The COVID pandemic of 2019—2020 disrupted all areas of life. And that includes the church. Sadly, the first casualty was common sense.
Over on the left coast, lawsuits sprung up attempting to eliminate all response to the crisis. To be sure, debate and discussion can (and should) exist regarding which states acted reasonably, which others overreacted, and who under reacted.
But for pastors and churches to sue to drop pandemic protections? Promote lawlessness? Avoid common sense actions to protect people during a pandemic? Covid induced crazy.
Does any Biblical or spiritual rational exist to not follow the law and regulations designed to help slow the pandemic’s spread? And what should we do in the future when similar situations arise? COVID isn’t the first pandemic; it won’t be the last.
It’s 2:59AM, after all.
One verse the new movement hitches their wagon to:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)
That’s it! See, God commands us to meet, so if the government imposes restrictions (during a pandemic), we’re okay to ignore them!
A staggering mis-application of the verse. Forsaking is key, having a flavor of willful abandonment. If I tell my son after graduating from High School, “son, don’t forsake your college education,” in the fall when he arrives on campus, but falls and breaks his leg, will he lament “oh, I let dad down since I can’t go to class for a few weeks, as zoom doesn’t qualify as college class?”
Of course not, that’s silly and stupid.
Assembling involves ability. When 5 feet of snow piles up outside, are you supposed to risk frostbite (and death) walking 20 miles to church because you can’t get the car on the road?
Of course not, that’s silly and stupid.
What if you have surgery and stay home for a few months to recover and miss Sunday service, are you in sin and not following God’s commands?
Of course not, that’s silly and stupid.
So during a pandemic, when it’s possible to infect others (even if you feel well) or be infected yourself, is it violating God’s command when temporarily suspending services to contain a pandemic?
You know the answer — of course not, that’s a silly and stupid argument.
Such silly and stupid ideas end up in legalism — just how many Sundays can you miss before you’re doomed to Hell as a sinner? The crowd fails to provide an answer.
Think about it — the church and its pastors asking their members to not only break the law, but encourage failing to take protection against a potential deadly disease. That’s the state of the church in 2020.
It’s obvious those saying we must meet or be in violation of God’s commands have nothing to stand on (Biblically, morally, legally, medically, mathematically).
Paul and Romans 13
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves judgment. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. (Romans 13:1—2,5)
Or perhaps a bit clearer in the NLT:
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.
That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? If you know any Roman Empire history and how they treated the early church, it’s a bold statement from Paul.
Paul says obey governing authorities; no reason during the current COVID situation exists for urgently promoting illegal activities by the church (or asking its members to do so), or to ignore common sense regulations in time of pandemic, putting people at risk.
Wait a minute you say, isn’t there an exception? Sort of.
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)
What was the situation in Acts 5? The disciples were told not to preach in Jesus’ name — an order they can’t follow.
You don’t get a blank check to ignore laws you don’t like. Let’s be honest, all of us view some actions the government performs as wrong and we’d like to change (or ignore), but in light of Paul’s teaching, is that correct? Or woefully out of order?
Only one exception exists, and it’s narrow and (at least in the United States) extremely rare. We don’t need to guess on application, as several historical examples exist.
Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up; And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:4–6)
Now that’s a problem. What was their response?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3:16—18)
No can do, O king. We will not worship alternative gods.
Daniel himself faced a similar situation in chapter six.
All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. (Daniel 6:7)
Daniel’s response: not gonna (not) happen, O king. I’ll keep praying as I always have.
It’s obvious the attempt to equate these serious situations with a temporary restraint for pandemics (or wearing a face mask to help avoid transmission) makes the person look silly. It’s laughable, if those promoting such silliness weren’t serious.
One exception exists with Paul’s instruction clearly demonstrated by these examples: if we are told to oppose Christ (i.e. bow down to idols, deny Christ, murder, cease praying, etc) something unquestionably not the current case (or perhaps I’ve missed the news articles describing all the laws preventing prayer or meeting via web conference).
We present just a few lawsuits being flung around, and notice the reliance on emotion instead of logic. It’s the equivalent of a two-year-old temper tantrum. I want what I want, and I want it now! And a cookie too!
