I have recently been perplexed by the realities of the current society. I’m going to venture out into the maze of discussions on the COVID19 pandemic.
It is tough to be an American in normal times, much more difficult is to be an Orthodox Christian and be an American. Being an American ties us to the belief that I am self-directed in society. Not anarchy by any means but our government is only in power by the consent of the governed. Without consent of the people, there is no government. This is also tied to the limits we placed on that government in our written Constitution.
Many people have come to the erroneous belief that the only way to decide what is within the bounds of the Constitution is through the Courts, the Supreme Court to be exact. Imagine how stupid this sounds, ask the Federal Government if the Federal Government has exceeded its authority. When addressing tyranny it’s effectively asking nicely to the tyrant if he’s being a tyrant.
Today we are dealing with State Governors that have taken power that neither the US Constitution nor the State Constitution of their respective states allows. This is covered over by an explanation that it’s about safety of the public. Reality is, in my opinion, much different.
The Constitution was not written for the elite judges or lawyers to be the exclusive interpreters of its truth. We are talking about people approximately 150 +/- years from breaking the glass ceiling of Biblical interpretation. In 1611 the King of England had commissioned the complete English translation of the Bible. This brought on much of the rebellion known as the Protestant Reformation because each person could read the scriptures for themselves and didn’t need to rely on the reading from clergy. People with that same mindset wrote our Constitution, not to be dependent on the legal elites to read and interpret, rather for each person, each citizen to read and interpret.
In our current environment, fear and panic has clouded the minds of the people and as such people have been willing to cede their power to the government under the guise of safety.
Now let me tie in the life of an Orthodox Christian. The Church does not operate as a democracy, taking votes every time there are major policy changes. The Church operates, in effect, as a theocracy with the Bishops as the pastors, guiding the people. The priests operate the local parish under the direction of the bishop. The priest gets to operate the parish as he understands the directions he has from the bishop.
The Orthodox Christian has a life of submission, not blind submission, but obedience to his pastor through the priest of the local parish. This has never been as big of a challenge as it is today.
The United States is a unique country in the history of the world. Not a monarchy, not an empire, but rather a representative republic with a written Constitution to limit the powers of government. The authority of government is to be limited by the consent of the governed within the bounds of the Constitution. This creates a challenge as the actions of the various levels of government are presumed to be Constitutional unless challenged and resisted. Ultimately those challenges result in court battles and after months or even years they result in a ruling by the US Supreme Court.
This happened during the period of FDR who chose to seize all privately held gold in the USA. Regardless of the reasons and the arguments, it finally made its way to the Supreme Court which ruled that any gold items with intrinsic value, coins, jewelry etc. could not be taken and had to be returned. This is but one example.
During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus which was not able to be heard until after his assassination. The Supreme Court clearly declared that action to be unconstitutional.
These examples happened but the battles were lengthy. Today we are experiencing a similar injustice by various levels of government. State governors, county and city governments have, for the first time, closed businesses and CHURCHES over a virus pandemic. A panic, fueled by misleading the public and with the cooperation of the mass media has made even the Church to run in fear. Never before had anyone tried, nor would anyone believe that the government would close churches.
Even several jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church were closed and are only beginning to open back up under limits that the government is giving. This is absurd, foolish and dare I say faithless. Never in the history of the Church have I found the Church afraid of a virus to the point of such faithless actions. Fear has gripped the leadership, and therefore, the people are afraid, and all seem to be like children, not adults.
In September 1968 a pandemic swept across the world, the virus is known by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as H3N2 and in that year worldwide 1,000,000 people died, 100,000 Americans died. The population of the USA was just over 200,000,000 people. Today our population is over 320,000,000 and this newest pandemic is no more deadly. The people most at risk today are those over 60 with immune system problems that weaken them. Virtually no people are at risk of death by the current virus under the age of 50 yet the people are afraid.
The people are afraid because the leadership they look to for guidance is faithless and fearful. The leadership of the Church is running in fear and submitting to an oppressive government instead of standing up as a protectorate if the people. With the resources of the Church, which have been provided by the people, the Church could expedite this issue before the Courts. Do they take their rightful place? No they cower in fear instead of protecting their people. They make special announcements and directives that “the person that cut up the bread, washed his hands and the utensils beforehand (like he didn’t before?) and they place pieces of bread in plastic bags. They require everyone to wear masks to enter worship, how absurd.
There are signup accounts online and only a limited number of people are allowed to sign up to go to worship. Why? My opinion? IN LIABILITY LAWYERS WE TRUST. That’s my take. By having a positive request form where parishioners must REQUEST a space to worship, no one who might contract the virus can sue the Church. Faithlessness. Foolishness.
Masks in order to worship? The “experts” cannot even agree, often even the same expert will be on both sides of this topic I the past three months. Masks are useless in public settings. Yes, medical personnel use masks to prevent cross-contamination, but they don’t take them off, they don’t touch them. Once they touch the mask, in a clinical setting, they replace it. Same with gloves. To touch the mask with an ungloved hand contaminates the mask with whatever the hand has touched.
I have to say that I am ashamed of the leadership of any Orthodox clergy that have succumbed to this fear and panic over a virus. The faithlessness that is exhibited by these men is not Christian and certainly not Orthodox.
I will never wear a mask to attend Divine Liturgy. As long as this fear and faithlessness grips the leadership of the Church, I will stay away.
Some have chosen to justify their actions by quoting scripture so let’s look at that, shall we? “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.” Romans 13:1-3 NKJV
This scripture on the surface looks like a good justification but recall that our country is unique. We are not an empire, as Rome was, so there are no “rulers” over us. Our government’s authority is from the CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED not intrinsic to the government.
Here is one to consider: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” I John 4:18 NKJV
Or maybe Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” II Timothy 1:6-7 NKJV
Perhaps clergy in the various jurisdictions should remember that their God-given authority came to them by the laying on of hands, the conferring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit through bishops, not liability lawyers.
I have lived long enough to realize that this virus is likely to be the same as the pandemic of 1968, which I also lived through. We still do not have a vaccine nor a cure for that one in 52 years. Are we going to see the Church cower in fear forever because of this virus?
The “experts” are claiming that they might have a vaccine by the end of this year. People are talking like they don’t want to return to normal life until that happens. How foolish can we be? Businesses must resume, THE CHURCH must return to its ministry and come out from the fear. Perhaps this scripture is to the Church: “O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.”” II Corinthians 6:11-18 NKJV
The experts have also recently admitted that even if they develop a vaccine, it is likely to not be more than 50% effective. That’s similar to other vaccines for viruses. After all, we do not have a vaccine for the common cold. Each year there’s a flu vaccine but we know it’s for the flu that was common last year and the viruses continue genetic drift or mutation.
It is a fool that stays inside his home and refuses to do business because of some fear that a predator might harm him. People that are mature cannot be subject to fear and the leadership of the Church must cast off the faithlessness they have accepted or be discarded by those who are faithful to God.