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Should Church Leaders Resist Government and Open Their Churches?

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By Don Boys, Ph.D.

Religious people have had trouble with secular officials from the beginning of time and will until the end of time.

The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 settled a religious dispute between Roman Catholics (the Emperor’s church) and Lutheran nobles in Bohemia, especially its capital, Prague. The peace lasted for about 60 years with ever-increasing religious liberty and additional civil rights for Lutherans.

It was an era of good feelings between two formerly aggressive religions. But in 1618, that came to an end as a new heir to the kingdom wanted to make Europe Catholic again at the Lutherans’ expense. (Politicians have such a short memory, but then no one ever said they were brilliant.)

On May 23, 1618, some Protestant nobles, angry at their loss of rights, confronted four Roman Catholic lords who admitted their part in the reversal of Protestant rights. One Protestant said, “You are the enemies of us and of our religion…you have tried to force [us] to adopt your religion against [our] wills or have had [us] expelled for this reason…”

Then the angry Protestants released two lords but threw two of the Catholic hardliners and their secretary out of a third-story window, and incredibly all three survived the fall—or the throw. Catholic officials said it was because the three men were caught by the Virgin Mary and angels; however, the reality is they landed in a large pile of manure just under the window!

That was followed by the bloody Thirty Years’ War fought mainly in central Europe and was one of the most protracted and brutal conflicts with over 8 million deaths from all causes.

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Catholics—don’t mess with Protestants. They are very sensitive when their religion is threatened.

A classic church-state conflict has been brewing for the past year because of officious China coronavirus lockdowns that have usually been unfair, unequal if not unnecessary.

This gets more complicated, confusing, and contentious when a church is involved and the safety of people is in question. No church leader wants to cause further suffering or impinge on others’ rights. Religious leaders, especially pastors, usually have strong opinions that should be based upon Scripture.

However, there is a massive problem with that statement: frail humanity, including theological scholars, must interpret what the Scripture means with what it says. Many clerics don’t even believe the Bible they preach and, in my opinion, they are parasites without principle, living rather grandly off a Book they deny, denigrate, and often despise. Those church leaders who sincerely want to know the truth must seek that truth, then obey without concern with public reaction or personal ramifications.

Pastors are to lead their churches on the right path that is straight and narrow; however, it is unpopular to take a narrow position. Popular thought today is that we are supposed to be amenable to anything; after all, truth is not absolute, so there is my truth, your truth, Bill’s truth, etc. But that is spineless, sacrilegious, and senseless if not stupid.

When the China coronavirus smacked the face of the world in the early days of 2020, the herd mentality took control as U.S. governors issued orders to close down all public gatherings. Any public movement had to be “essential.” This was the most aggressive, intrusive, pervasive edict by governments in history. And like sheep (or some would say as good citizens), people basically obeyed globally. Mankind had never seen anything like that.

All state and county officials coerced pastors to shut down all church services in March of 2020, and the California governor decided church services were nonessential in the battle with the China coronavirus. That offended many pastors who pointed out that other businesses such as strip clubs could remain open.

That seems, dare I suggest, the governor would appear to be a bigot, maybe even a hypocrite. Well, the possibility of being a hypocrite is well established since he told all Californians to not go out to eat, yet he went to a famous restaurant for a meal that cost at least $310.00. He didn’t simply stop for a hot dog.

Governor Newsom is a card-carrying hypocrite, but then he is also a progressive Democrat. Sorry for the redundancy. It seems his main purpose in life is to annoy people.

Most U.S. church leaders closed down in an attempt to help defeat the disease now called a pandemic. Many churches met in their parking lots with members sitting in their automobiles responding with lights and horns. Some produced their services via computers reaching many additional people worldwide.

But that got old and developed a new set of problems. Many church leaders struggled with the scriptural admonition of Hebrews 10:25 that warns, “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.”

That is a command to go to church.

They had refused to assemble; consequently, they were obeying men rather than God. Pastors, struggling with their conscience, decided to resist the governor’s order and opened their churches. However, most government officials think they are omnipotent and don’t like to be disobeyed by the hoi polloi—the little people. And they sure don’t like it when those who disobey are so sure they are right and think they are special.

It is a fact that the church of the living God is special, and if government officials don’t like it, they can change the state and federal constitutions.

