written by Jose Rodriguez
A protest has come to Orlando. This protest has come to Orlando like a wolf in sheep clothes exchanging public health and safety for disorder and carelessness clothed in the robes of revival. The prophet of this “revival” writes that “freedom to worship God and obey His Word has come under unprecedented attack. Powerful politicians and social media giants have engaged in unchartered abuses of religious liberty, silencing the faithful, banning our voices, and outright attacking our God-given right to declare His goodness.”
I am neither powerful nor a giant but I write against “unprecedented attacks” and “unchartered abuses” against the children of God. I am a priest, a local pastor, who has a duty of care over the people of God in the Azalea Park neighborhood of Orlando. Communities like the one I serve are under attack, not from “powerful politicians,” but health disparities, poverty, and the loud indifference of their fellow Christians.
This last Saturday on my way home after my third funeral for a victim of COVID-19 my social media was set abuzz by news of a “revival” in the heart of Orlando. This revival saw my fellow Christian brothers and sisters contributing to an epidemic of indifference against a community recovering from the ravages of a pandemic that has disproportionately harmed the children of God in black and brown communities.
Christians gathered in close proximity, faces unmasked, and in full throttle worship in the midst of a pandemic is not freedom of worship but an affront to human dignity and a complete abandonment of the Christian duty of care of neighbors. Sadly, this abandonment of neighbors is contributing to one of the most significant health disparities plaguing black and brown communities.
Christians worship a life giving and compassionate God. At Orlando’s Lake Eola, my fellow Christian brothers and sisters’ devotions betrayed their God instead of worshipping him. At Lake Eola, my Christian brothers and sisters worship a distorted image of God that left out those impacted by this pandemic. They worship a flawed and incomplete approximation of God. They worshipped a god cast in their own image.
Across this nation, the false prophet of these revivals is systematically drowning out the cries of communities gasping for air with cries to the false idol of human ego. Instead of caring for those who are in actual distress they distress themselves with the fiction that they are silenced, banned, and their civil liberties attacked.
Instead of contributing to public health for the sake of love for the vulnerable, these Christians have spectacularly failed in their duty of care for the vulnerable. They confuse the taking off of masks with lifting up holy hands. They confuse the chaos of their irreverent worship with the movement of the Holy Spirit. Instead of letting our Lord guide them to care for the Samaritan in their midst they have been fooled and frolic in the valley of the shadow of death with a false prophet.
They know in part, and see in part. They think they feel the Spirit of God in these revivals but they fail to see that they burn in passion for their own spirit and are led by the wisdom of their own flesh.
As a priest, I have a ministry of reconciliation and a sacred duty of care over souls by calling people to repentance. I remind my brothers and sisters to see that we serve a God of seeing. I exhort my brothers and sisters to hear the prayers of the vulnerable and those in distress. I call upon my brothers and sisters to repent for worshipping their ego and make amends by rebuilding the bonds of unity among the children of God.
The enemy is dividing the Body of Christ by deafening it to its own cries. While part of the Body is in pain the rest is confused. Instead of hearing the voice of the Healer, part of the Body is consuming lies and counterfeit remedies peddled online and proclaimed by false prophets. Repentance is the solution for our current condition as a Body. It is time that we turn away from childish fictions and begin to practice the self-care necessary in order for the children of God to walk away from their own egos and fulfill their duty of care to each other.
The Reverend Jose Rodriguez is the Vicar of Iglesia Episcopal Jesus de Nazaret.
Author’s note: I am an Episcopal priest in Orlando, Florida. I was raised in the beauty of the Pentecostal tradition. I embrace the redemptive, creative, and lift giving anointing of the Holy Spirit. I find beauty in worshipping the Lord in praise. I affirm all the gifts of the Holy Spirit and it is my fervent prayer that each and every Christian is touched by at least one. I also warn my fellow Christians that the veil of flesh is a very thin line that divides being moved by the Holy Spirit and being moved by one’s own flesh. I exhort all believers to be wary of confusing one’s own wisdom with perfect Wisdom. I also remind all Christians that “For we know in part and we prophesy in part.”