Ten churches from across the state have asked a judge to rule that Gov. Kate Brown’s social distancing order infringes on their religious freedoms so their congregations can resume worship as desired.
“If we’re risking our lives to go to church, if we survive great,” said Salem-based attorney Ray D. Hacke, who filed a motion for a temporary restraining order Thursday. “If we die, then we’re going to heaven. If we want to take that risk, then it’s on us.”
Hacke filed a lawsuit the day before in Baker County Circuit Court on behalf of the nonprofit group Pacific Justice Institute…
This is the image of the Oregon church these supporters want the general population to see?
But it’s also not “on us” as they claim. Obviously if a mass group assembles (in opposition to law and common sense) and then disburses among the population, their failure to exercise common sense creates a large problem for everyone else. Their staggering lack of self-awareness, lack of concern for health of members, and what they teach by example, is appalling.
This list of pastors, people, and churches supporting this particular suit in Oregon is long, showing the extent of covid craziness. It’s embarrassing.
And don’t be fooled, this new movement promotes illegal activity, ignoring science, and a lack of common sense and clear thinking. They attempt to intimidate you with ideas like we must follow God’s command, but no doubt exists the movement asks you to teach your children ignoring the law is fine … as long as you don’t like the law (and get a cookie).
How may parents want that message taught to their children?
This suit demonstrates a common argument. An important issue, for in court briefings, lawyers use every tool available to them, and if their brief fails to explain adequately, it shows how silly and unsubstantiated their camp is.
The Church believes, among other things, that the Bible commands Christians to gather together in person for corporate prayer, worship, and fellowship and that such assembly is necessary and good for the Church and its members’ spiritual growth.
Consistent with that belief, the Church’s mission and purpose is: (1) to continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers; (2) to worship God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; (3) to build up the Church of Jesus Christ through the teaching of the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit; and (4) to persuade men and women to repent and confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
It’s the next part where they go completely off the rails, crashing into the ditch.
The Church sincerely believes that online services and drive-in services do not meet the Bible’s requirement that the Church meet together in person for corporate worship.
So now sincere belief is good enough? The court filings don’t present a Biblical argument — only they want the cookie, and they want it now! Wah!
Fortunately courts have so far stood with common sense, in one case the court tossed out a lawsuit to rule (a long quote, but worth reading in detail):
The Governor of California’s Executive Order aims to limit the spread of COVID–19, a novel severe acute respiratory illness that has killed thousands of people in California and more than 100,000 nationwide. At this time, there is no known cure, no effective treatment, and no vaccine. Because people may be infected but asymptomatic, they may unwittingly infect others. The Order places temporary numerical restrictions on public gatherings to address this extraordinary health emergency…
Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Similar or more severe restrictions apply to comparable secular gatherings, including lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports, and theatrical performances, where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time. And the Order exempts or treats more leniently only dissimilar activities, such as operating grocery stores, banks, and laundromats, in which people neither congregate in large groups nor remain in close proximity for extended periods.
The precise question of when restrictions on particular social activities should be lifted during the pandemic is a dynamic and fact-intensive matter subject to reasonable disagreement. Our Constitution principally entrusts “[t]he safety and the health of the people” to the politically accountable officials of the States “to guard and protect.” Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U. S. 11, 38 (1905). When those officials “undertake to act in areas fraught with medical and scientific uncertainties,” their latitude “must be especially broad.” Marshall v. United States, 414 U. S. 417, 427 (1974). Where those broad limits are not exceeded, they should not be subject to second-guessing by an “unelected federal judiciary,” which lacks the background, competence, and expertise to assess public health and is not accountable to the people. See Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 469 U. S. 528, 545 (1985).
Now that’s a coherent and well-argued position. You may agree or not with it (or its conclusion) but you can at least follow it; it contains discussion, precedent, and logic.
The other side? God commands it! (with a void of any reasoned and logical discussion after that statement).
As the movement’s evangelists ask people to break the law and take risks during a pandemic, it’s not unreasonable to ask what the good reason to do so would be.
But I want a cookie!
