Covid 19 and Religious Liberty
When combined with other texts in Daniel and Revelation the three angels messages present a holistic approach to understanding prophecy in these last days. Included in this understanding is the curtailing of religious liberty in the United States and elsewhere. When the church opens again, come and join us at the Living Word Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Glen Burnie, Anne Arundel County, Maryland and learn more.
Psychological Impact of Covid 19 on Religious Liberty
If my life depended on being an expert on viruses and how they work, I would probably be dead. But I do know something about religious liberty issues, and these days the Christian Church has some severe problems in that area. You are probably thinking that I am going to complain about not being able to attend a church service at a church with the regular members of the congregation. I don’t like that, but under the circumstances, I am not complaining about that.
What I don’t like to see is what some ministers are doing about the current pandemic. What will the lasting effects be? There is always a contingent in society who don’t like Christians anyway. Never mind them for now. What is going to happen when life in the United States and around the world gets back to some sense of normalcy? What are people in general going to remember about Christians? The Christians who get on national news will be remembered much more than you and I will.
Our church leaders, at every level of administration, have been very thoughtful and sober-minded in dealing with this pandemic. When public emergency orders regarding congregating in groups of ten or more came out, our leaders acted accordingly. In fact, I would say, refusing to follow government orders in this case would be in violation of
3 John 2 “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”
With a virus as contagious as this one, we would be inviting trouble if we held regular church services. I am reasoning from a medical point of view, not a legal one.
But, what about the legal aspect? Many Christians bristle when they hear that the government is restricting anything. After all, isn’t this the land of the free and the home of the brave? However, there are already many laws that restrict religious freedom. There are laws requiring children to get vaccinated. There are laws requiring certain establishments to be closed on Sundays. There are laws requiring compulsory education for children. That doesn’t seem to engender the ire of many, but never mind all of that. Those things are normal.
Tell someone they can’t go to church, and they are willing to go to jail! Just ask Tony Spell, of the Life Tabernacle Church, in Louisiana, who said “"It's a dirty, rotten, crying shame when you have to hide in America.”? He also said "My right to have church and to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ are endowed by my creator — not my district attorney, not my chief of police and not my governor, John Bel Edwards," Spell said. He said that after violating state social distancing mandates. We can all appreciate his zeal, but not his logic or judgment. In a normal state of affairs, he would be right and I would be with him! Other states have shut down businesses and business owners complained about their civil rights, but this minister illustrates a point which Seventh-day Adventists can take to heart.
What happens when the rights (and health) of the many override the rights of the few, even if the “few” are Christians? Just because we have a right to do something doesn’t mean we absolutely should do something in all cases, without exception. There is no moral law, no divine command, that the State is infringing when it closes social discourse in a church building for health reasons. It isn’t like Sunday closing laws, which definitely infringe on a divine command to keep the fourth commandment.
There is a basic life principle here. We simply go as far as we can in obeying the laws of the State without violating our God-given, sanctified conscience! We can all agree that there will be people in heaven who have never seen a church! We can get a blessing remotely thanks to modern electronics from the same people without physically being in the building. Church attendance is not a requirement to enter the kingdom of God. Yes, there is a text in Hebrews 10.
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 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.
The circumstances in Hebrews were not the same as they are today. Yes, the State is saying that we cannot attend church. But, the issue in Hebrews is not force by the State. It is the attitude of the believers. Whether it was just laziness or not wanting to look like Jews in their behavior, the believers then were not being forced to stay away! Granted, it is easier to fall away from the Lord by not attending church. Church provides many, many blessings to keep us in touch with other believers and our God. But Paul did not say go to church or you will receive the condemnation of God!
As time goes on there will be more and more cases of “religious” people crying that the sky is falling when they can’t attend church or do other things. They sometimes forget about the text in Matthew 22:21
“They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.”
It is a strange and illogical situation for a Seventh-day Adventist to argue that we need to stay away from church. But it is the right thing to do, under the circumstances.
And, the current situation illustrates another problem that will certainly come up in the future. In a Red and Blue America Agree That Now Is the Time to Violate the Constitution recent national survey of 3,000 U.S. residents, respondents were ask eight questions about restricting liberty in some way to cope with the virus, ie forced quarantine in a government building, jail time for spreading false information, forcing health care professionals to work in infected areas, and restricting the size of gatherings (churches) for example. Although all eight hypothetical situations raised serious constitutional issues, over half of the respondents supported all eight situations. History gives us examples of liberty violations in the face of security threats: The Alien and Sedition Acts signed into law by President John Adams, Japanese American internment camps in WWII, and torture after 9/11.
The phrase ‘under the circumstances’ allows us to justify a restriction of liberties with a clear conscience, but this is actually a slippery slope to make solutions to future problems that restrict rights more palatable. What happens when the beast power combines with politicians in this country to say we need to meet our climate change goals by reducing auto use on Sundays , and we can have some peaceful time with our families, if we make a Sunday law, and make it punishable by jail time or worse?
What happens if the next crisis relates to Sabbath-keeping? We say no, we cannot go along with this forced worship on Sunday and work on Sabbath. Then they say you didn’t object last time when we closed your services completely because it was for the common good. Now worshipping on Sunday and working on Saturday is for the common good. What difference does a day make anyway?
Food for Thought
"Though the last act of Satan be to unite all the wicked of the earth in the worship of the beast, and to attempt the utter extermination of the saints; yet God has said the saints shall triumph!" The Three Messages of Revelation 14:6-12 PARTICULARLY THE THIRD ANGEL'S MESSAGE, AND TWO-HORNED BEAST, JOHN N. ANDREWS, REVIEW AND HERALD PUBLISHING CO.: BATTLE CREEK, MICH; CHICAGO, ILL.; TORONTO, ONT.; ATLANTA, GA, 1892, P. 144)
Please contact any Seventh-day Adventist church for more information. There are over 100,000 Seventh-day Adventist churches in the world with over 17 million members. We invite you to visit our church at 508 Aquahart Road in Glen Burnie, Maryland and let us explain.