Before he passed, my grandfather used to say that he didn’t need to go to church, because he could worship God in nature — in a sunset, for example, which was his favorite example.
All well and good, except, as my father used to point out, he never actually did.
Anthony Fauci, former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases, seems to be deluding himself about his need for church in a similar, though obviously not identical, fashion.
During an interview with BBC News, Fauci pointed out Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart, where he and his wife were married in 1985. That gave rise to the question of whether he still attends church.
“No, I don’t,” he said, which natural led to the follow-up question from interviewer Katy Kay: “Why?”
“A number of complicated reasons,” he said, but Kay wasn’t satisfied with that, and encouraged him to go on.
“First of all, I think my own personal ethics on life are, I think, enough to keep me going on the right path,” he said, adding that the “organizational church” had “enough negative aspects,” though he didn’t clarify what “enough” meant in that context.
Enough for what? To keep him from going? Enough that they didn’t need to add one more negative aspect with his attendance?
I don’t think that’s what he meant; as the old saying goes: The church is full of hypocrites, but that shouldn’t keep you from going. There’s always room for one more.
“I’m not against it,” he said, almost apologetically. “I identify myself as a Catholic. I was raised, I was baptized, I was confirmed. I was married in the church. My children were baptized in the church.
“But as far as practicing it, it seems almost like a pro forma thing that I don’t really need to do.”
I’ll break that down a bit, but before I do, you can watch the entire interview below (we’ve queue up the video to the segment quoted above).
Responses to a clip of this section of the interview posted to X were often critical, including this one from Pierre Bayle (presumably not the Pierre Bayle, who died in 1706, but presumably an admirer of his).
I guess we can add Christianity to the list of things Fauci doesn’t understand. https://t.co/8BOTjgLA4q
— pierre bayle (@pierrebayle1706) December 9, 2023
Fauci seems to have fallen into an error similar to that of my grandfather’s, an ironic — and dangerous — mix of thinking that we only go to church for ourselves and that it’s possible to not need that community for ourselves. Both thoughts are wrong and, frankly, obviously so.
Hebrews 10 tells believers directly that we need to go to church — not necessarily the big white building on the corner, but some organized body of believers.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24,25)
Each of us, as members of the body of Christ, is responsible for the other members of the body of Christ. Cain claimed not to have been his brother’s keeper, as you will remember — but I’m pretty sure Cain isn’t the example you want to be following. We are, in fact, our brothers’ keepers, and we will be held accountable on the Day mentioned in this passage for how much, or how little, we “stir[red] up one another to love and good works” and “encourag[ed] one another.”
My grandfather never did that with a sunset, and Fauci isn’t going to do it with his “personal ethics on life.”
But just as we are required to provide that encouragement, so we, if we are actually trying to follow Jesus, find ourselves in need of that encourage from others. Yes, sometimes you might find it in a sunset. Other times it will come directly from God’s Word and through individual prayer. But often — more often than I like to admit, honestly — we need it from other people.
Fauci’s commitment to his own ethical code may be admirable, but when he faces the Father on that Day, he will be judged not in accordance with how well he lived up to his own standards, but by how well he lived up to God’s. (Just as we all will.)
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” the writer of Hebrews notes, only a few verses later (v. 31).
Indeed it is, unless we are covered by the blood of Christ. But if we make that claim, we must obey Him: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” Christ Himself once famously asked. (Luke 6:46)
If we don’t obey Him whom we call Lord, who are we like? James, the half-brother of Christ, compared such people to demons.
“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe — and shudder!” he wrote in James 2:19, arguing that supposed faith without obedience isn’t really faith at all.
Of course, none of us obeys Jesus perfectly, even when we have the best of intentions. I have no idea what Fauci’s intentions are, having never spoken to the man, so I won’t attempt to judge him on that. Abiding by a personal code of ethics is another matter completely; it’s easy to tweak our own standards when we fail to live up to them. But we can’t adjust God’s standards — no matter how our culture might try.
Thus, we need other in the church — to point out our flaws, to pick up us when we stumble, to get us moving again in the right direction.
I know I need that. It’s apparent that Fauci needs it as well.
And so, my friend, do you.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.