Saturday, August 1, 2020

Religious Faithful Navigate the Lockdown in Riverside County's 'Bible Belt'

You have to go inland to find evangelical conservatives. I'm surprised sometimes just how many are out there. Still, until the public evicts the criminal Democrats in Sacramento, this state is toast.

At LAT, "In California’s ‘Bible Belt,’ churches find ways around state’s coronavirus lockdown orders":

Jennifer Trujillo made a 30-minute trip from her home in San Diego County to the country roads of Wildomar in Riverside County for the first time in weeks.

For the last year, the Pala resident had made the trek up every Sunday to attend the service at Bundy Canyon Christian Church, a complex of colorful old-timey buildings along a rural road.

The coronavirus outbreak had sidelined Trujillo, 37, from her trips to church, leaving her to reading the Bible and practicing her faith at home. She knew about the worries of church services leading to outbreaks of COVID-19. That health officials criticized such gatherings as posing a public health risk to parishioners and others they may come in contact with.

But Trujillo would not ignore the call of her pastor to return.

“I feel safe around this community,” Trujillo said. “The word that the pastor gives forth is amazing and its better in person. I just wanted to go back.”

And so she did on a mid-July Sunday to an all-too-familiar scene of parishioners packing the pews. She was instructed not to sit next to anyone outside of her immediate household members.

It was a vain attempt at social distancing.

After scouring for a seat, her 9-year-old daughter Morgan and Trujillo settled for a spot near the center of the pews. Like others, they were squeezed in closer than six feet from other people. A fan conjured up a light breeze. Three vocalists and a drummer performed on stage as dozens of people sang along.

Churches across the state have been whipsawed by state closure and reopening orders, as church events have been tied to coronavirus outbreaks. In May, infections tied to singing in a church service in Redwood Valley and two more outbreaks from Mother’s Day church services in Mendocino and Butte counties drew concern from public health officials. Cases linked to singing during church services have drawn the ire of scientists and even some church leaders.

till, Bundy Canyon kept its usual choral arrangement as the congregation swayed their arms like concertgoers to the singing.

When the services in this church along Bundy Canyon Road began, congregants greeted one another with hugs. Few wore masks.

“I will give power to my two witnesses ... these men have power to shut off the sky so that it will not rain during the time that they are prophesying and they have the power to turn water to blood and to strike the earth with every type of plague,” Randy Eichert intoned from the pulpit as he read from Revelations.

But whatever final judgment the junior minister preached about — the pandemic seemed, at the moment, far from a growing concern.

The tension between safety and faith has coalesced in the suburbs of Southern California. In parts of California’s so-called Bible Belt, the controversy over rising cases of infection and deaths related to the coronavirus has not stopped residents from packing in-person services.

It’s what his flock wants, Bundy Canyon Christian Church Pastor Michael Khan said.

“They didn’t like being apart at all,” Khan said. “We have trust in God that nothing will happen. Since the start of the pandemic, not one of our members got sick or lost their job. The church will always be victorious.”

It is an altogether not surprising development in this part of Southern California. In May, Riverside County was quick to rescind stay-at-home orders and was among the largest proponents for reopening services...