We’re OK With Churches Staying Closed Because We Haven’t Seen Persecution
I imagine it might first be helpful to define what I mean by “OK.” When I write “OK” here I most certainly do not mean, “endorse” or “prefer.” I am referring more to a sense of acceptance or, as our friends at Oxford say, “assent.” It is a common term for common circumstances. While the unfolding events of our day might not be entirely desired, the circumstances are often…OK. This is to say daily event outcomes are sufficient enough.
What is interesting is when OK is no longer OK. Typically something in our lives is no longer OK by way of comparison. We know what chocolate tastes like, but then we taste dark chocolate or vanilla chocolate and we are suddenly no longer OK with our initial sampling. Or maybe someone makes a book suggestion to you, which is odd, because you do not often read. But you read the book, are impacted, and decide not-reading-regularly is no longer OK. The refusal to rest at “OK” breeds action. Every day people change jobs, or go back to school, or lose the weight, or just plain get out of bed because they are not satisfied with their current state. Let me put it this way: “OK is one degree under action.”
Along with businesses and schools, our churches have been closed by force since the middle of March because of the highly communicable nature of COVID-19. I was not pleased with the closing, but I understood the rationale. But that was March. I have commented previously that while we may not have been pleased with our churches being closed, our obedience to statewide executive orders was appropriate. But again, that was March. I, like most of you, presumed those were temporary orders. We now have good reason to believe the coronavirus threat is not the threat we initially perceived, as the recovery rates are high and even the reported statistics of those acquiring the disease are questionable.
There is another category of church that closes. They do so regularly and they do not give the impression they are concerned about a disease. Persecuted churches around the world are bombed, receive graffiti, have their land taken from them, and are targets for destruction because they are churches. Church persecution does not stop at physical structures; missionaries have their visas denied because they are missionaries. Bibles are smuggled where they are not allowed because of their content. And yet church members around the world intentionally persist in spite of danger, in spite of threat, and in spite of punishment because they are not OK with the state being the ultimate arbiters of human life.
I am not suggesting that churches being closed due to the coronavirus should be considered persecution. Far from it. What I am saying is that we are not moved or motivated to push for immediate reopening because we do not have a comparative sense of what real persecution looks like. I think if we knew more of the names of pastors who were thrown in jail for preaching the gospel, we would be less OK with simply watching services online as we wait for the state to grant us permission to meet again.
Churches need to reopen. They need to open responsibly. They need to open safely. They need to open lovingly. Pray for your pastor’s wisdom as many pastors, up until this point in their ministry, have not had to choose between the state and their church responsibilities .
And do not be content with OK.
Rick Laib is the Republican candidate for the 11th Congressional District in Illinois. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org