March 25, 2020

US Christian leaders criticise Trumps Easter coronavirus deadline
The Rev Al Sharpton said ‘a premature resurrection will lead to a disaster’ as Rev William Barber called it ‘the height of hypocrisy’ * Coronavirus – latest US updates * Live global updates * See all our coronavirus coverageUS Christian leaders have criticised Donald Trump’s Easter coronavirus deadline – by which he wants to see much of the country reopened and churches full. One described it as the “height of hypocrisy”.As US coronavirus cases and deaths continued to soar, the president said on Tuesday he wanted to reopen “large sections of the country” by Easter Sunday – 12 April – when there would be “packed churches all over our country”.His comments came despite warnings from White House taskforce members Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, the latter saying she was “deeply concerned” about New York and its surrounding area.On Wednesday the number of confirmed US cases rose to 54,453 and 737 deaths, according to figures from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).default “It is the height of hypocrisy for Trump to suggest that Easter is a time to defy public health recommendations and ‘reopen’ America,” said pastor and activist the Rev William J Barber II.“Jesus challenged oppression and cared for the poor, while Trump ignored the pandemic of poverty and tragically dismissed intelligence about the coronavirus. We need a resurrection of Jesus’s concern for the most vulnerable, not a capitulation to corporate greed that could cost millions of lives.”The Rev Al Sharpton said that if Trump was going to use biblical language, the president “needs to know the whole Easter story”.“You cannot get to Easter Sunday without first going through the crucifixion on Friday. A crucifixion precedes the resurrection, Mr President, and we have not even got up Calvary’s mountain yet to the crucifixion, we just have the cross on our back,” he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe.Sharpton said New York – currently on lockdown with more than 30,000 cases across the state – would undergo a “real crucifixion” at the height of the pandemic, which will then go around the US “before we can get to resurrection Sunday”.He added: “A premature resurrection will lead to a disaster and we need to understand that, deal with it head on.”The Rev Laura Everett, a pastor and executive director of Massachusetts Council of Churches, told of her anger with Trump.“Still fuming about Trump co-opting Easter for capitalism,” she tweeted.“Are his Christian followers going to follow him down this path? Do you not remember how Lent begins, when the devil takes Jesus to the heights of the city and shows him all the glittery things ‘if you but worship me?’”Christianity Today published a critical editorial following Trump’s comments in which it warned that even with good hygiene and physical distancing, congregating during a pandemic “mars our witness”.It said: “Rather than looking courageous and faithful, we come off looking callous and even foolish, not unlike the snake handlers who insisted on playing with poison as a proof of true faith.”In the Catholic church, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles tweeted on Tuesday night, after the president’s announcement, that all its churches would remain closed until “at least” 19 April – a week after Trump’s suggested deadline.In newly updated guidelines, it encouraged priests to continue celebrating mass without a congregation and live-streaming instead.The Archdiocese of New York, which includes St Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, said it would celebrate Holy Week and Easter Sunday via live stream or broadcast.Bishop Michael Curry, who gave the sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, has recommended the suspension of in-person public services in the Episcopal church – including during Holy Week – and encouraged people to worship online.The president’s Easter deadline goes against the predictions of experts and political figures like New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, who has said the battle against the virus will take several months.“I hope we can do this by Easter,” Trump told Tuesday’s White House briefing. “I think that would be a great thing for our country.”Asked if that was realistic, he said: “We’re going to look at it. We’ll only do it if it’s good and maybe we do sections of the country, we do large sections of the country.”He said he chose Easter because “I just thought it was a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline, it’s a great day”.He told Fox News: “You’ll have packed churches all over our country. I think it’ll be a beautiful time.”
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