Last week Dr. Jack Treiber, pastor of North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, California, groveled to Governor Newson of California. Baptist pastors don’t grovel with grace; it is always as awkward as an African elephant dancing The Nutcracker Suite. Treiber has served for 45 years as pastor of a large church and founder of a Christian school, a college, etc. He is a committed and capable leader, although I know him only by reputation. He and I would identify with the Independent Baptist movement. He pleaded with the governor to permit the church he pastors to reopen.

He should never have closed the church.

After initially closing its doors for the pandemic, the church resumed indoor services in late August of 2020 with enormous fines accruing for each illegal service. The order also prohibited the church (that practiced social distancing) from singing. The church eventually accrued over $112,000 in fines that reportedly will not be forgiven.

They also should not be paid.

The pastor begged, “Governor Newsom, I implore you to open up our churches Easter Sunday, April 4. This is Sunday, early in the morning, and we’re freezing out here. We’re cold. We’ve been obeying for 366 days, one year and one day. We’ve shut our church down. We’re meeting in the parking lot. We’re meeting in open-air meetings, and we have tents everywhere.”

He added, “We need our church open.” It should never have been closed. Moreover, the pastor need not have used the various reasons to reopen his church. The Constitution is enough. However, let me be clear: even without a constitution, the church is obligated to disobey the government and take the consequences.

Principles are always the same. Can anyone even consider the early apostles appealing to Jerusalem officials for permission to hold services? These are the people who met in homes, barns, caves, etc. They are the ones who told officials (who specifically ordered them to stop preaching Christ) in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

That was one of the first and most eloquent appeals on record in favor of the right of private judgment and the liberty of conscience. This was confessing that the authority of God in all matters was higher to that of any man, whatever his position and presumed authority. And that confession, conviction, and claim manifested itself early in the Christian church against all politicians, potentates, and powers in favor of the right to follow the dictates of the conscience and the will of God.

Ironically, the pulpit at North Valley Baptist Church is inscribed with the truth recorded in Colossians 1:18, “In all things he might have the preeminence.” All things means all things. This is the heart of any church-state dispute. Is Christ superior and sovereign over all? If so, then no authority, even the U.S. Supreme Court, has the authority to close a church, although a church can decide to do so by a congregational vote for remodeling, bad weather, etc.

When all appeals have been made and everything has been attempted, the state or feds make their final ruling: the church must remain closed and pay the fines or go out of the religion business. At that time, the church must refuse to close down or pay any fines, even a token fine.

Of course, no church member will be involved in violence, but they must not cooperate in their closing. It is not considered wise to hand your executioner his ax. The church should force, by their refusal, the state or feds to arrest them and confiscate their buildings and sell them under the glare of television cameras. Let the world see what the political bullies do to people of principle.

The harassed church should then meet in a funeral home, school auditorium, or even in member homes all over the city. If officials persist in chasing them down, the church should continue to meet in disobedience to any law or ordinance. The church leaders will then be arrested and jailed.

When hundreds of pastors are in jail, maybe lazy, thoughtless citizens will understand our republic has become a totalitarian nightmare. No pastor or church leader should pay a fine or negotiate his way to freedom since any compromise is impossible if Christ is over everything. The pastor is Christ’s representative, and he cannot compromise the church of God for his own safety or the church’s existence.

This might and will probably take many forms as the officials, impressed with their own self-importance, bully their way through various church-state conflicts.

The governors who think churches are nonessential may be like Dr. Seuss, who speculated about the Grinch, whose “head isn’t screwed on just right, his shoes are too tight, or perhaps his heart is just two sizes too small.” Most of the offensive governors don’t have their heads “screwed on just right” since they are all Democrats. Not sure about their shoes being too tight, but for sure, their hearts are “just two sizes too small.”

Some may suggest that our religious problems can be solved as per the Lutherans’ plan in 1618—to throw each governor out of the window might be the best and permanent solution.

All right, but make sure he lands on a soft surface.
(Dr. Don Boys is a former member of the Indiana House of Representatives who ran a large Christian school in Indianapolis and wrote columns for USA Today for 8 years. Boys authored 18 books, the most recent being Muslim Invasion: The Fuse is Burning! The eBook is available here with the printed edition (and other titles) at www.cstnews.com. Follow him on Facebook at Don Boys, Ph.D.; and visit his blog. Send a request to DBoysphd@aol.com for a free subscription to his articles, and click here to support his work with a donation.)

         

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