The Outbreak | My Christianity squares off against my family’s

The Outbreak is a new blog describing the different ways the coronavirus pandemic has affected our lives.

One of the first pieces of advice my dad gave to me as I was packing up to move into Pitt for my first year was to “not get involved in any of that liberal bullshit.” 

As a humanities major, it’s kind of in the job description. Now a junior, I can say that I have done just that and more. I’ve taken courses that have exposed me to religions, world views and thoughts unlike my own which I believe has helped me to become a more understanding, open-minded and, yes, liberal person. 

The only downside is that now whenever I come home for a long weekend, my dad and I always find something to argue about. Now, with things like the coronavirus outbreak, the upcoming presidential election and economic collapse flooding the news, political tension has reached an all time high in my household. Starting in January of this year, I came home for a few different weekends to escape the stress of being on campus, but each time my dad and I found something to argue about. The impeachment trial, the stock market, President Donald Trump’s latest tweets — and, now that I am home for the rest of the semester, the coronavirus. 

With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, Pitt and many other colleges and universities all over the world have closed down for the remainder of the spring semester, forcing plenty of students to move back home. Students are missing milestones like study abroad trips and graduation. Many are fearful of contracting the virus and spreading it to family, being laid off from work or having to face the choice of coming into work or not. There are problems both big and small that we are all facing, but one of the problems that really salts my apples is that where I once had an open platform to speak on campus, my dad is now screaming at me to shut up.

My dad watches Fox News pretty religiously, occasionally flipping between CNN and MSNBC to yell at the anchors before switching back to Fox. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to get roped into watching a few segments with him, but now I am an unwelcome presence in the living room whenever politics is being discussed. I grew up Catholic and my family is pretty religious — we go to church a whopping two times a year. I used to go frequently as a kid but after years of being forced to attend Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes, I was exhausted and a little disenchanted with the religion. Hearing my family talk about how happy they were to have a religious president in the White House again really got me interested in wondering whether or not a man like Trump was Jesus’ number one draft pick. Being exposed to different religions and cultures in college also made me want to learn more, and what I learned not only strengthened my political views, but helped me to appreciate my religion again. I was learning so many new things — things that my church never taught me. 

I’m now overhearing many of the debates held on Fox News and on other conservative platforms I’ve seen my dad flick through. Due to the guidelines of social distancing, large gatherings are to be avoided so the virus cannot spread as easily and this means that some churches are having to make the difficult decision to stop services. Several churches are ignoring these warnings, pushing political agendas and spreading dangerous misinformation. Hank Kunneman, senior pastor at the Lord of Hosts Church in Omaha, Nebraska, is one such pastor. During one of his services he tells the congregants, “And because of the administration that stands in this land, and because they have aligned themselves with Israel, therefore I give life to this nation and I give mercy.” Hearing these religious leaders tell people that they can be healed of the virus by consuming the eucharist or that sinners are contracting and spreading the virus makes the back of my brain itch. My dad is starting to get tired of me yelling about the separation of church and state from the kitchen.

Another thing that frustrates me is when the conservatives who claim to be Christian that my family sometimes listens to often misinterpret teachings from the Bible, or cherry-pick quotes when most convenient to them. Let’s start with an easy one, Luke 18:25. “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Getting his information from Fox News, my dad has been up in arms about senate Democrats voting against the coronavirus stimulus bill, ranting and raving that this is not a time to be partisan. What Fox News chose not to focus on was that the bill was skewed towards helping big corporations more than the American people.

Let’s try another one, how about Exodus 23:9? “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” As the number of coronavirus cases rise, so does the number of targeted harassment towards Asians and Asian Americans. Fox News along with the president say that calling it the “Chinese virus” isn’t racist, even though the World Health Organization has specific guidelines for how to name a virus. Under the WHO’s list of how not to name a virus, the first rule is to not name the virus after geographic locations. When I tried to explain this to my dad, he told me to shut up and moved into another room.

Ending with James 2:26 — “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.” This administration has done nothing but bring me and countless others stress, anxiety and contempt. Having to leave campus, move home and fall asleep to Sean Hannity’s doomsday ranting on the living room television has brought me nothing but nightmares. I’m sick of being gaslighted to the point of tears by conservative friends and family members. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but it hurts to know that the president that they love and support is not doing much to protect me or the people I love. Thoughts and prayers are great, but they aren’t going to provide citizens with health care, pay their bills or reduce their anxieties. Trump can pray for whoever he wants, but faith without action means nothing to me.