Dear Gov. Andrew Cuomo,
I’m sure that you are well aware that your quote, “Our behavior has stopped the spread of the coronavirus. God did not stop the spread of the virus,” as reported by CNN News, rocked evangelical churches across America.
Your statement was the hot topic of many Sunday morning services across America the following Sunday. In spite of the fact that Christians everywhere were aghast, shocked, even stunned by your statement, as an ordained minister and a citizen of the State of New York, I completely understand what you meant. Your statement was a completely understandable product of your perspective as the governor of New York State.
As governor, during this time, you have been faced with perhaps the greatest challenge of any governor of any other state in this nation. Our state is the home of the most populous city in America, New York City itself! As such, New York City quickly became the metro with the highest concentration of COVID 19 cases and the highest number of deaths per capita. For some to suggest that “We just need to trust God and everything will work out” is understandably very offensive to many on the front lines of this battle with an invisible enemy.
Perhaps, Gov. Cuomo, you were privy to such rhetoric and were merely trying to motivate the citizens of this state to do what, in your opinion, was the right thing, even if it seemed to some to be “too safe!”
There once was a story told about a farmer that I like to use to instruct people regarding the practical side of following God. One day, as the farmer was repairing his fence along the country road where he resided, a passerby stopped to look around. “My,” the passerby said, “Hasn’t God blessed you with a beautiful farm? Split rail fences surround your property. I see corn growing tall and strong in many fields. There are wheat fields to my left, and barley fields to my right and cows are grazing contently in your pastures. Yes sir, God has indeed blessed you Mr. Farmer!”
The farmer thought for a minute, then, smiling gently responded, “Yup, but you should have seen it when God had it by himself!” I am sure Governor Cuomo as hard as you have been working you could feel a bit like that farmer right now as this terrible pandemic is slowing down and people just want to “thank God.”
Gov. Cuomo, I would also like to personally ask your forgiveness for the current condition of many churches in New York. To help you understand better what I am referring to, let’s say that you had 500,000 trained police officers across this great state. Although you had given them the best education money could buy, the best facilities that they could possibly utilize, the best equipment available, they just weren’t following protocol. They weren’t using the tools that were available to them and they just would not listen to the senior officers who had paid the price and had served generations before them.
Let’s imagine that because of this lackadaisical attitude, crime was accelerating to an all-time high. Picture for a minute with me, that while the number of arrests and subsequent incarcerations were hitting record lows, the citizens of New York State were suffering the consequences and living in fear more than ever before. That, Governor Cuomo, is a parallel of what is happening in the church not only in New York State, but also across the nation.
Many church-attending “Christians” in today’s society simply attend church to see what they can get out of Christianity. Many leaders intentionally foster this self-focused non-biblical gospel in order to add congregants to their attendance lists. These same church attendees return home each week and, ignoring the true teachings of Christ, do little to personally care for their own communities. Churches then become to millions of Americans, and to you Gov. Cuomo, a “non-essential” component of our society’s daily operations.
The truth is the teachings of the Bible, and more specifically the teachings of Jesus Christ, demand direct involvement with the society within which it exists, and the “Love thy neighbor as thyself” teaching of Jesus is not a suggestion. It is His overarching commandment.
Consider this Gov. Cuomo: The first step to becoming a Biblical Christian is to accept Christ’s teaching that we are a three-part being. We are a spirit, which lives in a body and has a mind. Christ taught that the spirit part of us will live forever, either in Heaven or in Hell, depending on our willingness to receive the free gift of salvation by faith in what He did on the cross. When a person prays, repenting of the sins, which have been caused by the fact that they have been born with the nature to sin, they will be “born again.” At that very point our Heavenly Father causes a spiritual transformation. Suddenly everything makes sense. God is real. Jesus is real. And everything about the Kingdom of God becomes of utmost importance, including church attendance. Jesus taught that our Heavenly Father is a Spirit Himself.
So Gov. Cuomo, I completely understand if you feel that New Yorkers reduced the curve of infections all by themselves without any help from God. However please remember the Bible teaches that we are co-laborers together with Him. Because we are physical beings, what we do is seen. But because He is a spiritual being, what God does is often invisible.
I pray that one day, before this is all over, you will make a correction to your statement and concur, “With God’s help we got through this together!" May a revived church produce a new perspective of an ‘essential business’ in this state with great needs!
Rev. Nolan Harkness
Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is www.verticalsound.org.