It is very easy to be a Christian in my community in Salinas, California, where several of our churches are located and advertised around town. Despite the recent change in how we can attend church due to the pandemic, our church offers live services via social media, such as weekly Facebook posts and YouTube videos. In fact, I still work and serve at my local church, while continuing to social distance, and many of my family’s friends are people we met at church. These are factors of my life that serve as my Christian safety net, which make being faithful to God easier.
However, when I step foot out of my bubble of believers, there is a larger community of both Christians and non-Christians, including one that is fearful and skeptical of many of the disastrous events that have occured all within this year. One thing I’ve noticed more recently is that more and more people are beginning to view God as the perpetrator of our current state: the international pandemic, raging forest fires and occasional violent protests wreaking havoc across America. Yet I feel that it is COVID-19 that has made it the most difficult to trust religion.
Personally, I have faced many struggles with keeping my faith steady during these times. “If He is so great and powerful, why doesn’t he just snap his fingers and make everything better again?” was a comment I thought ran through the heads of believers who started to question their faith. It is hard to admit, but this question has stumped me before, because it is easy to be persuaded of when you are at a low point in your life.
I was supposed to move into the UCSB dorms this fall and have a normal start to my freshman year of college, as was the rest of the class of 2024. Soon enough, I began to wonder what other obstacles people around the world faced due to the pandemic. This is when I realized that it was not only my faith or religion being disrupted by COVID-19.
As previously mentioned, my church, known as Compass Church, provides many opportunities via technology in order to make services possible. This privilege might not be possible for others who might not have access to the necessary technology. Due to the dangerous virus that we all know as COVID-19, many countries are taking precautions to ensure that their people are kept safe, such as Saudia Arabia. According to the Council of Foreign Relations , Saudia Arabia was forced to take extreme measures and delay “visits to Mecca and Medina for umrah, an Islamic pilgrimage that Muslims can undertake at any time of year.”
When thinking about how COVID-19 has negatively impacted my life, as well as the lives of others, I try to think about the blessings I’ve received recently, too.
Kuwait, along with Malaysia, has even cancelled their services on Fridays due to the pandemic. The significance of this detail is that Fridays are the holy day of the religion of Islam. As mentioned in an article discussing the importance of Friday in Islam as a religion, “The Qur’an invokes the importance of Friday as a sacred day of worship in a chapter called ‘Al-Jumah,’ meaning the day of congregation, which is also the word for Friday in Arabic.” It is clear that there is an entire world of religiously active people who are unable to remain close to their religion during the pandemic.
However, there is a bright side for many churches that remain active today. For example, the article from above discusses how the Roman Catholic Church has taken to live streaming their services as well. Other countries like India continue to hold their holy activities with people wearing face coverings. Also, when I recently visited Olympia, Washington, I witnessed many local churches resorting to drive-in services, as well as outdoor services with all seating six feet apart.
Rosh Hashanah recently passed, beginning on Friday, Sept. 18 and ending Sunday, Sept. 20. Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Jewish new year, is a holiday during which many Jewish congregations would take place to participate in their religious customs. Regularly, Rosh Hashanah is “the most attended synagogue period of the Jewish calendar.” In order to maintain a safe environment, many Rosh Hashanah events were streamed online, similar to how other churches have decided to cope with the pandemic.
It is inspiring to see the many different ways that religious institutions are responding to this pandemic, but one problem still remains: people continue to blame religion or a higher being when dealing with COVID-19. An article discusses the reasoning behind why some people, such as myself, struggle with their faith during these times. As deduced by psychologists researching this, “trauma and tragedy can challenge conceptions of God as all-loving and protective. As a result, some people struggle in their relationship with God and experience feelings of anger, abandonment or being punished by a higher power.” Yet what people often forget is that our faith and beliefs are meant to help us through the hard times.
Christianity has paved a way for me to be more positive in life and to create my own light in a world of darkness. When thinking about how COVID-19 has negatively impacted my life, as well as the lives of others, I try to think about the blessings I’ve received recently, too. For example, my grandfather is a survivor of the virus, and that alone is one of the greatest blessings God has gifted me. Secondly, I may not be moving to Santa Barbara this quarter, but I am still receiving a high quality education at no cost because of my financial aid. There is much to be thankful for, but it is up to us to search for the details of life that are still good. Thomas Plante, professor of psychology at Santa Clara University, noted that, “Religion has been helping people get through hard times for thousands of years. It’s tested and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Just read the psalms and you will see that it is all about people turning to God during troubled times.”
Kiana Perez-Granados believes that despite the many criticisms against religion that have risen since COVID-19, it has guided people of faith through their hardships.