No one is a statist, tyrant, or coward in the abstract.
Well, I shouldn’t say no one, but if you are such a one, it’s certainly easier to camouflage while your feet aren’t held to the fire. Such vices are rarely made obvious in “peace time”. They are revealed in the crucible of strife.
COVID was many things, many terrible things, but one silver lining was that it afforded the body of Christ a useful litmus test for discerning the judgement and tendencies of the leadership in the local churches they’re a part of. A litmus test that will serve the body of Christ in finding their church home for decades, or even centuries to come.
Though they may not admit it, I suspect one of the main reasons that many pastors are glad that COVID is over is because they feel they can finally get back to “business as usual”. But despite their relief, I suspect many are discounting how far-reaching the record of their conduct from 2020 to 2023 will reverberate. Even if the next crises isn’t COVID related, what COVID exposed will be instructive for congregants with whatever other eventualities may come next.
To be sure, there were a variety of disparate reactions to COVID. It was not a one size fits all response. But if we had to catalog some of the key types of traits that were unmasked, several types come the fore:
In Fauci We Trust Frank
- Frank treated CDC statements and guidelines as if they were delivered to John on the Isle of Patmos.
- Frank urged his congregants not to fall for “conspiracy theories”. Conspiracy theories were basically defined as whatever the CDC opposed that day.
- Frank used the fact that he, as a pastor, is not a scientist as justification for adopting a posture of reflexively deferring to only government approved “science” sources. Whatever “the science” was that day of the week anyways.
- When many aforementioned “conspiracy theories” turned out to be true Frank doesn’t change course, he only moves the goal posts or contracts selective amnesia.
- Frank chides those who don’t go along with masks, lockdowns, and vaccines as either being cruel or having murder in their hearts. Frank equates compliance with COVID propaganda as a test of whether one loves their neighbor. Frank unironically says things like “you are pro-life, but what about when it comes to the life of your neighbor who contracts COVID because you didn’t wear a mask or get vaccinated?”
Authority Obsessed Oliver
- Oliver might be a conservative type on many issues, but only to the extent that his power and authority is reinforced.
- Some of these Oliver types talk tough on the authority of the husband and father. That is until a father in his congregation decides something for his family that the pastor interprets will put Oliver’s ecclesiastical authority in question. Such as whether to command his children to wear masks over their faces in church, or whether he commands them to receive big pharma injections.
- Pastor Tim Bayly has gone so far as to applaud civil action against pastors who did not go along with shutting down their churches. He even claimed that ecclesiastical authority extends so far that they can deny communicant fellowship to Christians if they aren’t vaccinated. For those who would strenuously object to such masking or vaccine policies, he regards as “schismastic” and “rabble rousing”.
- Oliver will use and abuse biblical commands to submit to authority in ways that make the commands themselves meaningless. What about when jurisdictions of differing spheres of authority overlap or contradict one another? What are the limits of said jurisdictions? Oliver doesn’t care. Submission to him is ultimately what he cares about.
Don’t Rock the Boat Brad
- Brad knows that this is a “divisive” issue and Brad doesn’t want a church split. So, Brad basically goes along with whatever most other churches are doing and ends up with a de facto enforcement of CDC policy.
- Brad urges a policy of not talking about “divisive issues” but labels only those who act against the official COVID line as being “divisive”. His “let’s not get heated about this” stance is again, de facto support for the biofascist agenda.
- When congregants who regard wearing a mask as basically the same as wearing a sign around their neck that says “I’m an easily manipulated rube who doesn’t understand virology and enables further tyranny” registers disagreement about the mask policy, Brad asks them “who’s it going to hurt to wear it?”
- During each stage of the COVID episode, Brad reminded us “this isn’t a hill to die on”. Whether it was the initial lockdowns, the masks, the vaccine mandates and the segregation that followed, it was never a hill to die on. Regardless of the fact that basic bodily autonomy was being threatened, taking an actual principled stand against encroaching tyranny before it got even more out of control meant one was guilty of “majoring on the minors”.
Above the Fray Fernando
- A close cousin of “Don’t Rock the Boat Brad” is “Above the Fray Fernando”.
- Fernando shares Gospel Coalition articles that lecture those standing on principle against biofascism as being “distracted” by “secondary issues” and forgetting our unifying love for the Gospel.
- Fernando claims that no matter where you stand on COVID, it isn’t a “gospel issue” so let’s all come together (and abide by CDC policy).
- Fernando can’t conceive of why forcing your entire family to wear masks in public as a precursor to a segregationist vaccine mandate policy could be of any real objection to someone committed to the love of Christ.
- Fernando equates accepting someone’s delusions about the efficacy of wearing a piece of cloth over one’s face as the litmus test for whether one loves one’s neighbor.
- Fernando regards wearing a face mask as a shining example of what it means to “carry another’s burden.”
- For a fortunate few, the unfolding events surrounding COVID revealed just how reliable your leadership is.
- Raymond was not phased by the propaganda.
- Raymond heralded neither paranoia nor naïveté.
- Raymond was not willing to be a useful idiot doing the bidding of the biomedical industrial complex.
- Raymond did not keep silent in the face of statist tyranny. Raymond spoke boldly and clearly.
- Raymond understands proper biblical governance and jurisdiction and did not try to use ecclesiastical authority to bind the decisions of individuals and families regarding whether they were going to wear a mask, participate in quarantine of the asymptomatic, or inject themselves with mystery bioserum.
- Raymond understands that to divide the body by segregating the congregation and communicant fellowship into masked vs. unmasked or vaccinated vs. unvaccinated would be a gross violation of ecclesiastical authority.
- Raymond did not try to pit the Gospel against standing on principle and standing against statism.
If there is any good to come about as a result of this whole fiasco, let it be that the people of God are now armed with a relevant use-case reference point to help them find churches with reliable leadership. It’s possible that leaders failed during this period of testing to one degree or another. The standard is not perfection. The key is to try to discern if any lessons were learned and if they can be humble about it. One extremely useful method of engaging is to see if they will sign The Warrenton Declarationon Medical Mandates, Biblical Ethics, & Authority. Their response will say a lot, not just on this one issue, but on how they will respond to a host of issues in the years and decades to come.