Tampa Megachurch Pastor Has Virus Death-Ray, Keeps Holding Packed Services
UPDATE!: Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister filed a warrant for Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne's arrest on charges of unlawful assembly and violation of public health rules. He has since been taken into custody.
All across the country, people are doing their best to practice social distancing, staying in as much as possible and panicking every time they feel slightly not-great — because we'd all like to get through this COVID-19 thing with as few deaths as possible.
But you know who's not doing that? The congregants of the River Church in Tampa, Florida, an evangelical megachurch lead by Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne. For weeks, Howard-Browne has been refusing to stop services, and has not only encouraged his flock to come to church, but to shake hands while there. Howard-Browne has said they won't close until the rapture comes and they are all vacuumed up into heaven. Because, and I quote, they are "raising up revivalists, not pansies."
And this Sunday, that church was filled to the brim with a bunch of geniuses who think that they can pray the coronavirus away.
03.29.2020 | The River Church Live | Sunday AM youtu.be
Don't watch the whole thing, because it's three hours long and that is ridiculous, but if you skip around a bit, you can see people standing shoulder to shoulder and waving their hands in the air like they — quite literally — do not care. Because they don't.
Now, this may look very dangerous to you and me, but Howard-Browne is also claiming that his church is totally sterile because they have 13 machines that can shoot down all of the viruses.
Rodney Howard-Browne will continue to hold services because his church is the most sterile building in America, as… https://t.co/c0XT6VF5uM— Right Wing Watch (@Right Wing Watch)1585331525.0
He actually said:
"The Lord has helped us to secure our congregation. We brought in 13 machines that basically kill every virus in the place, and uh, if somebody walks through the door it's like, it kills everything on them. If they sneeze, it shoots it down at like 100 mph. It'll neutralize it in split seconds. We have the most sterile building in, I don't know, all of America."
Yeah, that's not a thing that exists! There are not machines that shoot down viruses when someone sneezes. But if they did exist, it sure seems like hoarding all 13 of them to oneself might be a sin of some kind. Or, at the very least, an extremely shitty thing to do.
Howard-Browne also claims that he successfully prayed the Zika virus away, and plans to do the same with COVID-19.
Now, it would be easy to blame Howard-Browne for this, but it's not all him. These people, after all, do have free will. They don't have to go. They don't have to believe him about his magic virus-killing machines, they don't have to believe that he has any magic virus-killing powers of his own. They can just ignore him and stay at home. It's not like they're the Jonestown people being forced at gunpoint.
It would be one thing if the only people they were endangering were themselves. In that case, as long as they were all consenting adults, that would be their business. But they're endangering other people, because if someone in that church has COVID-19 — which is very likely the case — and they all get it because one of those 13 machines fails to shoot the virus down in time, they're gonna go out and infect other people. And judging by the fact that they're doing this in the first place, they're probably not taking too many other safety precautions either. So they're gonna kill someone, or a lot of someones, probably.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse