Have you ever been so disturbed about a situation that you can’t organize your thoughts around it, or even find an anecdotal expression that adequately articulates your angst? Have you later found yourself extremely grateful to the person who comes along and effortlessly lays it all out?
That was a grateful me last week, about an issue that has concerned me for a while.
Caveat: “The Church” below is used generally, ergo the conditions will not apply to every church in every town to the same degree, but whether they apply to three or three million, I believe the points are worth considering…
Long before COVID-19 and its 99.7% recovery rate, I have struggled with the Church’s default compliance mode when it comes to government and the post-modern culture, but the recent unpleasantness has certainly brought it to a head. In her Red State article, “The Church Has Spectacularly Failed the COVID Test…and the Faithful,” which I highly recommend, Kira Davis addresses the issue as it pertains to COVID, in an eloquent, succinct fashion.
Ms. Davis begins by sharing that a friend had been in distress due to a lack of connection to her church during the COVID lockdowns in California. After realizing that this situation was being misconstrued by her friend – and probably countless others – as a sign of her own weakness and/or a lack of faith, Ms. Davis came to the conclusion that the Church has failed in its handling of this crisis, namely because not even they are questioning government.
Of course it’s easy to play armchair quarterback, but the game isn’t even finished yet…while many churches followed government’s unconstitutional edicts (aka: suggestions for healthy people) at the onset of COVID, they remain enforcing them seven months and a lot more hard data later, cementing the template for government’s “new normal.” This makes them unofficial, unpaid compliance officers, which is a pretty precarious position in which to place themselves…and the flock, that is struggling and stumbling as a result.
To my knowledge, very few discussions of the horrendously erroneous IHME models or 99.7% recovery rate are taking place on a wide scale, and even less so, conversations with members who have differing opinions or who cannot wear masks for health reasons, etc., all of which has left many in the flock dangling in the wind, outside of the very institution that is supposed to offer safe harbor inside. That perceived, hopefully inadvertent intolerance and resulting ostracism is the “unseen” side of all this.
Ms. Davis reports the results from California:
“Now we are whimpering, weak subjects of a hostile state and our pastoral leaders have left behind the “counter” and joined the “culture.” Instead of looking to the science and the data ourselves, we have been satisfied to simply believe every utterance coming from government, despite the traditionally adversarial relationship between the Church and the State.”
Indeed liberty was bred in the cleft created by enmity between the two, and if the Church isn’t careful, she will be complicit in creating another divide…this time between the flock and the “New Normal Church.” #SeeHistory
So why would the Church cede its autonomy and authority?
Most continue toward the goals of “safety” and legal protections, both of which are reasonable and even “noble” defenses on the surface, but it doesn’t hurt that they also shrink the two-ton tax-exempt elephant in the room to a near unnoticeable size…
So is it fair to suggest that churches are getting paid by government to be compliance officers via the tax exempt status? Some claim they would shut down if they had to pay taxes, then what would happen to the flock?
Ms. Davis addresses that as well:
“Your response may be, ‘But if the churches defy the state they will be fined and forced to close for good. And then what good can they do if they’re closed altogether?” This attitude runs counterintuitive to the Gospel. We either trust God in scary times or we don’t. I understand the fear but at some point, we have to decide if we are going to let God be God or let the state be our god.”
With that, I stood up, did the Snoopy Dance, and wondered how I could get one of my Milky Way cakes to Ms. Davis!
Folks, if we cannot trust our places of worship to push back & remind us to Whom our obedience defaults, especially when government begins to drop-kick its responsibilities in Romans 13, then how can we trust them when more egregious breaches occur? Like when government asks for the list of people & IP addresses who “register online” during live stream services…or when they ask churches to disclose the personal and financial information of their members… or “report” on missionary activities.
If those scenarios unnerve you, good; that means you know history. So I think it’s fair to ask at this point: what act of government constitutes a bridge too far for the Church, and are we sensitive enough to nip it in the bud?
We already have unconstitutional limits on the number, manner and expression of worship…do we really think government doesn’t know why churches have allowed those limits on such a grand scale? Do we really think that it won’t revoke tax exemptions the second the Church puts a toe out of line?
I know we’re all guilty of wandering from our Good Shepherd toward temporal assurances. Moreover, we often do so under the guise of blending in…not making waves… yet making waves is exactly what Jesus did during His ministry, and while He was/is tender and kind with people who were/are lost, He was/is not always so with those who had status and authority over the lost. So shouldn’t leadership at least revisit discussion and differing opinions instead of continuing to default to a government that from the get-go has not only been wrong and inconsistent, but destructive and soul-crushing? That’s the Church’s go-to template?
I almost talked myself out of writing this post because I genuinely don’t enjoy “rocking the boat…” but before that thought even completed, another entered: “which boat…?”
- The boat from which Jesus rebuked the tempest?
- The boat from which Peter begrudgingly recast his nets?
- The boat from which Peter walked on water?
Throw in some words to the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes, and Jesus had literal and metaphorical boats rockin’ and rollin’ all around Him…
Ms. Parker finishes:
“It is not lost on me that the ultimate price Peter paid for his eventual obedience to the name of Jesus was to be crucified in an extraordinarily brutal fashion.
California church leaders aren’t even willing to incur a fine in the name of Jesus.”
Indeed, and it is not lost on me that the ultimate price we’ll pay for not being faithful with our inalienable right to worship, is to never fully get that right back.
Please read Ms. Davis’ article at Red State.
“You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say” ~Martin Luther
Update: Religious Groups Got $108 Million in Local Paycheck Protection Loans.
Admittedly, I take a hard line on this because with all due respect, if you do not see a problem with tax-exempt churches taking taxpayer money from government, then you may want to re-read the history of the Church…better yet, make it a Western Civ course for a fuller comprehension and understanding of the slippery slope.
Agree with the process or not, that money was for small businesses, some of which may not have received funds because churches – some of them extremely wealthy churches – took them, and in so doing, became complicit in growing the very market (unemployed, hungry etc.) for the very solutions they provide.
How demonstrably “government” of them…
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” ~George Orwell, Animal Farm