Are Religious Freedoms Being Trampled Because of the Corona Virus?
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
Due to the lockdowns across our country caused by Covid-19, most churches have been ordered to be closed. Ironically in most states, Liquor stores have been declared an essential business and remain opened. For many Christians, this appears to be a trampling of the first amendment, which protects religious freedom. Certainly, politically we can see this as a denial of our rights and in some state’s lawsuits have been filed.
But as Christians are we driven by politics or acting in a way God desires? In other words, how does God want us to act? After all, didn’t Jesus say; Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things are God’s. Paul in Romans wrote; Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities.
So it appears Biblically, that we should comply with the civil orders, but at the same time stay committed to Jesus. In other words, still worship, but find a different way. Instead of being confrontational, we should put our energies into thinking about alternative ways to worship. Leave the political bickering to civil authorities.
As Christians, we have a long history of figuring out how to be true to Christ and avoid civil conflict. The early Christians in Rome worshipped under the city in the catacombs to avoid upsetting the local authorities. The early Methodists in England met in homes or chapels, so as not to upset the state-sponsored Anglican church. Even in early America when the population grew faster than churches could be built, Methodists and Baptist met in homes or created camp meetings. Ingenuity in worship has always been a Christian hallmark.
Jesus defines worship as; For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew [18:20]) A simple message that means all we have to do is gather in Jesus’s name.
While I agree, the right to practice religious freedom is a constitutional hallmark, I don’t think fighting this ban is as productive as finding other ways to worship. Our energies are better spent using alternative methods and gathering in Jesus’ name.
And many churches are live streaming their services. Some have started drive-in churches, even though some overly zealous authorities have been handing out tickets.
Zoom has become a way for Christians to gather in Jesus’ name. Zoom is a great place to hold small bible groups or even meet for prayer. It has the added advantage of being able to this with friends who are physically far away. I am sure, Jesus would approve of Zoom for small Bible groups and prayer groups.
I am also sure Jesus would not want us to get our neighbors sick, by meeting in unsafe environments. Biblically, social distancing is supported, particularly in Leviticus 13, which lays out the Biblical rules of self-quarantine. Ironically fourteen days is mentioned as the protocol, similar to today’s rules.
Some will disagree and say we should fight harder to protect our religious freedom, to which I heartedly agree. But there are bigger Christian persecution issues we should labor against. Once COVID-19 is diminished, we will be able to go back to our physical church. Instead, we should stay focused on issues that will not go away when COVID-19 disappears; like letting Bibles be okay in school. Fighting for the right to pray in schools.
Internationally, we should still fight for religious freedom in faraway places like China. Today, more than ten percent of Christians live with persecution. Frankly, this is the battle to fight and not be distracted by the obvious insanity of letting liquor stores be open when churches are closed.
Here in the United States, we have viable options for worship, in other parts of the world, many Christians not only do not have options. Their worship is banned, no matter the form. This is where our voices can have a long term impact.
Our voices should be louder with allowing prayer and Bibles to exist in schools and businesses. While atheists will proclaim that this is an invasion of their 1st Amendment rights, to not allow Christians to pray or read the Bible is also a violation of practicing Christian rights. Those who oppose will say they are being coerced and being put upon illegally. This issue isn’t about anyone being forced but providing the freedom to those who hold Jesus as their source of faith. Prayer and Bibles at work or in schools don’t have to be forced upon people, just made available for practicing Christians.
In the meantime, we will be able to worship together in person in the near future. And at the same time, we have Zoom to connect with other Christians. By the way one of the hidden advantages of virtual Christianity is that people who are geographically far away can now participate. A special blessing for Christian friends to stay connected even though thousands of miles separate them.
Maybe today, reach out to those you know who want to have a virtual Bible study and start one up. Perhaps even start a long-distance prayer group. And don’t forget on Sunday to tune into your church’s live-streamed worship service or perhaps one you find on the internet.
All Jesus asks is that we gather in His name.
Listen to the Full Podcast – Are Religious Freedoms Being Trampled Because of the Corona Virus?
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash