Religious Freedom at Risk

by Jerry Newcombe, D.Min.

400 years ago this month, a weary band of Christians from England came ashore in New England after a grueling 66-day voyage aboard the Mayflower.

The Pilgrims came for one purpose, which they spelled out in writing: “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.”

It was all about religious freedom. They wanted to worship Jesus in the purity of the Gospel.

150 years after the Pilgrims came, the founders of this nation enshrined religious freedom in our national charter, the Constitution.

When the Constitution was first written, there were some hesitations toward ratifying it. Many of those who accepted it did so upon the assurance that religious freedom would be guaranteed. Thus, the founders amended the Constitution with the Bill of Rights, the document’s first ten amendments.

First and foremost among these was religious freedom. The first two freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment deal with religious liberty. In effect, these liberties were understood to mean there would be no national denomination, and people were free to practice their faith as they saw fit. Implied in that is that the non-believer would be free to practice his lack of faith.

Jump forward to today, 400 years after the Pilgrims arrived, and in the land for which they sought refuge, religious freedom is at risk. With tongue and cheek, one wag asked, “Can we uninstall 2020 and install it again? This version has a virus.”

That virus, Covid-19, has been the excuse many anti-Christians bigots have used to try to hamstring churches. We have seen in the last several months an unprecedented assault on religious freedom.

Just consider a few examples:

•Last week a judge in California ruled that strip clubs should be allowed to re-open, despite the pandemic, because the First Amendment is not nullified by a virus. And yet at the very same time, officials in California insist churches must be closed or severely limited because of the pandemic.

•The Supreme Court ruled in the Calvary Chapel v. Sisolak case (July 24, 2020) out of Nevada that it was okay for the state to limit how many people could attend worship services, but the casinos were allowed to operate more freely. In his dissent on this case, Justice Neil Gorsuch declared, “…there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.”

•Abortion clinics have been deemed “essential services” by a number of liberal governors, while churches are categorized as “non-essential.”

Rev. John MacArthur is one of the most listened-to and respected Bible teachers in our time. His church is in the greater Los Angeles area. He is generally not one to speak out on political matters. But after months of the pandemic and the way many state officials impair churches because of it, MacArthur decided that enough is enough. He reopened his church—despite threats from state and local officials.

Jenna Ellis, MacArthur’s attorney from the Thomas More Society, said “Our position has been that L. A. County shutting down churches indefinitely amid a virus with a 99.98% survival rate, especially when state-preferred businesses are open and protests are held without restriction, is unconstitutional and harmful to the free exercise of religion.

Kelly Shackelford of First Liberty, which also fights for religious freedom, told D. James Kennedy Ministries: “All people have to do is look at the ‘experts’ saying, ‘Well, you can’t sing at church, but oh yeah, the [BLM and Antifa] protests, we’re okay with that because that’s important.”

It would appear that Christophobic bigots are using the pandemic to curb religious freedom in a country that was born for religious freedom.

Author and speaker Bill Federer once told me in a TV interview: “Tolerance was an American Christian contribution to the world. Just as you drop a pebble in the pond, the ripples go out, there was tolerance first for Puritans and then Protestants, then Catholics, then liberal Christians, and then it went out completely to Jews. Then in the early 1900s, tolerance went out to anybody of any faith, monotheist or polytheist. Finally, within the last generation, tolerance went out to the atheist, the secular humanist and the anti-religious. And the last ones in the boat decided it was too crowded and decided to push the first ones out. So now we have a unique situation in America, where everybody’s tolerated except the ones that came up with the idea. And so when people say Christians are intolerant, we really need to correct them and say, ‘No, we’re the ones that came up with the idea of tolerance.’” 

The Pilgrims sacrificed everything they had to practice religious freedom. It would be horrible to see the gift they bequeathed to the world uprooted in our time by secular fundamentalists.

https://www.djameskennedy.org/article-detail/religious-freedom-at-risk


VIDEO Dr. Scott Atlas demolishes Joe Biden’s COVID lockdown claim – Dr Fauci and Moderna

11,000 epidemiologists, scientists back White House adviser

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found the sweeping lockdowns lead to more COVID-19 deaths and a prolonging of the pandemic than if the government were to let herd immunity build up in young populations, the National Post of Canada reported.

The researchers did a a reanalysis of data modeling used by the U.K. government as guidance for implementing blanket lockdowns.

They concluded that that while strict public health measures bring cases down, the number of deaths rise in the long run.