Some claim it’s persecution of the church. Not so. First, anyone making that statement should travel to other parts of the world (or just read Daniel) to see what real persecution is.
The closures have been across the board, and groups attempting to equate loss of life to a temporary closure or staying six feet apart look … you know it … silly.
If it ever really does arise where a church is unable to meet, while everyone else is, that not only creates a constitutional problem, we’re right back in Daniel six. But the current situation (at least in Oregon) hasn’t even come close.
At 3am you’ve got what you’ve got. If people have spiritual issues due to lack of physical only meeting, it’s a golden (and literally once-in-a-lifetime) opportunity for teaching and coaching.
Because at 3am (or in a pandemic), you’ve got what you’ve got.
Using all available technology (web conference, blogs, YouTube, etc) is something that will help, given this is unlikely to be the last pandemic, the worst quarantine, or if actual persecution does come to the church.
Opportunity missed by the we-must-be-open movement’s disciples.
Neither has an answer come to the simple question of why the urgency? What irreparable harm comes from short term restraint until the pandemic subsides?
It’s been argued the church is being “irreparably harmed” by following the law. But I’ve yet to read a court case (or heard anyone argue otherwise) exactly how that works, and I’ve read multiple court cases, and listened to arguments about irreparable harm to the church … but they never define exactly what that means.
They look silly, yet again (still).
Staying home a few months pales compared to, well, being dead. Dead is (by definition) irreparable harm, and pastors and leaders should protect their congregants, not feed them to the wolves (that wolf being a pandemic).
Personally, I’d be embarrassed as a lawyer to enter court arguing staying home for a few months causes more harm than being dead. But stomp up and down demanding a cookie anyway.
They look silly making that comparison. Bless their little heart for trying though.
You’re a Weak Christian, After All
I’ve encountered discussions of “weak” Christians who are “fearful”; if you’re strong and unafraid, trusting in the Lord, surely you’ll be able to see how harmless this is (although they always present the list of things they’re doing to keep people safe, an obvious contradiction of their previous declaration).
What will people who choose not to attend possibly think, given the “fear” and “weak” statements hurled at them?
Why am I so weak? What’s wrong with me? They say I must not be right with the Lord…
Causing people to stumble … a group I don’t want to be a member of. And no Christian leader should want to be in that group either. Sadly, some plunge into that situation boldly, recklessly, and most sad, proudly.
But they also look silly saying you’re not trusting the Lord, and why are you so afraid of a pandemic?
Question: Did you use your seatbelt when you last drove your car? What, you did? Why are you so filled with fear? Don’t you trust the Lord? Why are you allowing the “man” to tell you what to do and limit your freedom? The church should rally against such oppressive rules limiting free expression! After all, risk of accident is small, and of those involved in auto accidents only some die.
It’s exactly the same argument the COVID lets-open-no-matter-what disciples preach, though those proclaiming “don’t be afraid” … likely still buckle their seat belt and follow laws mandating seat belt usage.
As Paul Harvey Would Say, Here’s the Rest of the Story…
The US has experienced about 150,000 or so deaths from COVID in 2019-2020 (the total isn’t in yet as this is written, some estimates go past 200,000 possible); auto accidents kill about 35,000 yearly according to FARS (a tragedy by itself); you’re 4–7 times more likely to die from COVID than a car accident.
Do the ignore-the-rules disciples tell you that? Do they know how silly they look fastening their seat belt, yet preaching COVID is nothing and you should trust the Lord and if you don’t you’re weak?
Those using such arguments obviously aren’t thinking logically (and failed to do their proper research), and undeniably aren’t applying their own rules consistently in other areas of their life.
Value relativists — another group I’d prefer not to be a part of.
Of course, as Chuck Missler says, “Never underestimate a humans’ ability to rationalize” — a part of covid craziness as well.
Even if the ignore-the-law group are correct (and they are not), causing such division in the church remains unwise over a silly idea as no harm arises from a temporary cessation of physical services when vast amounts of technology exist to bridge the gap.
Instead, the movement splits people into two camps and you’re either on the side of the movement or not.
