john c pontrello
November 22, 2020
I am fortunate in that I happen to live in a geographical area that has several orthodox jurisdictions. There is Greek, Antiochian, Serbian, and three Russian parishes including OCA and ROCOR. The furthest of these is only a 25 minute car ride. As a baptized Orthodox Christian I can attend and worship with any of them. Compared to many orthodox believers in the world, some of whom do not have an Orthodox parish or priest in close proximity, it would seem that I have an ideal situation. But here is my problem: since the Convid, each of these parish communities have added new requirements for attendance. Now it is no longer enough to be a baptized Orthodox Christian to come and worship with other Orthodox Christians, I must first accept and believe in the Convid before I am allowed entrance into any of my local Orthodox parishes.
For most Orthodox believers in the Western NY parishes this is not much of problem because they already believe in the Convid and think it is perfectly compatible with both the Orthodox Church and the United States Constitution. And while the faithful may not like the restrictions and mandates imposed on them, they willingly accept them because they believe the official narrative sold to them by the Communists occupying our government and their lying media apparatus and they see these measures as necessary for their safety. But I do not fall into this category of Orthodox faithful. You see I am not a believer in the Convid. It’s not that I don’t believe in viruses that can make us sick or kill us and their human transmission capacities; I do. For example, I believe in the flu. The flu kills large quantities of people every year. For that matter so does cancer heart disease and automobile accidents. But the Convid is a different situation altogether. I’ve been observing this operation since it began and I just don’t believe in it. For starters I don’t believe in the official narrative that a killer virus is making the rounds that threatens to wipe us all out if we don’t follow shaming, degrading, inhumane, useless protocols. I didn’t believe it in the beginning and after 9 months of data & experience I certainly do not believe it now.
Not believing in the Convid is where I run into many problems in everyday life including my relationship to the Orthodox Church. Like all other aspects of society in the Convid era, the churches require my belief in the Convid as a condition for attendance and acceptance by the faith community. Well to be fair not everyone who shows up for church services really believes in the Convid but they still go along with it. But I can’t do that because it conflicts with my conscience. I don’t feel that accepting / tolerating fear based mind manipulation is the proper way to begin prayers to God. So my unwillingness to accept what I believe is the con of the century automatically puts me outside of the local orthodox communities and away from the Holy Mysteries (sacraments) such as is celebrated in Divine Liturgy. In order for me to participate in the liturgical life of the local Orthodox Church, I must either modify my personal beliefs about the Convid or compromise them and “fake it” in order to gain entrance. Otherwise, I’m excluded.
Something about this situation has been agitating me for some time and I finally put my finger on it. If belief in the Convid is a prerequisite for admittance to an Orthodox Church then this amounts to discrimination against people who don’t believe in it. This is the equivalent of forbidding the sacraments to someone who doesn’t believe in the moon landing since neither the Convid nor the moon landing story has anything to do with the Orthodox Christian religion. And yet they are making rules based upon the former as a prerequisite for admission. Now I know some porky reader will object here: “yeah but not believing in the moon landing doesn’t put lives in danger.” Maybe so, but that presupposes that going to church does, which I do not believe. And this is what is being sold to the faithful by church pastors. They say going to church and worshiping God is dangerous and therefore we are refused admittance unless we believe in the Convid and its accompanying idiotic social mandates, some of which have been proven to cause health problems- like wearing a face diaper and breathing in your own carbon dioxide.
A few days ago I contacted a priest of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America and asked him what is required for attending an upcoming divine liturgy at his parish. He responded with fifteen rules:
1) when you enter the narthex, you will stop and your temperature will be taken with an infrared thermometer (no touch)
2) you will be asked to wear a mask if you are not already wearing one (masks are available at the candle table)
3) you will be asked to use hand sanitizer
4) when you enter the narthex, you will notice that every-other pew is roped off — family units may sit together, but 6’ social distancing is in place for non-family persons
5) there are no books, etc., in the pews (we can’t sanitize them) — I have encouraged people to bring their own prayer books with them
6) the Altar Server wears a mask and gloves
7) the Priest does not wear a mask except at the time of distributing Holy Communion — the choir is in the loft, and do not wear masks during the service, but they do wear masks when they exit the choir loft
8) the antidoron is prepared by the Altar Server before the service, and two-three pieces are placed in individual baggies (that way no hands touch the bread)
9) when coming forward for Holy Communion, social distancing of 6’ is requested to be observed
10) when you reach the head of the line, the Altar Server will hand you a red paper napkin — when you come forward to receive the Holy Gifts, you will place the napkin under your chin to catch any inadvertent drips — you will receive the Holy Gifts and then wipe your lips with the napkin and then place the napkin in a large paper bag that is next to the table with the antidoron (I take the bag home after the service and burn it and the contents in case any of the consecrated elements were present on the napkins)
11) the Priest gives Holy Communion with one spoon — those who come forward are asked to tilt his/her head back and open his/her mouth so that the Priest can place the Holy Gifts on the tongue without touching the Communicant
12) we are not limiting the number of attendees, since our church is large enough to hold all of our active members without limiting the numbers
13) we do not ask for any sign-in forms (contact tracing is easy enough in our small parish, if that is necessary)
14) veneration of the Holy Icons, the Blessing Cross, the hand of the Priest, etc., is to be without physical contact (no kissing) — a metania with the sign of the Cross is the suggested manner of reverence
15) we do not have coffee hour (we can not serve any food unless it is individually packaged); at the end of the Liturgy, the Priest blesses the entire congregation from the Holy Doors, and people are asked to depart without stopping to converse until they are outside
Now leaving aside the fact that I have a real problem with most of the above items because they conflict with the actual faith and tradition of the Orthodox Church, I have a problem with these new rules because they insult my intelligence and they force me to violate my conscience in order to worship my God. I could pick these rules apart with science and theology on my side but most of the Orthodox priests and faithful are already sold on the con. They can’t hear me.
