Virginia’s Democrat governor, Ralph Northam, found it within himself to lecture conservative people of faith on their defiant reaction to COVID-19 restrictions. Among other fallacious statements, Northam said, “You don’t have to sit in the church pew for God to hear your prayers.” It should be noted that no Christian actually believes that the pew is the new “tearing of the veil” that makes us able to access Father God, so Northam’s statement is much more of a strawman argument than anything else, but more on that later.
For the record, Northam’s quasi-theology lecture comes in the same year that he overturned abortion restrictions and one year after he suggested that babies that are born alive with abnormalities should be able to be aborted if that’s what the parents want. But more on that later, too.
In a press briefing on Thursday, October 11, Northam appealed to faith leaders to participate in a way that he believes will slow the spread of COVID-19 by using theological rhetoric to advance his appeal. (Skip to 15:15 for his statement on people of faith.)
“Now, I’d like to take a moment to talk about our faith communities. This is a holy time for multiple faith traditions. Tonight, as a matter of fact is the first night of Hanukkah. Christmas is two weeks away. The holidays are typically times of joy and community. We gather together, we celebrate our faith, and we celebrate with family. But this year we need to think about what is truly the most important thing: Is it the worship or the building? For me, God is wherever you are. You don’t have to sit in the church pew for God to hear your prayers.
So I strongly call on our faith leaders to lead the way and set an example for their members. Worship with a mask on is still worship, worship outside or worship online is still worship. I can’t remind Virginians enough how serious this virus is, and as I call on our faith leaders to set the example, I also hope that our local leaders across the commonwealth will do the same. Many already have.”
Let’s break down Northam’s commentary:
Well, the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. What is worship? One component, and perhaps the most commonly assumed, is praise music — singing praise to God. But this is done in the corporate setting, that is, a gathering. The Bible is clear to Christians that we are to gather routinely. Worship is also showing obedience to God. Following God’s Word is worshipping God. When we worship God we are saying that He is our God, and one way we say that He is God is by revering Him as such. So, when local leaders say, “Don’t gather,” we would NOT be worshipping God if we were to adhere to our local leaders’ anti-biblical mandates. Granted there are exceptions to the rule, such as early 2020 when we were uncertain of the effects of COVID-19. But now that we know of the 98 percent recovery rate and other facts, we are no longer in the “exception to the rule” scenario.
So, while the building is material brick and mortar, the church building is where we as the Church (note the big C) show obedience to God by gathering as a collective body. Safety precautions should be in place and people should be wise about whether to come if they’re vulnerable, but this does not and cannot amount to simply “Don’t come to church” for everyone.
There isn’t much to say in response other than this is another strawman argument making a point that was never challenged. No Christian believes that a pew is necessary for our prayers to be amplified to God. But this is a good example of how Northam really doesn’t have a theological leg to stand on with these restrictions, thus he is forced to rely upon hollow fallacies that sound great to those who don’t care about going to church.
To Northam, Christians should exemplify the governor’s mandates, not God’s. When Christian leaders set the example, they are to do so in accordance with God’s Word. For Christians, the Bible is God’s Word to us, and pastors are held to a standard that reflects biblical principles — not the principles or unbiblical directives of men. If Christian leaders were to follow mandates calling on them to stay home from church, then they would not be setting the example required of the pastorate.
Who is Northam to lecture anyone on setting the example of religious practice? To be fair, offering infant sacrifices to Moloch was a religious practice, but I’m referring to religious practices not involving human sacrifice. In early 2019, Northam said that babies born alive could be terminated if indeed that’s what the parents wanted.
“The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Think about that: “The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired.”
This is horrific.
Dem Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatrician himself, is defending born-alive abortions:
“The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired.”pic.twitter.com/3AxXlBhImQ
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) January 30, 2019
To resuscitate is defined as “bringing back from unconsciousness or apparent death,” but I think Northam was speaking more in general, indicating that the baby would be medically treated to avoid death. That said — Wow! A translation of Northam’s comments could actually be: “We’ll let your baby die unless you don’t want us to.” Such a tragically low view of human value should in no way be exemplified by a public leader — or anyone for that matter.
Governor Northam, you have no credibility to lecture anyone on faith. You have no credibility to speak to people about morality. You certainly have no authority to ban people of faith from practicing a freedom that was imperative to the blueprints of our nation’s cultural infrastructure.
Pastors, it is high time you open your churches again — and open them wide. If a governor’s edict persuades you to not gather for worship, even outside, your ability to fill the pastorate is clearly compromised. While we celebrate recent decisions by the Supreme Court to combat these overreaching edicts, it is a shame that many pastors relied on the Court to open their doors.
Check out the Falkirk Center podcast with Pastor John MacArthur on why church is essential: