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How Do We Deal With Viral Threats to Our Religious Liberty?
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Col. Tim Moore Ever since American Christians celebrated Easter in 2020, they have been coping with unprecedented levels of government intrusion into typical worship practices. Most churches in America have complied with generalized public health decrees to minimize group gatherings. So, instead of full houses of worship on the most important day on the Christian calendar, they settle for taped services streamed via the internet.

A very few pastors have refused to cancel their live worship services. Opening their doors to any who felt led to attend, they claim that their allegiance to God outweighs their fealty to Caesar. Other churches have decided to host "drive-in" worship services where the faithful can gather corporately, while honoring social distancing guidelines from the comfort of their cars.

Even that option was deemed too risky by some elected leaders. In Kentucky, the mayor of Louisville banned drive-in worship — only to have his decree ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. Kentucky's Governor, Andy Beshear, who mandated the closure of all churches but declared Kentucky's abortion clinic and liquor stores to be "essential" services, sent state police to record the license plate of every vehicle that attended unauthorized church services. And in California, an overzealous governor along with local officials have prohibited churches from singing and playing wind instruments in their services. Talk about tyrannical overreach!

Striking a Balance

Much debate has ensued over the right balance for Christians to strike in the midst of a public health crisis. A real desire to "love others as ourselves" by taking reasonable measures to safeguard public health seems necessary and prudent.

But as the crisis continues, voices have sounded a legitimate alarm over the long-term consequences of an economic catastrophe — something that will impact mental, social and physical health. One Tennessee county official lamented eight recent suicides, arguing that social isolation was having a much greater impact on his community than the coronavirus.

Even as I write, national, state and local officials are weighing the risks of enacting new shutdowns against the virus itself. Inevitably, some states and regions will emerge from the crisis more quickly than others. Sadly, precedents are being set as some officials exhibit autocratic tendencies and undermine the Constitutional primacy of religious freedom.

Among the important lessons to be gleaned from this experience is an awareness of the corrosiveness of power wielded without restraint. The sinful nature of mankind means that absolute power really does tend to corrupt absolutely. That is why our Founders created a system of checks and balances — ensuring that power was never consolidated in one branch or one office. As John Adams wrote: "Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast view beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God's service, when it is violating His laws."

So, although we are commanded to pray for those in authority, we should never place all our trust or faith in them. Times like this demonstrate the importance of placing our hope in the One who is omniscient and omnipotent.

(For lessons gleaned from the various authorities involved in Jesus' crucifixion offering indelible examples of power wielded irresponsibly today, read the full article.)

Judge a Tree by Its Fruit

It has been said that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." Some of the most egregious purveyors of authoritarian overreach have proven the truth of this adage during the current coronavirus crisis by citing their altruistic intentions. Adding insult to injury, for many of them, the tendency to marginalize Christianity and defend abortion has been absolute.

Jeremiah warned that the human heart is more deceptive than all else (Jeremiah 17:9). But Christians grounded in the Word and blessed with discernment should not be deceived — even by wolves in sheep's clothing.

Instead, we should look at a person's fruit. Does an official's actions erode reliance on and faith in God? Do they honor constitutional restraints on their own power? Or, do they take advantage of every opportunity to grow the scope and intrusiveness of government — even at the cost of religious liberty?

Freedom's Flame is Flickering

Previous generations of Christians fought and bled to lay claim to the religious freedom granted by our Creator and enshrined in the American Constitution. They considered it a sacred duty to exercise that freedom and then pass it on unencumbered to the next generation. Religious liberty is under attack as never before — and is being relinquished by many who ought to know better.

Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ordered by the high priest to stop teaching in Jesus' name, Peter and the apostles responded, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:27-29). Flogged as a warning, "they went on their way rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name" (Acts 5:40-41).

The signs of the times indicate that we are witnessing the fulfillment of Romans 1:18-32 and 2 Timothy 3:1-8 and 4:3-4. Men and women who purport to represent our society show growing animosity toward sound doctrine of the Christian faith. Their hatred for those who love the Lord's appearing will only increase as the Day of the Lord draws near.

We have been posted on the watchtowers of our society. While we still have a voice, let us sound the alarm. When we run afoul of secular despots, we will be warned and may even be persecuted. But some who are groping in darkness will heed our call, repent and turn to Him who will set them free indeed.

In such a time as this, let's heed the advice of the Apostle Paul (Romans 13:11-14):

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
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