Is this what church leadership wants to drive a stake in the ground over? This is the one fundamental issue facing the church, and if you don’t agree, it’s hasta-la-vista, baby? Seriously?
Christian pastors, leaders, and lawyers shouldn’t be involved in dividing up the church over silly issues (doubly so for those failing common sense and Biblical justification), when no negative consequences occur from simply leaving the rock unturned.
The only mission is Jesus Christ, and Him crucified — because that’s what gets you through at 3am.
Hebrews 10:25 — They Got It Wrong!
Let’s go back to Hebrews 10:25 and what the crowd hangs their hat on. Before verse 25 comes … surprise! … verse 24.
 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (NKJV)
Notice they start quoting at a comma? But the two verses represent a single thought! Ignore the first part, praise the second — cherry picking the Bible in the worst way imaginable.
Is setting a bad example good works? Advocate breaking the law? Teaching members and children if you really really want the cookies, just ignore common sense, rules, and law?
Love is agape. Commitment. Caring. Something these new political disciples lack.
Never forget the world notices the stunning hypocrisy of this new movement as “sticking it to the man” replaces ministry, coherent thought, and sound Biblical analysis.
What to do?
Obviously those promoting this new movement (including ignoring mask rules, physical distancing, failing to reduce seating, ignoring occupancy loads and additional cleaning, etc) are beyond theologically out of order — it promotes lawlessness and sets horrible examples for their members, children, and those in the community, as well as asking their members to support breaking the law.
If a church wants to open (which may or may not be wise depending on many factors), step one is not promoting breaking the law (unless it fits into the exception we covered earlier, and COVID obviously does not). Second, a church has a duty to go above and beyond not only following the law, but protecting members — at a minimum avoiding divisiveness by following the rules and not becoming entangled in silly legal and political matters.
Yeah, what a radical concept — Christian pastors should not advocate breaking the law (it’s a pathetic commentary on the 2020 church that needs to be said at all).
Going above extra cleaning, following mask rules where they exist, limits on attendance (some churches use reserved tickets for seating), re-arranging seating to enforce distance, making masks available for free to members (and encouraging and/or enforcing their use as required by guidelines and law) and so on.
That’s the least a church should do, and in fact churches — to set the example — should go beyond the minimum to not only protect their members, but set an example for the community, as well as their members.
Never forget the world watches how the church reacts (and when it involves itself in silly lawsuits and promotes ignoring laws, the world notices), as a recent New York Times article details. However, a different author notes at the end of his commentary on the NYTimes piece:
Note: Calvary Chapel churches play a prominent role in the New York Times article. On Sunday, I visited Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (the founding church of the Calvary Chapel movement). Their church was gathering following all state and county mandates, right down to the detail of parking one spot apart. They have seven zones, all with ushers, health workers, cleaners, etc
Wow. Such a radical position. Follow the law. Protect church members. Help stop a pandemic.
Sadly, not all Calvary Chapels appear to follow the example from the church Chuck Smith founded. Some feature in lawsuits (or cheer them on) seeking to remove regulation to keep members safe, and fail to protect the flock by ignoring common sense responses to a pandemic.
Following the law should be the minimum a church should do. It shouldn’t be strange or controversial to say church leaders should avoid asking their members to break the law; those having a problem following the law and promoting others to illegal activities are in error.
As we’ve covered, absolutely no doubt exists the new movement twisted the Bible verse used to justify their new doctrine, they’re a bad witness to those outside the church, a bad example for those inside the church, and they can’t produce a reason why any of this is important whatsoever (and why breaking the law suddenly became a massive issue the church should engage in).
So how should Christians (and others as well) handle differences? Allow me to enter Mr. Peabody’s wayback machine to relate a story; hopefully the point becomes obvious.
When I was growing up we attended a church I found out later Dad had issues with. He and the pastor would discuss over lunch, engaging in what likely would be described as passionate conversation.
All growing up I didn’t know this. So why did we stay you ask?
Simply because my father remains unquestionably the finest Bible teacher (and example) of the last century. He understood major issues existed, and minor. While he certainly felt correct in his positions, it wasn’t something to split over, as long as the majors were in agreement (and they were).
