Churches opening for parking lot worship services or gathering for small outdoor gospel concerts is an encouraging step for our country’s return to some semblance of normalcy. But in America, no one should have to ever express gratitude at being allowed to sit in a camp chair by a curb in his or her home church’s parking lot and listen to a sermon.
Worship services across the country were systematically shut down as part of the lockdown method to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19. But attending church services is vital to the spiritual, emotional, and by extension physical health of Christians. Like Jesus said in Luke 4:4: “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone but by every word from the mouth of God.” Church services and the hope they bestow upon believers are every bit as important as food banks and the loaves of bread they hand out to those in need.
Saying “Thank you for letting us gather and worship the Lord together” smacks of groveling to governors who exercised way more authoritarian power than they had a right to when they ordered businesses to close and citizens to stay home. Sure, looking for small things to be grateful for is a good way to maintain a positive perspective. But being grateful for being allowed to legally practice a small fraction of the religious freedoms that this country was founded on is handing way more power to our leaders than any American citizens should ever feel comfortable doing.
If we’re grateful to go back to open air church services, how much more appreciative are we going to be when we return to work? Are we becoming a people who appreciates a government that “lets” us toil for an honest wage at a job we earned? Is that the type of relationship we want to have with our government – one in which the ruling powers allow us certain strictly regulated liberties, and we say thank you? That’s not freedom. That is authoritarian rule with an elite ruling class upheld by subservient, impoverished workers.
The national situation never should have gotten to this point. Our government has been allowed to take away a staggering amount of our American freedom because 1) we were told our health was in jeopardy, 2) intense political and peer pressure convinced people they needed to follow the rules if they wanted to live, and 3) it all happened so quickly.
As soon as the novel coronavirus was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, leaders were viewed as incompetent if they didn’t take swift, severe action to curb its spread. Parents were often given less than 12 hours’ notice that their child’s school would be closed for the remainder of the school year. Employees showed up to their jobs only to be told they didn’t have them anymore. People were reeling from the shock and trying to figure out their next move to keep their homes and feed their families. They didn’t fully comprehend the extent of their lost liberty until several weeks passed and quarantine was becoming a long term possibility.
We shouldn’t say “thank you” for each freedom the government re-grants us. We should say “It’s about time. Don’t ever take it away again.”