It's Time for the Shutdown to End

Paul Dean
Paul Dean

Unprecedented. That’s one of the few words I can think of to describe the times we’re in, not because we’re in a health crisis rivaling the plague – we’re not – despite the job the main stream media and other bad actors have done to convince us that such is the case. I’m talking about the evisceration of our liberties – our God-given rights – and the power grab to which the State has availed itself. And among the population, Statism is alive and well just as it was in the first century under Caesar. The masses are looking to the State to be their savior from a manufactured crisis manipulated to evoke that very response. It’s not that COVID-19 is not a deadly virus, it is, though it’s not that different than seasonal flu, if at all. The real issue is this: it’s the end of America as we know it if the people don’t make their voices heard.

Loving Neighbor

For Christians, our priority is to glorify God in all we do. That involves of first priority spreading the gospel. We’re to love God and neighbor. And yet, we have to define those terms biblically. It’s common among Christians in these uncommon times to say those in favor of ending the shutdown, or going to church, or going to the park for a jog, are not loving their neighbors. “Which of your family members do you want to die,” they ask. I could just as easily respond by saying those in favor of maintaining the shutdown don’t love their neighbors. The longer we go the more will lose their homes, their ability to feed their families, and so on. Many will die from suicide or a lack of health insurance, and any number of other devastating results are already apparent. But such accusations are not only unbiblical, for we love our neighbors in many ways, but they are rooted in a false dichotomy. All Christians love their neighbors, and all Christians make decisions on the information available to them. I would never accuse a genuine brother of not loving his neighbor simply because he disagrees with me on the oppressive response of the State in this situation. And I urge my brothers not to accuse me of not loving my neighbor simply because they believe the shutdown is the way to go.

Principles, not Platitudes

Further, regardless of where one stands on the issue of how serious a health crisis COVID-19 is, we need to react to it based on principles, not platitudes. Neither we nor government can base decisions on pragmatic considerations. Principles are inviolable; no one has the right to take away the liberties that God has given. No one has the right to shut down businesses, force people to stay in their homes, or limit church attendance. The Constitution forbids it, but more importantly, the Scriptures forbid it. Before the State could forcibly quarantine someone, it would have to prove in a court of law that an individual is an imminent threat to others. The State has no right to simply impose stay-at-home orders on persons in a given area.

Religious Freedom

The issue is freedom in general, and yes, it’s also an issue of religious freedom. Some churches in certain areas are being targeted. This development should cause all of us to raise an opposing voice. And while most other churches are not being targeted per se, those Christian leaders who tell us this is not an issue of religious freedom are doing us a great disservice. At the very least, any lockdown order or limitation on church attendance is a direct violation of the First Amendment which guarantees that the free exercise of religion shall not be prohibited.

Romans 13

Moreover, Romans 13 does not teach that government exists for the general welfare. That phrase from the Constitution is being imposed on the biblical text. Paul is saying that God has ordained government, even the persecution of Christians by Nero Caesar, for our spiritual good in a Rom. 8:28-30 sense, that is our sanctification. We submit to government because they do not hold the sword in vain. In other words, they will imprison or execute you if you resist them. We also submit for conscience sake, or as Peter puts it (1 Peter 2), for conscience toward God. By that he means there are times when we generally submit to government so as not to be accused by unbelievers as being evildoers. When they do accuse us as such, it should be because we’re obeying God as opposed to being engaged in criminal activity. While we didn’t at the beginning of this crisis, we now have Christian leaders and Christian denominations calling for civil disobedience. One can’t call for such and have the common view of Romans 13 at the same time. My point is not to say civil disobedience shouldn’t be on the table. On the contrary, it most certainly should be. But only a biblical view of Romans 13 will allow for it before God, not the common misinterpretation most Christians hold.

Finally, we’re having a serious discussion about grave issues in momentous times. It’s time to end the shutdown. May we continue the dialog and come to a unified conclusion in the very near future.

Part 2 to Follow

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Originally published April 17, 2020.