Reflection #22 – Religion Goes Viral

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

Religion Goes Viral

Since the beginning of March, when the impact of COVID-19 began to be felt worldwide, religion has been on the rise.

Around the world non-Christians, both with and without a Christian background, are tuning in to livestream church services in large numbers. One Christian missionary in Italy reported that even though he has a congregation of about 50 members, his livestream audience jumped to 700 after the second week of lockdown in mid-March.

The Chinese authorities in Shandong province recently banned online services because of the number of people flocking to the internet in search of a message of hope.

People are turning to the Bible in record numbers.

The number of Facebook followers for churches and religious organizations has also surged.

Jeanet Bentzen, a professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, has been studying ‘Google Trends’ data on internet searches for prayer. She writes:

The data-timeline for search intensity on ‘prayer’ is flat before a country registers its first case of Covid-19, and then drastically rises after the first case is registered in a country for all regions of the world.

The increases in prayer intensity are the largest the world has experienced since 2004, the earliest date for which the Google Trends data is available.

see Carol Glatz, “Surge in online Google searches for ‘prayer,'” The Tablet

Bentzen concludes that humans have a tendency to use religion to cope with crisis.

A secular worldview accounts for this rise in religion as an irrational response to fear. Your brain’s job is to keep you safe and fires off signals to send you into protection mode. Quarantine and other precautions are sufficient, but if your brain still sends you anxiety signals, try mediation and train your brain to let go of scary thoughts. (“This is Your Brain on Quarantine…and How to Cope,” Kathryn Soule)

But as Christians, we know that eternity is in our hearts. We are made in the image of God. We are all never-dying souls who stand in an inescapable relationship with a Personal God who made us. We will have to answer to Him for every deed, word and thought. The rise of religion is people’s innate sense of this truth. Even the atheist knows and feels this deep within his conscience. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, Romans 1:18-20; 2:14-16)

What Paul said to the people of Athens is also true now: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.”

Fear for safety in the face of sickness, death and huge economic threats is not irrational. Fear that drives us to look for help in religion, in something bigger than ourselves, something higher than anything or anyone in this world can offer is very rational and logical. It’s exactly the right thing to do.

But here’s the problem: religion itself is not enough. There’s a lot of religion that’s just plain wrong. Though we’re spiritual and religious beings by nature because we’re created in the image of God, our hearts and minds are twisted by sin. So we reach out to false gods and false religions.

Some people eat bats and tigers so that the Spirit of the animal enters them and makes them strong and gives them power over sickness. That’s spiritual, but it’s wrong. Becoming a religious person can’t save you if the spirituality you’ve chosen is false.

But there is one God who is true. He’s the God who made the universe out of nothing and created you in His image. He made us to trust, obey and worship Him. This is the God we’ve sinned against, and whose judgment we deserve. This is the God who had such amazing pity on us that He came to earth to take our judgment on Himself and die for sinners. His name is Jesus. He died to rescue us from our sin and everything we fear and rose again to give us life.

True spirituality is knowing Him. True religion is believing in this God.

When we were reaching out to false religions, and even to “no-religion,” for answers, He reached out to us with the Answer.  He came to us in Jesus Christ. And He gave us the true message about Himself in the Bible.

If you’re looking for true religion, He is the Person to go to. The Bible is the book for you!

Let’s pray that in this season where religion is going viral, God will reach out to those who are searching for something bigger, stronger and better than themselves, that He will find them and show Himself to them.

And let us be His witnesses in our presence on-line and everywhere else.