Late last week, California megachurch leader John MacArthur acted like a persecuted hero when he announced that his Grace Community Church would refuse to obey lockdown orders in the wake of the pandemic. He said of any further closures that applied to churches, “Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.”
It was selfish. It was dangerous. It was irresponsible.
So naturally the American Family Association is jumping onboard the hype. The conservative Christian group is urging people to “serve Christ first, not Caesar.”
Take the pledge to stand with other Christians to worship Jesus. Now is the time to serve Christ first, not Caesar. Put on the whole armor of God and take a stand against government leaders who insist that Christians must abandon their corporate worship of God.
Jesus Christ, these people are threats to public health…
Literally no government official has ever told Christians to stop worshiping. (How weak is their God that such a thing could even happen?!)
Christians can gather online, livestream sermons over Facebook, and even meet in person in limited numbers and with sensible precautions. (Obviously no one’s stopping them from praying privately.) But these evangelicals are acting like any restrictions are unfairly targeting them. As the saying goes, they’re confusing a paper cut with decapitation, and they’re unwilling to acknowledge that we’re all dealing with the paper cuts!
The petition offers a tiny disclaimer at the very end:
… You are reminding your governor and state leaders that they, even in times of emergency, may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity.
That’s exactly what’s going on! In Nevada, for example, Christians were complaining that casinos were permitted to have more customers indoors… but the state was clear about the apples to oranges comparison: They were able to regulate casinos in a way they couldn’t do with churches; if casinos didn’t follow safety protocols, the state could levy fines and other punishments. That’s not the case for churches, which is why they were subject to more restrictive rules. There’s also the obvious difference between religious gatherings (which are meant to be social and which are not technically essential) and grocery stores (which are not social and very essential).
Public schools everywhere are going to delay their openings or limit the number of students on campus at the same time. Many businesses have had to adjust to working remotely. Many restaurants are now take-out or delivery only, and the ones that have opened their doors still can’t fill them to capacity. Limitations on churches, too, aren’t about hurting Christians but protecting public health.
This isn’t about choosing God over government. It’s about choosing a specific kind of worship over the safety of everyone around you. These Christians aren’t rebelling against something unjust. They’re fighting for their ability to infect as many people as possible with a disease that has no cure at the moment.
The AFA doesn’t give a damn about the health of elderly members of a congregation, or anyone else for that matter. They don’t care who suffers as long as they get to scream about persecution. They’re unaware, apparently, of churches that have seen major outbreaks after having in-person services.
But, hey, if you sign their pledge, you’re automatically signed up for the AFA’s “Action e-mail” list. Not sure that’s worth your health, but there you go.