I received so much response from my first article on this that I felt it would be good to share a little more, addressing some specific questions. I hate to be misunderstood. I felt the need to expound, particularly, on issues beyond mask-wearing.
You see, there’s a huge difference between being told to wear a mask to protect other people around you, and being told as believers that we cannot gather at all, or in the most extreme and ridiculous case, which is in California, “you cannot sing.” When is it time for civil disobedience?
What about the American Revolution
First, let me address a couple of things. More than one friend brought up the issue of the American Revolution. Why was it okay for them to rebel but not for us, in regards to the mask-wearing mandate? (To be clear, if mask-wearing is not mandated in your state then it is up to you to follow your conscience.)
The American Revolution was, in my opinion, a case of justified rebellion. You had 13 colonies that belonged to Great Britain, but were situated on another continent. They had no representation within the British government. I would encourage everyone to read the text of the US Declaration of Independence. I think it is one of the most profound and impacting statements ever written.
In it, Jefferson makes the case for establishing a new republic. His reasoning is simple: the King of England has abused his power against the laws of God. The colonies appealed to the king and he either ignored them or rejected them.
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.
The King had abused his power and violated the rights of the citizens of the colonies. Therefore they set out to create a more perfect union, as the U.S. Constitution states. There was a struggle of many, many years leading up to the 1776 Declaration of Independence. The UN recognizes the right of self-determination. US President Woodrow Wilson said after World War II:
“National aspirations must be respected; people may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. ‘Self determination’ is not a mere phrase; it is an imperative principle of action.”
We are not talking about leaders trying to do the best they can in the midst of an unexpected pandemic. To equate refusal to wear a mask to the American Revolution is like comparing a cup of water to the Mediterranean Sea. They’re just not equal. I dare say that the courage of the revolutionaries was tested far more than the courage of those who refused to wear a mask.
Another person who objected to my article wrote that Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Richard Wurmbrand are turning over in their graves, so to speak, as pastors acquiesce to the government. Comparing two of the greatest heroes of the 20th century, one who stood against Hitler, and the other, who stood against communism, to people resisting the wearing of masks is almost comical, and an insult to both Wurmbrand, who was beaten in prison for 14 years and Bonhoeffer, who was martyred
Some said that Jesus would not wear a mask but would heal the sick. Amen! And my guess is that if you have that kind of faith and are healing people dying from COVID-19, then no one is going to have a problem with you not wearing a mask either, as you continue to see them healed. But I’m going to guess that not one person who wrote that has actually laid hands on somebody with COVID-19, while not wearing a mask, and seen them instantly healed.
When to Take a Stand
Having said that, there are times for civil disobedience. I was arrested 30 years ago while blocking an abortion clinic. Technically, what I did was illegal. But I, and the 30 or 40 other people with me that day, may have saved a human life—and that’s the higher law.
Right now in Israel, the government is bungling the ordinances for COVID-19. Yesterday, they closed all restaurants at 5:00 AM only to reopen them at 10:00 AM. On Friday they shut down all restaurants for Saturday, only to overturn that later in the day, after many restaurants had already gotten rid of their food. We see infighting in the same parties where members are accusing each other of taking a position to benefit family members.
Here there has been very little help for small businesses and their workers. Some restaurants have chosen to open up no matter what. Is that justified rebellion? In my opinion, yes. When governments cease to act and there is a consensus among the people that a certain action must be taken, you are left with no choice. I tend to support the restaurants in their civil disobedience and the protesters who were gathering on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem demanding some common sense from our leaders.
In the midst of this pandemic our Prime Minister took up a whole day of the Knesset’s activities in order to get a two hundred thousand dollar tax break for himself. Meanwhile businesses are shutting down and people can’t feed their children. As a millionaire, He could have donated that money to Corona relief.
So what about gatherings? Should Messianic congregations and churches close their doors because the government asked them to, making the case that it’s for the safety, not only of the people in the congregation, but everyone they may come in contact with afterwards? Let me answer that in two different time periods.
- At the beginning of this pandemic it seemed right to most pastors I know to obey the request to suspend meetings and move to online services. This was not persecution of the church, and it was not them acquiescing to government officials. It was them trying to do the best thing for their congregation and society around them, the people to whom we are called to be a witness.
- However, now that things have opened up and there are mass protests all over America and Israel, it may be time for civil disobedience in this regard. My feeling was very simple: As long as you are requiring the same thing for weddings and funerals, synagogue gatherings and other events, we should abide by the ordinances. But the situation in California does call for civil disobedience, in my opinion. You have a governor who on the one hand is encouraging thousands of people to protest together, most of whom are not practicing social distancing; and on the other hand he is telling believers that they cannot sing in their congregations. That’s a double standard, and if I were a pastor in California, I would not comply.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
There are certain rights that are not given by the government, but by God. And the right to gather for worship is one of them. Moses appealed to Pharaoh to let the people come out in order to worship. Pharaoh said no. And I think you know the rest of the story.
As believers, I don’t see where we are supposed to protest for our rights. We are dead. We belong to Jesus. But that does not mean that we are to tolerate injustice. We are called to speak up for the rights of others, whether it is racism or the killing of the unborn. And our most sacred call and commission is to reach our fellow man with the message of Yeshua.
Don’t get mad 🙂
But here’s where I see a little bit of hypocrisy. And please forgive me; I’m not trying to hurt or condemn anyone. Many who have not shared their faith with another person in ages are suddenly ready to display their faith by refusing to wear a mask. If one’s first experience of civil disobedience is protecting their right to not wear a mask, and they’ve never fought for the rights of the unborn or shared the gospel in a hostile environment … thenI have to wonder about their priorities .
It comes off as a bit selfish. I’m not willing to do too much to fulfill the Great Commission or rescue widows and orphans or those caught in human trafficking or to stop the killing of the unborn, but God-forbid you make me wear a mask that might actually save the life of someone around me.
A time is coming…
I do believe things are going to get more intense. I do believe that very soon believers are going to have to disobey governments in order to obey God. I do believe that this is a little bit of a dress rehearsal. Jesus called it, the beginning of birth pangs. I believe that God is giving us an opportunity to learn how to meet together without a building, because the day will come when it will be outlawed to meet to worship—just like in the days of Moses.
I’m in Jerusalem right now writing a book over the next few days called birth pangs. I believe God is calling us to get ready for what is to come. If we are really in the beginning of the end, then the cost of being a disciple will be far beyond refusing to wear a mask. It may even demand that some of us give our lives, as He did for us. May God give all of us the grace to stand strong in the day of evil. He who stands firm to the end shall be saved. (Matt. 24:13)