COVID-19: Cowards in Command of Churches

From Evolution News, In a Historic Moment, Many Religious Leaders Fail the Test of COVID-19 by John G. West, I read:

In a column, Dennis Prager points to “COVID-19 and the Failure of America’s Major Religions.” It’s a worthwhile article, though disturbing. He argues that there is a crisis of leadership across a range of faiths:

For two years, Americans have been partially or entirely deprived of fundamental freedoms — of assembly, speech, religious liberty, making a living, a child’s right to an education, access to early treatment for a potentially deadly virus, and more — for the first time in American history. That half of America, especially its elites, has either made peace with or supported these deprivations of freedom is why many of us worry about America’s future as a free society.

Even more concerning has been the reactions of America’s great religions — specifically, Catholics, Protestants, Mormons (Latter-day Saints) and Jews. The government issued irrational (as well as anti-religious and unethical) edicts and nearly every church and synagogue obeyed.

These churches and synagogues closed their schools to in-classroom instruction despite the fact that COVID-19 presented virtually no threat to young people. Exponentially more children have been hurt by closing religious and secular schools and, later, by making children wear masks — even outdoors — than by COVID-19.

A Searing Conclusion

The problem, according to Prager, is specifically with leaders:

[T]he fact is that a disproportionate percentage of those who defied irrational and unconstitutional governmental mandates have been religious Americans. The tragedy of American religious life is that religious people who lack courage are concentrated in leadership positions.

About those in such elite roles, Prager’s conclusion is searing:

They will pay a price as people will gradually come to understand how weak their religious leaders were. And they will pay another price: by keeping their churches and synagogues closed for so long (for no good reason), many of their congregants may just not return. If my clergy didn’t think it was important that I attend for nearly two years, maybe it just isn’t that important.

Thoughtful men will consider these points:

“The government issued irrational (as well as anti-religious and unethical) edicts and nearly every church and synagogue obeyed.”

You know and I know what to expect next from the churches: “Romans 13! Romans 13!”

The seminaries have done a fine job of gelding the clergy, as demonstrated… and as intended.

Believing Christians will have to find another avenue, if they want effective and powerful leaders who uphold the Law of God over the arbitrary (and methodically antiChristian) dictates of men.

Most Christians don’t want that kind of leader, obviously: they saw the price tag, and turned away. For those who do… the biblical apprenticeship model is the way to go.

“The tragedy of American religious life is that religious people who lack courage are concentrated in leadership positions.”

People get the leaders they desire: and the denominations – and the solid majority of believers, most certainly including the well-educated, influential Christians in the inner circles of ecclesiastical power – desire cowards as leaders.

So God gives His people their heart’s desire.

Indeed, where is the concern of these religious leaders for the rights of conscience of their fellow believers? Some evangelical leaders, of various political perspectives, seem to have abandoned religious liberty when it comes to COVID-19. Consider Robert Jeffress at First Baptist in Dallas (a pro-Trump partisan), or prominent commentator David French (a staunch critic of Trump and “Christian nationalism”). Both have basically denied that their fellow Christians can have sincere religious objections to the vaccine.

Jeffress said this past week that his church has denied religious exemptions to everyone who has requested them:

“Since there is no credible biblical argument against vaccines, we have refused to offer exemptions to the handful of people who have requested them,” Jeffress told The Associated Press via email. “People may have strong medical or political objections to government-mandated vaccines, but just because those objections are strongly felt does not elevate them to a religious belief that should be accommodated.”

Note that this comes from a Baptist pastor, representing a tradition that historically has prized religious conscience rights above all. 

Here is my personal guarantee: if Christians don’t care about the this-world importance of the religious conscience – even when it goes a different road than that of Caesar – than you can bet that no one else ever will.

Guaranteed.

Last year, Jeffress went even further, implying that Christians who don’t want to get vaccinated are hypocrites. As Jeffress knows, a number of Christians don’t want to receive a COVID-19 vaccination because the available vaccines used cell lines originally derived from abortion in their development, testing, or production in order to be brought to market. Jeffress’s apparent view is that these Christians must be insincere. He told the Associated Press: “Christians who are troubled by the use of a fetal cell line for the testing of the vaccines would also have to abstain from the use of Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Ibuprofen, and other products that used the same cell line if they are sincere in their objection.”

