In this current state of affairs in the United States of Quarantine 2020, a plague has devastated the entire world and is killing the soul of America. I just received a letter from Homeland Security that gives me permission to do my essential duties working in radio during this crisis. I would never have guessed that such a time would come in this Republic. Permission to work…shelter at home…most businesses closed…quarantine at home for 30 days. I’m shocked at how quickly Americans have surrendered all of their unique rights and willingly allowed the setting aside of the Bill of Rights. Why? To possibly save the lives of the vulnerable. It sounds noble.
What sacrifices must we agree to? Just surrender our collective democratic freedoms and as a bonus, cripple the most efficient economy in history, including businesses that people built over generations. In this climate, the church would be considered reckless and evil if we didn’t surrender our rights for the sake of the most vulnerable. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15) Time has also proved this to be an infallible law: “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” So, tell me again how this is going to end well? They’ll just return to acting like they never had that power? “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
What started as a request to stop all activities and shelter at home has lost the “pretty please” and “the cherry on top.” Our government has deemed the church as non-essential. Well surely they would know. Neither the persecution of first century church nor even the murderous Nero was able to change truth. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10)
In declaring the church non-essential, these elected officials are not just limiting interaction, they are taking on the role of defining religion and stripping freedoms encased in the Bill of Rights. For the record, case law, history, and experience tell us that restricting the number of people who can assemble in a church for any reason is to deny the essential right of Freedom of Religion, let alone limiting entire congregations of people for the safety of those who may be at risk of infection. Moore v. Draper (Fl.) states that restrictions upon a group of healthy people from attending church in order to keep someone healthy would be unreasonable and oppressive restrictions. It’s not opinion, it’s case law. And for what it’s worth, churches remained open during conflict in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and every war since. Those felt like emergencies too.
Our technological abilities enable churches to communicate efficiently online; we are therefore commissioned to shelter in place. Apparently the good news is we are now considered quality entertainers; like your favorite sports and movie stars, just give us a little applause, we’ll take a bow and sit down quietly. Look at how quickly the church agreed that we are not essential, because keeping others safe was deemed loving, but meeting was deemed reckless.
Before I say anymore, let me commend the pastors who decided to protect their congregants by shuttering their facilities and following the guidance of our medical and governmental leaders. No one will ever question your integrity, wisdom or compassion. The love of Jesus was seen in you. Let me also applaud the foresighted pastor who was arrested for holding services, refusing to obey the demands of elected leaders. Look at how quickly the church turned on itself to disparage that pastor for endangering his foolish flock. It is at least a little ironic that the pastor was one of the spiritual leaders that visited the White House to pray and lay hands on President Trump a few years ago. At least he knows who to call for bail.
For most pastors, honoring our current Governors and this exceptional President is not burdensome. But we have opened a door now; we have set a precedent. Esteemed Pastor, will it be equally easy when the mandate comes from a leader less prone to read their Bible and more prone to treachery? Politicians beholding to LGBT activists, socialists, or Muslims will one day thank us for seeing ourselves as so unnecessary. Such a progressive church.
“It is the church’s responsibility to submit to authority.” Perhaps, but as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob discovered in Goshen, welcomed guests of one Pharaoh can become slaves overnight when authority is surrendered. The Nile River ran red with the blood of the babies of those who were once greatly esteemed, but just not by the new Pharaoh. “Give me absolute power and I will murder millions and utterly destroy the nation.” (Joseph Stalin) You are correct, he never said that. He just did it, because they empowered him.
Look at how quickly we agreed not to touch the unclean, pray for the dying, and agreed that we are spiritually powerless. Look at how quickly we decided that the church is not a refuge in times of trouble. Jesus healed communicable death-causing diseases like leprosy by touching the infected skin, which should have made Him physically and spiritually unclean and therefore quarantined. Instead the victims were healed and it was recognized that He was not like anyone else. Look at how quickly the church agreed that we are not a place of healing. They apparently didn’t need to reinforce the locks on the ER door to keep us out.
If the hands and feet of Jesus are not considered essential, then who is essential, you ask? This is subject to change, but currently liquor stores are considered essential businesses in every state – to aid those with alcohol dependence who are at risk of physical withdrawal. Gun stores provide a valuable public service and closing them could drive illegal firearms sales. Most states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana have allowed dispensaries to remain open. In Delaware, florists can still make deliveries. Arizona’s many golf courses are open for business. The right to call an abortion essential in a pandemic is still being battled in courts. Worldwide, one baby is aborted every second.
Is our first job to obey authority? The American Revolution was not fought to enable us to obey an unjust authority, but to create an authority that flowed from the bottom up. Our first duty as states in the Declaration of Independence: “…that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” We should not be quick to surrender a right our forefathers crossed the seas and founded this nation upon. If the founders felt us worthy, why the sudden need to vote?
Please hear my heart. I am in no way advocating civil disobedience, endangering congregants, or the re-opening of the churches as this plague passes through. But just as ten plagues came and went from Egypt, leaving death and suffering in their wake, corona virus will pass over us as well one day. The economy will find its way back, and life will return to some sort of normal.
Dear pastors who honored these elected leaders, will you be as diligent to turn the hearts of the Governors and President toward the church’s uncertain future at the hands of lesser men trapped in political vices? Will you protect us from this political overreach once the plague has passed? Will you admonish these public servants to re-examine the essential aspects of our faith and to reattach the 1st Amendment to our Constitution stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Let’s give the authority in the church back to Jesus who died for it and empowers it daily because it is the only essential reality on the planet. If not, then we need not worry about future persecution. The same government having declared the church meetings, worship and prayer as non-essential, under a new Pharaoh will declare persecution for such a conciliatory people non-essential. This is the plague we should truly fear.