Friday, May 01, 2020

When The State Deems The Church "Subversive"

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Millions of Christians will attend their church services this Sunday online. Their pastor will be streamed, most often from an empty sanctuary.

It could be worse.

A house church pastor in China has been arrested for refusing to join the Communist Party's state-sponsored Christian Church organization. His church is also empty this Sunday, as he sits in jail.

The charge is "inciting subversion of state power."

When does the state overreach it's authority regarding the church?

US Attorney General William Barr says he will take legal action against any state officials who violate people's civil rights---including religious freedoms.

Be informed.

We Americans---particularly the far Left--- have been obsessed with the so-called "separation of church and state" in recent years. Recent, because in the early days of our nation---and the century that followed our founding, Thomas Jefferson's words to the Danbury Baptists meant what they said.

Jefferson promised that he and the other Founding Fathers had created a wall of protection for the church, against any meddling by the government in the affairs of the church.

As secularism infected the culture, the atheists and humanists declared that even Jefferson himself did not understand what he was saying---what he meant's the other way around.

The "wall," they say, suppresses the church and keeps the Christians from any public expression of faith. A form of religious distancing.

Now, "separation" has become a tool to be used to subvert the church and religious freedom and expression.

We are testing the limits to which the government can control the church in our current Chinese virus pandemic.

We need to look no further than China, to see the extreme of unchecked government subverting the Christian Church.

Pastor Zhao Huaigo will not be streaming his service this Sunday.

Here's why.

This pastor of a "house church" (not authorized by the government) in China's Hunan province has been arrested for "inciting subversion of state power" after he refused to join the ruling Chinese Communist Party's "Three Self Patriotic Association."

Briefly, this is the state-approved Christian Church association.

ABC News reported last year on China's Confucian culture immersion courses for religious leaders "as part of a campaign to extend government control over faith communities through a process of sinicization."

ABC said,
"The ruling Communist Party's United Work Front Department said in a news release issued Monday that the activity was designed to ensure the primacy of traditional Chinese values above all."

And they reported, "President Xi Jinping has launched the harshest crackdown in decades on religious practices, especially those viewed as foreign such as Christianity and Islam."

Under this "immersion" project, Party bureaucrats demanded that key religious tenets and texts, such as the Bible, be interpreted "in conformity with the demands of modern Chinese development and excellent traditional Chinese culture."

This was followed up with a campaign of removing crosses and bulldozing many churches. Pastor's sermons are reviewed, some of Confucius's teaching is mandatory in the sermons--- to show they are compatible with the Bible, and Confucius quotes are placed in prominent places in the Christian churches.

In fact, on Easter Sunday, the government bulldozed a number of Christian church buildings.

In the past year, Chinese authorities have shut down a number of well-known churches, some with more than 5000 members, because they would not "join" the approved state church association and adhere to government demands to revise the Bible.

Family Research Council says China uses all manner of new technology to control and suppress religious practice.

FRC also notes, "Religious freedom is rapidly deteriorating" in China.

At what point do our constitutional rights become "subversive?"

US Attorney General William Barr is threatening to take legal action against state officials who violate people's civil rights.

In fact, he sent a two-page memo to federal prosecutors asking them to consider legal action against state and local governments that infringe upon citizens' civil liberties as they enforce state lockdown policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

His memo acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has "required the imposition of extraordinary restrictions on all of our daily lives."

"However," he cautioned that even in "times of emergency, the First Amendment and federal law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers."

Barr says, "The Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis. We must, therefore, be vigilant to ensure its protections are preserved, at the same time the public is protected."

While Barr does not mention the governor's name, he directs the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, to "oversee and coordinate our efforts to monitor state and local policies and if necessary, take action to correct them."---A direct reference to Michigan Governor Gretchen Witmer who has imposed some of the strictest COVID-19 related policies in the country.

She has even prohibited the "advertising of products that are not groceries, medical supplies, or items necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and basic operation of residences."

As cases come before judges, some are already ruling that churches do have a First Amendment right to gather, even during this pandemic.

I am not suggesting that we ignore safe practices during this pandemic, even in the assembling of ourselves together as the church.

What I am saying is that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. And that leadership comes and goes, but the Constitution was created to endure, therefore we must protect it even at great cost.

Proverbs 29:2 was quoted by our Founding Fathers---it would be helpful if we could review it today.

"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan."

This pandemic has shaken America and the world to its foundations. Everything that can be shaken, is being shaken.

The photo below was taken this week over Lewiston, Idaho, and published in the local newspaper.

I think it should be titled. "The Power and The Promise." God is in control.

Have a great weekend.

Be Vigilant, Be Informed. Be Hopeful. Be Peaceful. Be Prayerful.