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Editorial: On our second COVID Easter, what if we love our neighbors as ourselves?


This Easter, many churches continue to rope off pews to enforce social distance and require worshippers to wear masks and sanitize their hands to protect against the spread of COVID-19. Cindi Scoppe/Staff

Today most Christians in Charleston, across South Carolina and the world over will celebrate our most holy day: the day that Christ Jesus, rising from the grave, destroyed death and made the whole creation new.

While the celebration of resurrection will be as important as ever, it once again will be anything but a normal Easter. Oh, some churches will be packed cheek-to-jowl, the faithful alongside the fire-insurance worshippers. But most will still be insisting that congregants keep their distance, wear masks and skip the hugs. Easter feasts in the reception hall will be rare, as will be Easter egg hunts before worship.

Our churches, like all of us in society, are in a much better place than we were a year ago, when many churches and businesses were closed entirely to in-person gatherings. Many of us are now vaccinated, either partially or fully, we’ve learned which safety protocols allow us to leave the safe confines of our homes, and most of us have made peace with the safety measures. Even the masks.

Today we’re able to worship in person and return to our workplaces, and in most parts of South Carolina our children are allowed to go to school in person. COVID-19 deaths have dropped dramatically across the United States and throughout South Carolina. Hospitalizations also are down markedly from the summer and fall, allowing our hospitals to offer care beyond critical, and mild and asymptomatic infections are on the wane.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. We have in sight a resurrection, if you will, of our former way of life.

But that resurrection, that resumption of life before COVID, is still in the future. While nearly a third of South Carolinians have received at least the first dose of their vaccination, 70% haven't. The vaccine isn’t available yet for children (who are at far less risk, but still at risk, for contracting or being sickened by COVID-19). While new infections are dropping, more than 5,000 of us a day are still being infected, and our neighbors continue to die  daily.

Although the vaccine eventually should provide enough immunity on a population level to return us to normal, as individuals we must remember that a vaccine with a 96% efficacy rate fails completely in 4% of the cases — which means one in every 25 people vaccinated has no protection from the worst symptoms if they contract the disease.

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Even if we are fortunate to be among the 24 others, we as a society are still in a race against time to get enough of our neighbors inoculated before COVID-19 is able to mutate into something that could evade our natural and man-made defenses.

Coursing through all of this is the most crucial point: While the vaccine will protect most of us from becoming sick or dying from COVID, we don’t know that it will prevent us from contracting it — which means we can still pass it along to other people.

That fact should act as a call to arms to all of us, and especially all of us who are celebrating this holy day.

For just as Christians realize that there is no Easter resurrection without the Good Friday crucifixion, we also realize that we can’t partake of the victory of Easter unless we are willing to embrace all of Christ’s teachings — beginning with his essential commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. (That commandment, by the way, is also a central tenet of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Baha’i faith and pretty much every world religion.)

And there is no more obvious way to love our neighbors than by taking simple steps to ensure that we don’t infect them with the virus that could sicken or kill them.

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Worshippers wear masks and maintain their distance Maundy Thursday Mass at St. Mary's Help of Christians in Aiken. Many churches appropriately believe they have a special obligation to keep their congregants and neighbors safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Landon Stamper/Aiken Standard)

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