The authors described the lockdown model as a postponement of the pandemic.

Not a death sentence

In a Fox News interview earlier this month, Kulldorf said most of his “colleagues in infectious disease are in favor of risk-based strategy or an age-based strategy where we protect the elderly or other high risk groups while the younger resume life more or less normally.”

Gupta and Bhattacharya, who joined Kulldorf in the interview with Laura Ingraham, emphasized that herd immunity should be the objective, contending it could be achieved in a relatively short amount of time.

COVID is not a “death sentence,” Bhattacharya argued, alluding to survival rates calculated by the Centers for Disease Control of nearly 100% for those under 70 and nearly 95% for those who are older.

“I think we’ve created this idea in the public mind that it is something so unique and so deadly that we should utterly end all normal existence as a result of it,” he said.

A service member conducts a temperature check during a flu vaccination event for Army family members and military retirees at Fort Bliss, Texas, Oct. 9, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Michelle Gordon)

“That’s not right. We can have a much better way. Protect the vulnerable. Shield them for a short period of time until we reach a level where there is population immunity,” the Stanford professor said. “And for the rest of the world, let us live our lives.”

The CDC last month issued new estimates that showed people under 50 years infected by COVID-19 have nearly a 100% survival rate. It broke down to a 99.997% survival rate for 0-19; 99.98% for ages 20-49; 99.5% for 50-69; and 94.6% for those over 70.

Those who died of coronavirus, according to the CDC, had an average of 2.6 comorbidities, meaning more than two chronic diseases along with COVID-19. Overall, the CDC says, just 6% of the people counted as COVID-19 deaths died of COVID-19 alone.

The World Health Organization said in early October it estimated 10% of the world’s population has been infected, meaning that by the U.N. body’s own account, the infection fatality rate for COVID-19 is only 0.13%. That’s a little more than one-tenth of 1%, which the WHO says is the rate for the seasonal flu.

The WHO’s estimate in March of a death rate of 3.4% sparked panic worldwide, fueling the catastrophic lockdowns.


‘TRUTH’ With RFK, Jr. and David Martin: Fauci’s Checkered Past, Moderna’s Warp Speed Vaccine

In the latest episode of our second season of “TRUTH” with RFK, Jr., Kennedy interviewed author and patent researcher David Martin.

By Children’s Health Defense Team

In the latest episode of our second season of “TRUTH” with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Kennedy interviewed author and patent researcher David Martin. The conversation centered on Dr. Anthony Fauci’s favorite COVID vaccine candidate, Moderna.

Highlights of the discussion include:

  • Dr. David Martin’s company “M-CAM” and how he found a way to use intangible assets as collateral security.
  • The Bayh-Dole Act that led to Dr. Anthony Fauci profiting from royalties off university patents. 
  • A SARS vaccine that was patented in March, 2019 — eight months prior to the COVID breakout.  
  • Fauci’s involvement in dodgy deals and price fixing of medicines in the U.S.
  • Autism and other chronic health conditions exploded under Fauci’s watch. 
  • Fauci’s failure to study infectious diseases and allergies despite working for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Quarantine’s Psychological Toll: 3 Disorders to Watch Out For

By Eliza Huie -May 8, 2020

Eliza Huie is is the director of counseling at McLean Bible Church in the DC Metro area. As a Christian counselor, she has an educated perspective on how isolation due to quarantine may be affecting your congregation—even as you gather together once again.


“Is it almost over?”

This question is what I heard every week from my little boy after he refused to go to children’s ministry. Why he wanted to stay with mom and dad rather than eat snacks, hear stories and color robed Bible characters is beyond me. But each week he joined us in “big church,” and about halfway through the service the inevitable question was whispered: “Is it almost over?”

Today many people can relate to this question. Though the COVID-19 isolation has brought some unique enjoyments (a freer schedule, working from our couch and worshiping in our pj’s), for most it has brought challenges, and we all are beginning to ask if it is almost over.

It is actually a question the church must take seriously. When the lifting of stay-at-home regulations will happen is not yet known, and it will likely vary from state to state. The church must consider now the many steps for reopening. Logistics on how to reopen are going to be almost as tricky as it was to move everything online. There will need to be a plan, maybe multiple plans. And while transitioning back to church will require new strategies for gathering, part of your church’s plan needs to have a mindful awareness of the psychological impact this season has had on your people.