So what does it mean exactly when I say I am not a believer in the Convid? Aside from what I have already said, I have my own set of beliefs and rules that would be violated in order to adhere to the new Convid rules as stated above. For example, I don’t believe in treating healthy and otherwise asymptomatic people like contagious criminals. My rule is that the sick should do what they have always done which is stay home, eat chicken noodle soup and get well- on their own volition. But because of the new Convid, the churches tell us that everyone must be assumed sick until proven healthy. I find this totally unacceptable. I don’t believe in it.
I also don’t believe in social distancing. I believe in touching, hugging, kissing and hand holding because God made us social beings that require these things for healthy happy lives. My rule is as above, which is that the only people who should not do these things are the sick. And I must add that if an asymptomatic person happens to be carrying a virus that could be inadvertently passed along, so be it. That’s what immune systems and medicine are for. The human race didn’t survive to the present age by social distancing. Diseases and death have existed since the Fall. Yet the Orthodox Churches are "all in" with social distancing. No thanks I don’t believe in it.
I don’t believe in face masks. Aside from the fact that I can’t breathe in one, I happen to believe God designed me to breathe oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. The fact is masks restrict this necessary function. But priests and bishops are enforcing this nonsense on their parishioners and I think it is criminal, including fear mongering upon elderly people, many of whom require all the oxygen they can get due to their age and health. Just watch, at some point an elderly person is going to collapse and die during a church service due to wearing a face mask and the church will cry that it was better for one person to perish than the whole community. I believe mask wearing is physically and psychologically unhealthy for a myriad of reasons. Again, I just don’t believe in it. My rule is that healthy people don’t wear face masks.
I don’t believe in quarantining healthy people because they MAY have been exposed to a virus somewhere somehow in their travels. While churches do not have the power to enforce quarantining people, they are aiding and abetting the unjust government mandates through contract tracing and “sign-in” forms. My rule is free people don’t sign their names on Communist track & trace forms. If the government wants to know where I worship let them come find me.
I don’t believe in sticking a thermometer in someone’s face before allowing them to enter a building. Frankly it’s nobody’s damn business what my body temperature is. Again, if I had a fever it is unlikely I’d be going anywhere other than bed. And if someone sticks one in my face on the way into a church they better be prepared to have it stuck somewhere for them too. Just saying.
I don’t believe in forcing people to receive dubious tests or vaccinations as a condition for travel, education, and employment. Churches are not yet requesting proofs of negative tests or vaccinations but I expect this to be implemented soon enough. Again, I don’t believe in it.
I don’t believe in running roughshod over the US constitution and I certainly don’t believe in handing over my individual liberty to psychopaths in government in exchange for “safety.” The churches are encouraging this and again I don’t believe in it.
I don’t believe governments or churches are substitute parents. I don’t believe they should tell me to wash my hands and not cough on others and I detest all the signs, commercials, ads, and billboards instructing me on “how to be safe.” The last place I want to see these infantile reminders is at a church.
I don’t believe in forcing elderly people to die ALONE in nursing homes because a visitor might contaminate them. My rule is that I’d rather die from a bad hug then live in isolation in one of these elderly prison facilities. Churches say nothing about this crime but they do encourage us to follow the “experts.” I have seen the results of following the "experts" and I don’t believe in them or their guidelines.
I don’t believe in discriminating against people who attempt to access places of public accommodation and churches because they refuse to wear face masks, fill out government forms, answer personal travel or health-related questions, have their temperatures checked by other attendees, dowse their hands in perfumed hand sanitizer lotions and stand on floor stickers spaced 6 ft apart.
These are some of my rules and beliefs and as you can see, none of them conflicts with the Orthodox Christian faith. Yet here I am, outside of the buildings because I don’t believe in and accept any of the above “worship rules” that churches across the nation have adopted in one form or another. What else can you call this other than discrimination? The way I see it, the only way churches can avoid this discrimination is to hold two services: one for the frightened Convid believers and another for those who do not believe in the Convid.
Because I believe in freedom I support the rights of people to espouse the Convid narrative. If somebody chooses to go to church wearing a face mask, let him be my guest. If he chooses to wear a hazmat suit with face shield (like a certain Orthodox priest I know) I say go for it. But perhaps it would be better if they remain locked inside their homes until their “savior” comes… in a syringe.