I don’t know where this talking point came from originally, but it is patently false. Jeffress was spreading misinformation. None of the products he mentioned were developed for medical use by testing them with abortion-derived cell lines. So there is no hypocrisy at all on the part of someone who uses Tylenol or Ibuprofen but has moral qualms about COVID-19 vaccines. 

Unfortunately, Jeffress was far from the the only evangelical Christian leader who spread this falsehood. Also unfortunately, the falsehood had a cruel impact. One hospital even tried to force staff members who wouldn’t take the vaccine for religious reasons to agree they would forgo the use of aspirin, TUMS, Sudafed, antibiotics, and many other drugs.

If you aren’t revolted by this, there is something wrong with your moral compass. 

So, the politically hooked-up pastors may well lie to get the Obedience they do deeply thirst over. All to boost up the benefit… and avoid the wrath… of Powerful Men.

“Who you fear is who you worship.”

Also, the lie is a classic tell-tale sign of a serpentine personality. Avoid the church who would put that kind of man at the pulpit!

In reality, Christians and others who choose not to be vaccinated do so for a variety of reasons. As I’ve pointed out previously, some of those reasons are far from selfish or self-seeking. More to the point, the legal test of whether a person has a genuine “religious liberty interest” in objecting to a COVID-19 vaccination is not whether David French or anyone else agrees with them. It is whether the person’s religious objections are sincere (even if sincerely wrong). 

The West doesn’t really care about the importance of the conscience of the individual man anymore. All they care about — the leading secularistic leaders and the trendsetters, as well as the step-and-fetch-it religious go-fers at the tail — is Conformity and Compliance.

Believing Christians are to turn away from the arbitrary rule of Powerful Men, and to the Rule of God and His Law-Word. To the extent that they refuse to do so, will be the extent that they are ground under the heel, just as tasteless salt is.

Both French and Jeffress seem certain that their fellow believers’ religious objections can’t be sincere. I think this view lacks humility. It also doesn’t match my experience. I know many thoughtful people who hold sincere religious objections to the COVID-19 vaccines. One neighbor declined the vaccine after spending significant time seeking God’s direct guidance through prayer. He was willing to lose his job and his retirement rather than be vaccinated. A young couple I know were genuinely concerned about the vaccines’ links to abortion. Another woman I know believes that it may be morally permissible to take abortion-linked drugs in certain instances. But in her view, taking such drugs must produce a significant moral good that cannot be achieved through a more legitimate route. In her case, she already had COVID-19, which according to research published by the CDC means she has stronger immunity against infection than most vaccinated people. As a consequence, she does not think it is morally permissible for her to take a COVID vaccine, since there would be no real benefit to her or others. 

Still others are genuinely concerned about forcing their children to be vaccinated due to heart problems arising after vaccinations, especially in young males. While French or Jeffress might dismiss this concern as simply a medical rather than religious objection, such a response would be misguided. If you are a Christian or Jewish parent, your duty to care for your child isn’t merely a secular obligation. It is a duty to God, who created the family as the primary authority when it comes to caring for children, not the state.  

Neither the media nor the political powers are in the slightest concerned over the medical consequences you or your loved ones will suffer due to the vaccine.

They are only concerned about Conformity and Compliance.

It isn’t about protecting your health.

It’s about extending their power.

Power is the The One True God that is worth Elite worship: not primarily with cultic ceremonies, but with the hard coin of obedience.

Let’s wait and see how long it will take for Christians to get the message.

I am rather optimistic here, so I would suggest one more generation, maybe two.

True: the generation that obeys the Law-Word of Christ will be the generation that shakes the entire world.

On the other hand, I suggest that very few, possibly NONE, of that godly generation’s leaders will come from the seminary or from the church hierarchy. They will all be laymen, and only laymen – male and female yes, but practically clergy-free.

When the Christian laymen broadly turn against our contemptuous, secularistic, power-hungry, incompetent power-elite, the wise bet is that the clergyman will be either politically silent, or fighting for their true Lord and Master, the real Source of the Law.

The chief priests cried, “We have no King but Caesar!”

John 19:15, English Standard Version

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