Learning from the history of SARS and other illness-related quarantines, it is clear that mental, emotional and relational health will have suffered under the period of social distancing. Many churches have begun addressing emotional health already with conversations happening online about faith and the realities of anxiety, fears and stress—even topics like depression, loneliness and suicide, which are less commonly addressed in church, are getting some airtime. But there are some issues people are struggling with that will likely not be considered.

The following three areas of struggle may be unexpected but are sure to show up in your congregation as you reengage. I share them to prepare churches and to offer suggestions on how to take an understanding approach to those who may be struggling with these and other psychological issues as we join back together.

The purpose of this article is to be informative and practical. The hope is that it will help the church to take sensitive measures in light of the potential aftershocks of COVID-19 isolation. Some of the terms will be clinical, but I hope to provide street-level understanding of these issues coupled with biblical direction for care.

3 Psychological Issues to Watch Out For

Agoraphobia and OCD Tendencies

What does the church need to know?

Agoraphobia is the fear of leaving your house, and OCD is a hyper-focus anxiety or fear about something that drives a needed action (i.e., repetitive checking or ritualistic cleaning). Both of these are psychiatric diagnoses, but a person doesn’t have to have a diagnosis for symptomatic inclinations to interrupt their life.

While we may complain about being stuck at home, surveys are revealing that people in the U.S. don’t feel ready to return to normal activities, even if regulations lift. One poll suggests that just over 70 percent of Americans would prefer to “wait and see” once regulations begin to lift. Churches need to factor this apprehension into what they can expect from their congregants. Not everyone will be excited to leave their house. In fact, it seems many are going to be very cautious about restarting activities they once regularly participated in.

People are getting comfortable with new habits that ensure personal safety. What was once viewed as an exaggerated response (wearing masks and rubber gloves when out) is now part of the normal routine. Not only are people comfortable with them, they are starting to feel they need these items to be safe. Masks give them a little more peace of mind when they wear them and when other people wear them.

Social distancing is also a practice people have embraced and will likely not be in any hurry to let go of. It only takes a stroll along the walking path by my house to see people are concerned when out and about. When I approach a masked walker, I receive a gracious nod as they move to the edge of the path so we can pass one another at the farthest distance the path will allow. Perhaps you have seen it in the supermarket when someone pauses or takes a step back to allow you a much larger gap as you pass them in the aisle.

We cannot expect these new practices to go away just because regulations have been lifted. The concerns that drive them will still be there when the church reopens its doors.

What can the church do?

• Keep online services, activities and connection going. You will likely need to operate both live and online platforms in order to connect with congregants who may be fearful to leave their homes.
• Communicate your cleaning strategies. Let your congregation know how you have sanitized and how you plan to continue to clean your building.
• Encourage and model safety measures. Let your congregation know what they can expect. Will you be encouraging masks? Gloves? What will you implement for space between people in the sanctuary or classrooms? What will greeting look like? Prepare your staff to lead the way in these measures.
• Encourage gradual ways people can reengage. Offer smaller gatherings or encourage people to begin to meet with others for prayer, Bible study or to watch the service together at one another’s homes. When weather permits, some gatherings can happen outside the church building with comfortable spacing.
• Speak into the fear of getting sick or being vulnerable. Acknowledging the fears people have will give them a level of confidence that you are taking things seriously.

Burnout and Trauma

What does the church need to know?

Expect to see burnout and trauma in health care workers who have served tirelessly during this crisis. They will bring their personal trauma as they begin to process all they endured. They watched firsthand as the young mother of three died only days after entering into the hospital with severe symptoms. They were there when parents were told their child had died. They held the phones of frightened patients as they sobbed and sought comfort from their loved ones on the screen. They were the only one in the room when the elderly passed away as the family was prohibited to enter the hospital rooms due to the virus. They carried the daily weight of concern for their own health and those they love because of their regular exposure. There will be trauma.

Those in ministry are also at risk for burnout, including your pastor. Gunner Gundersen, pastor at BridgePoint Bible Church in Houston, shared a pertinent caution about times of crisis: “[Crisis] will eat you up and wear you out, while your adrenaline and your noble desire to serve keep you blind to the burnout that is chasing you down.”

