SocraticGadfly: Coronavirus, churches, Romans 13 and First Amendment versus greed, ego, rebellion and the Success Gospel

April 09, 2020

Coronavirus, churches, Romans 13 and First Amendment
versus greed, ego, rebellion and the Success Gospel

About two weeks ago, I blogged that the government can indeed close churches at a time like this, as long as the closures are for an appropriate heath emergency (they are, duh), and are applied to all churches equally, as well as to all faith traditions equally, as an additional note for the wingnuts who claim Merika is a Christian nation.

A main link in that piece was a news analysis story from the Deseret News, one of two mainstream media daily newspapers in Salt Lake City.

Guess who owns it?

In case you didn't know, the answer is the Mormon Church.

I also noted that many nondenominational churches were of course ignoring, or even actively fighting, church closures. I said they were ignoring "submit to the governing authorities" in Romans 13:

13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 
and noted that was not surprising. Many of the English and Scots-Irish early American settlers came here with a history of rebelling against the English or Scottish crowns pre-1707 union of them, or the British throne after that. And of course, their successors also ignored Romans 13 in 1775, including Declaration of Independence signer John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister.

That's the "rebellion" in the second line of the header.

There's a couple of other reasons involved too, though.

One is ego.

Though listed second on the second line of the header, I'll start with it on the additional reasons, because it's connected with rebellion.

Many of these independent churches are independent for a reason.

Some guy (they're almost entirely men who are fighting closure orders)* thinks that he and only he understands the bible. Therefore, he has to start his own church. (See end of post for asterisk.)

In some cases, there's a Svengali-like personality involved, to boot. Maybe that's why so many of them are hardcore Trumpists to the point of ignoring his essential irreligiosity. Cultism is as cultism does, to quote Forrest Gump.

Well, here, besides the old saying that schadenfreude is a bitch, there's the biblical saying that "pride goes before a fall."

And that fall?

Could literally be deadly, as was the case earlier this week with coronavirus-mocking pastor Landon Spradlin. Per that link, he was a Trumper — and his family continues to drink the Kool-Aid afterward.

There's also the ego of being your own boss. A Southern Baptist pastor may have some of that freedom, but even there, he faces some denominational strictures. An independent? Nobody's his boss but the members of his church and their wallets.

Speaking of?

Let's get next to the first and last parts of the second line of the header, as they're connected: "greed" and "Success Gospel."

With independent ministers, whether of the megachurches, the mini-megs, or the new startups who dream, greed is often a factor in being a minister. A quick Google will tell you the worth of Kenneth Copeland, Joe Osteen, Creflo Dollar and others.

Even a start-up guy, if he gets 200 regular members a week, hammers tithing hard, gets a good response and is renting a storefront rather than a traditional church building, can easily gross $75K

And, of course, besides hammering tithing hard, hammering the Success Gospel's ties to it are also important.

But, back to Landon Spradlin, and from him, on to Luke 12 versus the Social Gospel. Specifically, it's the parable of the Rich Fool:
“The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
And there you go.

There is, I think, an element of fear as well.

Pastors are considered self-employed, and thus, generally not eligible for unemployment benefits. And besides, until a church officially closes for good, they're not unemployed.

But, it they believe in a god both omnipotent and omnibenevolent, they should then remember what Jesus said in the Beatitudes about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field not worrying.


*For the women who are conservative evangelicals or fundamentalists but yet are pastors or church leaders by any other name?

There's good old pseudo-Paul in 1 Timothy 2:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
Love the ladies who ignore that. I had a former GF who loved Joyce Meyer. I'd argue that Meyer falls in that category, teaching to men.


Addition: These nutters are also ignorant of church history. (Of course.) In medieval Europe, since the village church or town cathedral WAS the agora or forum, it worked to prevent the spread from one village or region to another. The churches themselves? Some were open, but in many cases, priests ran away. And, with daily masses, peasants could probably practice a crude form of social distancing.


Update, July 26: My take on Gov. Gavin Newsom's latest orders and the latest round of sinful rebellion in California.

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