?”
The Associated Press’s David Crary reports that churches across the country have made changes to communion due to the coronavirus outbreak. In new measures to prevent the spread of the virus, many Catholic dioceses are no longer serving wine during communion and are advising parishioners to stay home if they are sick. “Thus far, there’s been no indication of any widespread cancellations of worship services,” writes Crary, although psychologist Jamie Aten advises faith leaders to prepare for such cancellations.
The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports that LGBT activists say that Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign normalized being Christian and being gay—two identities that often conflict. Pulliam Bailey writes, “Buttigieg often urged people to ‘stop seeing religion used as a kind of cudgel, as if God belonged to a political party.’” Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, says, “The church has been the source of our greatest pain for so many people. To have someone who has put these two things together in such a positive, life-affirming way, is a game-changer.”
After BYU Honor Code Change, LDS Church Now Says Same-Sex Relationships Are “Not Compatible” with the Faith’s Rulesposted on March 5, 2020
The Salt Lake Tribune’s Courtney Tanner, Erin Alberty, and Peggy Fletcher Stack report, “Despite removing the section on ‘homosexual behavior’ from its Honor Code last month, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has clarified for the first time that same-sex romantic behavior is still ‘not compatible’ with the rules at Brigham Young University.” On Wednesday, Paul. V. Johnson, commissioner of the Church Educational System which oversees BYU, released a statement saying, “Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code.” The removal of the section had given LGBTQ students hope, as students reported that Honor Code staff had told them gay relationships were now accepted on campus. “We felt like we finally had a place and then they ripped it away again,” said Katie Guerrero, a BYU junior.
The Washington Post’s McCrummen profiles Miranda Murphey, who voted Republican until Trump’s 2016 campaign. Murphey, who lives in the suburbs of Augusta, Georgia, hoped other members of her community would not vote for Trump, but they did. “How?” Murphey said. “How do we worship the same God?” McCrummen writes, “She is 39, a high school English teacher with a PhD and part of a voting demographic whose rebellion could upend the political map of the country: not just suburban women, not just white suburban women, but white suburban women in the South, whose loyalty Trump will need to remain in power.”
Slate’s Ruth Graham reports from Dalton, Georgia, on a prayer ministry whose growing fame was built on a Bible that oozed healing oil from God. The group’s founders, Johnny Taylor and Jerry Pearce, did not ask for money at the services, which were held in an old theater. Graham writes, “Anyone who came to Dalton for the prayer service received a free vial.” Soon, though, the miracle was revealed to be a fraud. Journalist Wyatt Massey of the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that “Pearce was a regular customer at a nearby Tractor Supply store. And he’d been seen purchasing large containers of clear oil.”
For The Atlantic, Mira Kamdar writes, “The violence unleashed against Muslims in Delhi by armed Hindu mobs during President Donald Trump’s visit to India is a portent and a lesson.” While Trump was in India, more than 200 people were injured and 85 killed, the majority of whom were Muslims. “In all these cases, mobs targeting a single religious group were allowed to run riot, unchecked by police. This is the definition of a pogrom,” Kamdar writes. These riots follow legislation that fuels discrimination against Muslims.