Pastors, ministry leaders, youth workers, care teams, tech teams, etc., are working overtime to keep ministry going and the congregation connected. The effort to create and initiate ways to continue ministry in the midst of isolation has increased the workload for most in ministry. Endless hours on video calls or in front of a screen recording sermons, lessons, workshops and conferences will take a toll. Add to that all the care and counsel that continued via Zoom or phone calls. Coronavirus didn’t stop personal and relational crises from happening. Care and counseling had to be juggled right alongside preparation for Sunday. Be prepared for your leaders to experience compassion fatigue.

What can the church do?

• Pray for health care workers, your pastors and your ministry leaders.
• Encourage or start online support groups or prayer groups for those in health care. Having a place where they can be encouraged and prayed for is a fantastic way to help carry their burdens.
• Identify those in your congregation who work in health care and personally reach out to them. Let them know you are praying for them, and remind them the church is there for them.
• Encourage or require your pastors and ministry leaders to take a Sabbath. Talk about rest in your staff meetings or from your pulpit. Beyond the one-day-a-week Sabbath rest, encourage all staff to set aside one weekend a month and one week a year as a time of rest.
• Promote a mindset of self-care. If you are the pastor or ministry lead, you’ll need to model it. Ask staff to share ways they are practicing self-care on a regular basis, and share it with your team.
• Determine what help and support your ministry leaders need. Prioritize the hiring of people who can help whenever possible. Operating an online platform along with the already existing ministry has likely doubled work in some areas, so now is a good time to add assistants to your team.

Addiction

What does the church need to know?

Addiction flourishes in secret. The self-justifying lies deteriorate resolve, and old habits gain great ground. There is no better environment for the revitalization of addictive habits or the beginning of new ones than in a time of isolation paired with increased stress. Those in your congregation who had fought long and hard for the ground of sobriety have faced incredible setbacks.

People who have faced addiction know how valuable support systems are. They are keenly aware of their need to have someone look them in the eye and hold them accountable. COVID-19 made that nearly impossible. Support groups went online or stopped all together. This reality along with the isolation created a perfect storm of relapse.

Porn addiction has significantly increased during COVID-19. It would be safe to call it a “porndemic” as some pornography distributers offered free streaming during quarantine. My heart breaks for the many who have gotten caught up in this evil during this time. Believers will deal with significant shame and ongoing battles due to the secret patterns of sin that sparked a destructive fire of porn use during isolation.

What can the church do?

• Start groups now for those struggling with sexual sin and continue them when the church reopens. Here are some resources for both men and women that can be used as curriculum for these groups: Sexual Sanity for Men or Women are great books for groups. Each chapter offers the opportunity to engage the content at a personal level. Another resource is Sex Addicted Christian, which has online videos and resources for guys. Finally, Samson Society provides info on starting a group as well as daily devotions on the subject of sexual purity.

• Prioritize recovery groups as you reopen. For more severe addictions, intensive recovery may be needed. Consider these faith-based resources: Celebrate Recovery and Faith-based residential treatment.

Certainly other areas need to be on the church’s radar, such as relationship struggles. China saw a spike in divorce filings as they emerged from isolation. Domestic abuse is also an area that has increased due to isolation, and churches will need to be equipped to recognize it. Grief is sure to be something everyone will be bringing in various degrees of experience. There is not one of us who has not known or felt loss in some capacity during this season.

And don’t forget the marginalized. Those who suffer with chronic pain and illness, and those who were previously shut in, can easily drift out of our sight as we focus on in-person gatherings. During this crisis, we entered into their world for a brief time. We learned what it was like to be unable to leave home. We experienced the loneliness that comes from isolation. Let’s not forget about them as we begin to phase back into meeting onsite.

To mention all of the issues and give words of direction on each would strain the length of this already lengthy article. My hope is that looking at just a few key issues stirs the church to think about how to prepare even now for how to walk with people as we look forward to days of reunion. Churches across the country have stepped up to the call to love their neighbor during this crisis. As we begin to explore what it will look like on the other side of isolation, we carry the same call.

While we may be asking whether it is almost over, in many ways, things have yet to begin. As you prepare for your first post-isolation gathering and you strategize parking, seating, classrooms, restrooms, etc., keep in mind the weight of emotional and mental strain this time has had on your congregants. May the words of Philippians 2:4 and Romans 15:1–3a guide the church as we continue to consider the needs and struggles of others and bring hope in relevant ways in the days ahead.

“Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 2:4

“Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weakness of those without strength and not to please ourselves. Each one of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself.” —Romans 15:1–3a


This article originally appeared on OutreachMagazine.comRead more COVID-19 Perspectives from pastors and church leaders.

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