In California, incredibly, a superior court judge ruled that a religious congregation can continue to worship indoors… with conditions, of course. Why is this incredible? In part because the US Supreme Court, by vote of 5 Nazguli, denied an application for injunctive relief from a congregation in Nevada – thereby supporting the tyrannical decree of that State’s governor (or dictator) in denying the free exercise of religion. This was done on 24 JUL 2020, just weeks ago.
But now a judge in Los Angeles County has denied the County (and by inference, the State) has the legal power to prohibit people from assembling in person to worship God. A bold step indeed for a local Nazgul – we know who pays his wages, and guards him, after all.
But it is not the decision, welcome as it is, that I wish to comment on. It is the action and reaction of the preacher for this congregation. As he represents thousands of his (and officially, Christ’s) followers.
“Pastor [sic] John MacArthur expressed gratitude over the ruling.
“”I am very grateful the court has allowed us to meet inside and we are happy for a few weeks to comply and respect what the judge has asked of us because he is allowing is to meet,” MacArthur said in a statement, Fox News reported.
“He continued, “This vindicates our desire to stay open and serve our people. This also gives us an opportunity to show that we are not trying to be rebellious or unreasonable, but that we will stand firm to protect our church against unreasonable, unconstitutional restrictions.”
“Los Angeles County officials, however, were not happy. They said they would “continue to work through the legal system to ensure that the health officer orders are upheld.””
MacArthur is a well-known name in Protestant denominational circles, and is hailed as a strong spokesman for the Lord, and his flock. And supposedly also a strong supporter of the US Constitution and the US and California Bills of Rights.
But his language demonstrates that may not be the case. Instead, he is a clear obedient servant to the civil government, which he clearly believes has authority over his congregation and himself.
He states, “…. the court has allowed us to meet inside…” and “he [the Judge] is allowing us to meet.” NOT “I am grateful that the court recognized that our duty to God is greater than our duty to obey the orders of the State.” NOT “We are given God’s grace to comply with his restrictions [face coverings and social distancing] because they do not interfere with our God-given right to freely exercise our faith.” (As supposedly protected by the Constitutions which the judge swore to uphold.)
MacArthur dug himself in even deeper. “… we will stand firm to protect our church against unreasonable, unconstitutional restrictions.” NOT, “We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate that we are NOT rebellious towards God, and that His church will continue to obey the Lord as we understand His commandments.” (Or even, adding, “welcome the honesty of a judge that recognized the health order violates rights protected by the constitutions.”)
Apparently, the truth is “too strong” for Mr. MacArthur to speak. (And this is far from the only time, but most are about more purely religious and doctrinal matters.)
In his statement, already rejected by LA County officials, he ignores basic Biblical teaching, and fails to live up to the standard of the Apostles almost 2,000 years ago.
Peter stood up with the other apostles (before the Sanhedrin, ruling council of Judea) and said, “We must obey God rather than men.” Which is indeed what the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, had done – and was killed for on a cross.
The Sanhedrin’s demand, backed if necded by Roman troops, was that they stop speaking the name of Christ Jesus in public – that is, preaching. It wasn’t “unreasonable” or “unconstitutional” then: what they did was clearly illegal under Jewish and Roman law – according to how the lawyers in Jerusalem interpreted it. It was blasphemy and treason (or sedition – I forget which is which). But Paul, and later James, and Stephen, and then Paul of Tarsus, obeyed God. Even if it got them beaten, tortured, or killed.
But God is merciful and loving. If he was forgiving Peter of denying Him three times, He may also forgive MacArthur for this. After all, none of us are worthy of untying the sandals of the Messiah, and there are none worthy, no, not one.
But the example MacArthur has set for his thousands of followers in his own congregation and in places around the world is NOT a good one. He cannot say, as did Paul of Tarsus, “Be you imitators of me, as I imitate Christ.” He did not say “It is okay to compromise if they force you and threaten you, just go to court and pray.”
Yes, this is a religious commentary – but I believe it has a direct bearing on our work for liberty. The rights that we find in the Bills of Rights of the Fifty States (and the FedGov’s Constitution) are NOT given to us by government. They are given to us by God. Humans, whether presidents or senators or congressmen or governors or county supervisors or mayors – or dog catchers or those who claim they are ordained as priests or ministers or whatever, are NOT authorized by God or th euniverse and natural law to take those liberties away from us. MacArthur needs to be ashamed and repent.
Afterword: It may be no surprise, I add, if Judge Alarcon tragically dies in a car crash or burns to death during an LA wildfire. After all, if some of our rights can be overridden by a local county board or health fuehrer, then so can our right to life. And this judge had the gall to bite the hands that feed him.