The state is increasingly usurping the role of the church:
The recent images of a Canadian pastor being dragged away by the police for daring to hold church services should forever remain burned into our memories. The pastor was born in Poland and lived under Soviet rule as a child, so he knows all about life under totalitarian regimes. As one article reports:
Canadian Pastor Artur Pawlowski, who kicked police out of his church after they tried to shut down a worship service during Holy Week, and his brother, Dawid Pawlowski, have been arrested for holding an “illegal” in-person gathering as per COVID-19 limits set by a new court order. Referring to the Pawlowskis of Street Church in Calgary, Alberta, Calgary Police Service said in a statement that its officers “lawfully enforced” the court order by arresting the two men after church.
A video posted on YouTube shows that Calgary Police Service sent at least five police vehicles to arrest the two from on the street. The brothers knelt on the road and refused to walk on their own during the arrest. A voice can be heard telling the officers, “Shame on you guys, this is not communist China. Don’t you have family and kids? Whatever happened to ‘Canada, God keep our land glorious and free?’” https://www.christianpost.com/news/canadian-pastor-arrested-for-holding-church-service.html
I have written before about this brave pastor. In an earlier piece I offered this quote of his: “I grew up in Poland under the boot of the Soviets, behind the Iron Curtain. What I see right now, I see everything escalating and moving to the new level. They’re acting just like the Communists were acting when I was growing up when the pastors and the priests were arrested, and some were murdered. Many were tortured. That’s why I say what I say, because I see a repetition of history.” https://billmuehlenberg.com/2021/04/08/signs-of-hope-scenes-from-the-resistance/
Those who have grown up in communist countries have every right to be alarmed at what they see happening all over the West. That is a major theme in the new book by Rod Dreher, Live Not By Lies. See my write-up about it here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2020/12/30/a-review-of-live-not-by-lies-by-rod-dreher/
One of the major takeaways from the covid scare over the past year is this two-pronged reality: In the West we have had far too much statist overreach and far too much Christian capitulation. We see this occurring everywhere, and it does not look too good.
Plenty of churches are still in lockdown, or greatly reduced in what they can offer, while pubs and brothels and sporting events and hardware stores and so on are fully up and running. And most Christian leaders are not saying a thing about this.
One of the real sins of any age is when men and/or the state usurp the prerogatives of God, and seek to act as God. A key way of doing this is to determine what worship is, and where and when it can take place. The state may seek to prohibit all religious worship, or certain aspects of it.
During the past year under the guise of ‘keeping us safe’ the state has taken almost total control of most churches. Whenever that happens the people of God should be rising up and asserting the importance of fundamental human rights, including religious liberty rights.
Writing way back in 1986, Carl F. H. Henry said the following in his book, Christian Countermoves in a Decadent Culture:
According to the Bible, the state exists within God’s providential will and has limited authority. When totalitarian states presume to define human rights and duties at will, they illicitly claim divine prerogatives. The state’s biblically stated role is to maintain God-ordained justice, not to devise or manipulate it….
Religious freedom – that is, one’s right to worship and to obey God in good conscience – shelters and nurtures all other human rights, and in this sense undergirds them. Only if human beings have political and civil liberty to worship according to conscience can they worship and serve the living God meaningfully and resist the efforts of arbitrary powers who require subjects to do what God prohibits or to abstain from what God requires. In the absence of individual liberty to worship conscientiously, citizens fall prey to pretentious powers that arrogate to themselves the absolute authority and unqualified honor reserved only to God. The example of the Christian apostles, who when thwarted by civil authorities in fulfilling the Great Commission preferred physical imprisonment to spiritual disobedience (“We must obey God rather than men!” Acts 5:29), remains normative for Christians even today.
Yes quite so. Anyone familiar with one of the great religious freedom stories found in the Bible – the exodus – will see the obvious similarities. Moses told the state (Pharaoh and the Egyptians) to let God’s people go so they could worship God. Pharaoh refused, and a major power encounter took place.
After ten horrific plagues, and the climactic Red Sea incident, the pagan rulers learned the hard way that they should not mess with God, and with the right of God’s people to worship. It never ends well when the state seeks to keep the church under its thumb.
Yet so many Christians today would actually have sided with Pharaoh! We simply need to look at how many Christians, Christian leaders, and churches have fully and happily gone right along with all the draconian lockdown measures over the past year.
While a few have spoken out and sought to allow worship to take place (with sensible safety measures in place), most have simply caved in. They actually agree with the tough measures of the state, and seem to agree with it when it declares worship and church services to be ‘non-essential services’.
And worse yet, far too many Christians have actually denounced churches and leaders who have defied the state and remained open. Plenty of sheeple Christians for example would think the actions of pastors like Pawlowski are totally unacceptable, and they will attack them, instead of the authorities dragging them away.
They will drone on and on about Romans 13, as if that were the only biblical passage on our responsibilities to civil government. But the state, as Henry and others rightly point out, is never to be absolute. It is always a case of delegated authority, rightly administered. See my earlier piece on this for example: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2020/05/15/the-state-is-not-absolute/
And these rather clueless Christians would completely overlook all the passages in the Bible where God’s people rightly defied and disobeyed the state at various times. There are plenty of these cases found in Scripture. In an earlier piece I listed some of them: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2021/03/24/12-biblical-cases-of-civil-disobedience/
And there are many more. The point is, as the West becomes increasingly secular – indeed, increasingly anti-Christian – the conflicts are going to escalate and the sifting of real deal Christians from the fake ones will ramp up significantly.
Some will stand for biblical truth and religious freedom while others will slavishly just go along with whatever the state says. I know where I will stand. And thankfully so do some others. Getting back to the case of the Canadian pastor, some Christian leaders have rallied to his support.
For example, consider this pastor who is shocked by the way things are heading. As one report puts it:
Pastor Henry Hildebrandt responded swiftly to the vicious arrest of Pastor Artur Pawlowski after he performed church services on Saturday. Pastor Art was forcibly removed from his car after mass and dragged down the highway. The arrest came in the wake of a viral video of Pastor Artur Pawlowski telling police officers to leave his church. As reported at RAIR Foundation USA, the Pastor escaped communist Poland and has been warning citizens about the encroaching return of the genocidal ideology in Canada.
“This is one of those days when you wonder ‘Am I going to wake up from this terrible dream or not’,” Pastor Henry said on a video posted on Facebook. “We see some gut-wrenching images coming in this afternoon from Calgary, Alberta of Pastor Art being arrested,” he continued.
RAIR spoke with Pastor Henry back in August, who was “embroiled in court battles” for holding mass in the parking lot of his church. “They’re dragging this pastor down the highway… Do they not care? Do they not care that the whole world is watching? Unbelievable,” Pastor Henry said incredulously. “It is unbelievable, unbelievable – it’s something that none of us would have ever imagined,” he said. “You ask yourself again and again, ‘This is Canada’?”, he continued. https://rairfoundation.com/pastor-responds-to-brutal-anti-christian-arrest-of-fellow-clergyman-in-canada-what-will-it-take-for-us-to-wake-up/
As the state continues to wage war on the churches, Christians will need to decide where they stand. Will they remain faithful to the one true God, or will they become idolaters who worship at the altar of Big Brother statism? In the days ahead we will see this sheep and goat separation becoming more and more pronounced.