That attitude looooong since evaporated, especially in this new movement having no reservations dividing people who don’t agree with their new-fangled ideas (it still seems bizarre to require saying Christian leaders should not promote breaking the law. Sigh).
A list certainly exists (and we can debate what should be on the list) which if you don’t agree with you’re not a Christian. Beyond that, not so much. Certainly not worth dividing members over, but that’s the sorry state of some church (leadership) in 2020.
Dad taught me so well in fact, I believed all pastors and leaders shared the same quality — being able to engage in civilized discourse, and not sweat the small stuff. It turns out not so much.
The litmus test for this new movement isn’t God, salvation, or repentance. It’s ignoring the law. Sticking it to the man. Rebellion. Politics over people. We won’t wear masks! We won’t rearrange chairs! We won’t follow the law!
You’re on their side … or not. COVID crazy.
It’s sad, and pathetic. Certainly not what I expected, or hoped, but essential leadership characteristics seem to be missing lately (not promoting lawlessness is high on that list.
Oh, and the rest of the story? We left that church after moving away. But decades later that pastor came out of retirement to perform a wedding ceremony for our family … in that church building.
Neither he nor my father ever majored in the minors. Now that’s the way it should be; my mistake came from believing no matter what, we’re all church family, and won’t split over minor silly issues.
Not so much, as it turns out.
People should be logical, use sound thinking, and science to make decisions.
Of course, nobody is 100% logical (or perfect), so to make the obvious point nobody can follow it all the time.
However, we should all agree those suing, endangering others, telling people they’re “weak” Christians, insulting, splitting off or shaming church members, and failing to follow Paul’s teaching isn’t small potatoes.
It’s failing the 3AM phone call test. In a big way.
I’ve searched for spiritual, legal, ethical, medical, or moral reasons to understand the new movement’s position. None can be found, and there are few times in my life I’ve spent so much time trying to look positively on an issue I don’t agree with.
You must not pass along false rumors. You must not cooperate with evil people by lying on the witness stand. You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong… (Exodus 23 1–2 NLT)
Simply put, no reason exists. It’s a horribly wrong and out of order course of action, and reading some of the court cases and who involves themselves and their churches in, I’m embarrassed for them — promoting lawlessness isn’t something Christians should be involved with.
If you’ve been thrown under the bus by this new movement shroudning the nation in darkness, know you’re not alone, and yes the idea of churches promoting lawlessness and failing to protect their members sounds as bad as it is. You’re not wrong, many pastors today are.
However, it’s possible after the covid crazy wears off, this new movement will fade away. In that case a lot of people will seek forgiveness for their actions..
Please show grace and mercy to them. While they’re wildly off course now, if they abandon the political movement they’re trapped by and return to traditional Christianity, welcome them back. Please.
That may sound flippant. It’s not. I’ll always try and express what dad taught … and lived … as best as I can (forgiveness doesn’t mean another opportunity to throw people under the bus however).
So why have so many pastors and other people calling themselves Christians spent so much time on a silly issue? Why willfully endanger people when one of the duties of pastors should be protecting the flock?
I sincerely don’t know; I’ve spent many hours reading lawsuits across several states, listening to pastors try and rationalize their position, and more, but I’ve yet to hear much more than slogans — even in court filings where a lawyer’s duty remains providing every chance and argument which would further their chances of winning.
It makes so sense.
COVID isn’t a central issue for the church (other than protecting its members from it as best as can be done), and those joining this movement — founded on promoting lawlessness — which now darkens the country have not only been divisive for no reason or benefit, they’re simply wrong.
- No spiritual reason exists.
- No medical reason.
- No legal reason.
- No moral reason.
- It’s a horrible example inside and outside the church.
- It’s not an exception to Paul’s teaching to follow the law.
- It’s divisive for no reason or benefit.
It will be one of the great many mysteries of history why during this pandemic so many calling themselves Christians wildly and proudly abandoned what they claimed to believe, abandoning Biblical principles, common sense, logic, critical thinking, and guarding the flock in the process.
Covid craziness. Yep, it’s silly, but with real consequences.