COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - On Easter, rather than putting on their Sunday best, gathering with families or praying with their communities, Christians across the world are being encouraged to stay home.
But for anyone who thinks they need to pray in public, Rep. Jim Clyburn has just four words for them, "Stay home, stay holy."
The South Carolina Representative is deeply familiar with the dangers of the coronavirus and people's desire to turn to religion during times like these.
"People are really torn," he said. "This is something that none of us have ever seen, and when so many things are unknown people reach out to find comfort and religion is a place that you will find it,” he added.
Clyburn leads the U.S. House's coronavirus committee and grew up around a church. He's the son of a minister who has been studying the Bible his whole life.
He said when he was growing up, he learned in the Book of Matthew the Bible teaches, "When you pray, pray in private. Go into the privacy of your closets if you please," he recalled.
But despite warnings from himself and other officials, Clyburn said there are still rumors certain communities aren't vulnerable to COVID-19.
Clyburn said he has heard these in the African American community. However, he said now is no different than the HIV epidemic, everyone is at risk.
"At the beginning of this crisis, people were saying, 'Black people can't get it.’ We know that's not true. The first people I heard having died from this crisis were Black. And we see the numbers...unusually high among African Americans," he said.
According to DHEC, he’s right. 46 percent of South Carolinians who've died from COVID-19 are African American. And while this one community is nearly half of all fatalities, they are about a quarter of the state’s population. According to the U.S. Census, African Americans make up 27 percent of South Carolina’s population.
Therefore, the Congressman’s message to everyone, no matter their race, is the same, “I have my role to play. And you have your role to play,” he said. “Everybody who is going to church on Sunday will expect from me to do my job in order to make this economy better for them, in order for them to be able to pay their mortgages, in order for them to get back to work. I’m doing my job as best as I can, but I think you can help me do my job if you stay at home and stay safe.”
Clyburn added that staying home isn't about you, it's about other's safety and making sure you're teaching everyone watching you this crucial lesson.
“Be an example for your example for your children and grandchildren,” he said. “Be an example for your neighbors and you ought not be reckless for how you carry on your responsibilities. Be a good example.”
He says this message isn't just for Christians, it's for every religion celebrating a holiday this month.
His parting words for everyone listening to him was one more message from the Bible, “Whatever your faith may be, do justly, be merciful, and walk humbly,” Clyburn said.