Churches in the vanguard of liberty
In these surreal and shocking times, when the experts' recommendation for a couple of weeks of mitigation turned into months and tyrants came out of the woodwork, churches are taking a stand and putting everything on the line.
Roman Catholic and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregations across Minnesota plan to resume worship services on Tuesday in defiance of Governor Tim Walz's order.
The leaders said at a news conference that the ongoing restrictions are an unconstitutional violation of their churches' religious freedom, given that bars, restaurants, shopping malls and tattoo parlors are now being allowed to reopen. They said they shut down voluntarily in the early days of crisis but that executive orders now prevent them from holding in-person services with more than 10 parishioners.
"Being ordered to stay at home may have been necessary to protect the public health but it came at immense costs, including spiritual costs," said Archbishop Bernard Hebda, leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Minnesota Catholic Conference.
Hebda held a news conference on Thursday to give more detail on the decision. He acknowledged that many people have been watching the live streams of Catholic mass across the state.
"Most of our pastors have been amazed by how many people are tuning in," he said, pointing out that many of the viewers aren't even members of the congregation.
Pastor Stacey Shiflett of the Calvary Baptist Church in Baltimore was defiant, tearing up a cease and desist order and making what may be one of the most powerful and concise statements I've read on matters of liberty, tyranny, and religious freedom. Fox News reports:
"Either we have liberty to worship or we have permission to worship," Shiflett said. "It has become abundantly clear that if we settle for permission, we will never have liberty again."
This came after his church was targeted by the government.
On Wednesday night, Shiflett was holding a service that had 100 congregants in his 600 seat building, put him well below the 50 percent range, but the local municipality still issued a cease-and-desist letter. Shiflett was clearly displeased during his service and mid-sermon, tore the letter in pieces, and tossed it aside.
"With this cease-and-desist letter in my hand, the Bible says to the New Testament church 'not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is, but so much more as you see the day approaching,' and the closer we get to Jesus coming back, the more church we ought to be having, not less church."
"Now that's God's parameters," he added. "So I'm tearing up this cease-and-desist order right here, and I'm telling you right now, we're gonna do it God's way! God tells us how to worship Him, nobody else gets to do that."
Putting everything on the line comes with risk, which is one reason why so many are reluctant to rise to moments that require bravery.
And so, The First Pentecostal Church of Holly Springs, Mississippi, which has been in defiance of lockdown orders, was burned to the ground on Wednesday.
YouTube screen grab.
The arsonist spray-painted the following message on the church parking lot: "I Bet you stay home now you hypokrits."
More and more churches are drawing a line in the sand as big government and God collide.