Let’s be clear: I love streaming church on-line in my home, gathered with my family. I do not believe the Christian church has lost the faith because they have not been able to go to church for the past two months. We, as Christians, have a duty to be good citizens. We have classically modeled that since the beginning (for the most part) when at all possible, though as a movement we have been misunderstood, marginalized, persecuted and often slaughtered for our faith.
That said, Christians, like their Jewish predecessors, are people of profound faith, those who will stake their lives and fortunes on this unwavering belief that the God they do not see is one in whom they live, and move, and have their being. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus,
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6: 12)
We must read this in context. This was a Christian community that was surrounded by many forms of idolatry in the culture around them, and a government that by and large saw their allegiance to an “invisible God” as a threat. In this passage of scripture, Paul exhorts the church a couple of verses later: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.“
Principalities and powers can be interpreted as demonic strongholds that govern the minds of men and women. They can also be interpreted as corrupt layers of governmental power and control and structures that exist in society that give evil a foothold. Either way, the church is exhorted by the Apostle to stand up. In modern vernacular: if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.
Today our President made a stand, and in doing so he spoke for all people of faith who in their hearts, after over two months being quarantined in their homes, have said: “enough is enough.”
There will be detractors. There always are. I can hear it now. “You Christians are the problem.” Or “You will kill us all!” Or “You are selfish.”
And of course, they miss the point. Coming together to worship and pray, in fact, is God focused, not self-focused. Worship is abandoning our idols and honoring God, even if at great cost.
There are those who will object that streaming church on-line is a perfectly appropriate substitute for coming together in the flesh. We live in the cyber age, after all, and why can’t Christians just get over it and go virtual? There are many rebuttals that can be made to counter this reasoning, but I will simply point out that this is a dangerous proposition at this point in time in America. Question: who owns the internet? Who owns Google? Youtube? Facebook? Netflix? Streaming platforms? If you were to reply that the state exists to monitor this so everyone is protected and justice is served, then you get my gist. Herding congregations like cattle into their homes and instructing them to go online for an undetermined amount of time is not only unconstitutional, it is a clear step toward tyranny. With one flip pf a switch, given the right circumstances, the church’s lifeline could be cut off by an unfriendly state. Before you scream “Conspiracy theory!” just remember: that is happening right now in China and in many other parts of the world.
This is America, the land of Patrick Henry, who cried out to his fellow patriots:
“If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s spirit resonates today. To those who have marched and protested in many states to stand up for their businesses, their livelihoods, their families and their churches, his words ring true. The opening words of our Declaration of Independence remain our precious hope as a nation at this time:
“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…“
When government officials–whether they be Governors or Mayors—set themselves up as the ones who have the power to bestow or deprive people of freedom that is God-given, this is idolatry. It is tyranny. To stand idly by and submit to this type of power, when we have at our disposal God’s Word, the Constitution, and a free, clear conscience, would be a travesty.
In the words of Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”