Taking Advantage of Fear

2020 | Week of April 13 | Radio Transcript #1355

As I have observed and lived this coronavirus pandemic like everyone else has, it’s become obvious that fear is very much part of this situation. I have seen fear on the faces of people in stores. I’ve heard it in voices and read it on social media posts and even in emails and phone calls we’ve received in our office.

When people are motivated by fear, outside control becomes very easy. Fearful people will allow themselves to be told what to do and how to think, and when enough people are fearful enough for long enough, controlling powers can have a veritable  heyday.  I think we are beginning to see this pretty clearly right now.

I’ll state it directly. I believe there are some in places of authority who really don’t want religion and, in particular Christianity, to flourish—ever, not during a pandemic and not during times of peace and prosperity. A flourishing, vibrant, non-fearful Christianity, from their perspective, is a threat to everything they believe, whether it’s advancing abortion or the LGBT agenda or socialism or you name it.  Pandemics where many people are consumed with fear make it easier to control Christianity—whether that’s diabolical and purposeful in motive or done out of a true desire to protect public health.

All of this is how we got to last Wednesday in Wisconsin when suddenly our office was getting texts, emails, phone calls and Facebook posts telling us county health departments across the state were telling churches they could not hold drive-in services Easter weekend, or any other time for that matter.  The county departments said th State Department of Health was “clarifying” Governor Evers’ stay-at-home order and that his order prohibited drive-in services even if people stayed in their cars and respected the social distancing order.

That didn’t make sense to us from our plain reading of the order and from what our attorneys who specialize in constitutional law had told us about the order. It especially made no sense that people could go to a grocery store or a wholesale store or even a hardware or home improvement store, park in the lot with however many people were there, go into the store and shop for however long they wanted, interacting with other shoppers and with store personnel, very often violating the social distancing order unavoidably while in the aisles. Stopping churches from holding drive-in services certainly looked like selective enforcement to us; and it did to the attorneys at Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty—or WILL—as well as to Attorney Michael Dean, a constitutional expert in his own right.

By Thursday morning, WILL and Attorney Dean had written and sent a public letter to Governor Evers asking that he clarify his order as it related to church meetings and religious services. As an organization that works with hundreds of churches, we also sent a letter to the governor asking him to straighten this out.

Why did both WILL and Wisconsin Family Council communicate directly with the governor and not the county health departments or the Department of Health? Because for the Department of Health to issue the prohibitory directive to the county health departments, the governor had to be behind it somewhere. Or at a minimum, he was the only one who could clarify what he really intended.  Fortunately, the governor did the right thing and agreed that drive-in services were allowed under his emergency order.

No church was forced to or is forced to hold such a service; that was and is entirely up to the church to decide. However, churches and religious entities need to be treated fairly under the law and our religious freedom needs to be respected. And that’s the message elected officials are hearing everywhere throughout the country today as lawyers in many states are pointing out via letters and lawsuits that government can’t favor one group over another group just because they are suspicious or something of the one group that happens to be religious in nature.

This situation was taking advantage of the fear of so many people.  Fear makes people irrationally think a drive-in church service is more dangerous than people shopping at a grocery store.  Fear makes people think Christians are more likely to break the law than are non-Christians. Trust me…I had a reporter actually say that to me in an interview last week.

Scripture tells us that God hasn’t given us, as Christians, the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind, in other words, clear thinking.  In the midst of the fear and in the midst of maybe even well-intentioned efforts to control us and our actions right now, Christians need to continue to live differently from the world,  not in fear but in victory, in love and in right thinking in all things.

For Wisconsin Family Council, this is Julaine Appling, reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.

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