The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, a left-leaning Social Justice organization that masquerades as a Southern Baptist entity supposedly designed to advocate for religious liberty, is telling denominational churches to close down if the government demands it. Restricting churches from gathering to worship is a government power, according to Russell Moore, the Democrat president of the organization who wrote the article.
As most churches are now not gathering on Sundays for the time being, some are asking if these sorts of health mandates are a violation of religious liberty. The short answer is “no.”
Of course, this is the only conclusion a communiatrian can come to. Individual liberties, for these types of proto-communists, always must be subordinate to the common good (which gets to be defined by the government, apparently). Moore, after waxing eloquent about the separate realms of authority of both the government and the church, says…
The current situation facing us is not a case of the state overstepping its bounds, but rather seeking to carry out its legitimate God-given authority. Nowhere, at this point, have we seen churches targeted because of their beliefs or mission.
Perhaps Moore missed that churches – oddly enough – were the first things ordered shut by the Democrat governor of Kentucky, even before other mass gatherings.
The real issue is what is overlooked by Moore. The problem precisely is that the government isn’t viewing churches and their mission any differently from other organizations. It is being treated on par with restaurants, bars, and casinos. Moore thinks ordering their closure on the grounds that the church isn’t receiving special (or partial) treatment makes it acceptable.
Closing casinos, bars, and theaters makes sense in a pandemic because they don’t provide “essential services.” Their potential cost doesn’t outweigh their potential benefit.
Closing churches in a time of pandemic sends the signal that they – likewise – fail to provide “essential services” to the community.
Christians disagree. Churches provide something essentially important to the health and well-being of the community. They are not a casino, bar, or theater that exists to entertain the public. They are the glue that will hold a community together in the darkest of hours and toughest of times.
Should hospitals also be closed in the name of “loving neighbor”? Should fire halls and police stations also close? We Christians deny that churches are any less important to the health and wellbeing of the community. Physical concerns are not the only ones that exist in times like these.
Our communities need churches now more than ever.
“Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house” (Matthew 5:15).
Peter and John responded plainly to their governing authorities, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
Meeting together is not an option. The Fourth Commandment is not the Fourth Suggestion. Sending the signal at a time of pandemic with a slightly-higher-than-the-flu mortality rate that the church will close by government decree is not good policy. It is not a good precedent. If we bend now, we’ll bend always.