Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Why are so many churches and denominations working hand-in-glove with the authorities?

 

A reader wrote to me recently.  Edited and streamlined, his question can be phrased:


"Why do so many churches and denominations cooperate with governments that are obviously corrupt and self-serving?  Why did so many churches order or encourage their members to get the Covid-19 vaccine, and still do?  Why did so many churches obey the lockdown and bar their own members from attending services, even after it became clear the lockdowns weren't working?  Why do so many churches preach the 'global warming' message, and even classify environmentally unfriendly practices as a sin, when the Bible says nothing of the kind?"


I think you'll find much of the answer in Matthew 6:24:


No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.


Sadly, that's precisely what many, perhaps most, churches have done today.  They are trying to serve both God and money, and failing miserably at one, if not both objectives.  They've become overly comfortable in their relationship with the authorities, particularly where their income is concerned.  For example:

  • In the USA, donations to churches are tax-deductible by the donor, and tax-free in the church's hands.  If that status were threatened, donations to churches would probably diminish drastically, and the churches' disposable income would also be greatly reduced.  As a result, many churches and denominations deliberately avoid preaching about politically controversial subjects, for fear of reprisals.
  • In Germany there's a religious tax, the so-called Kirchensteuer, which allocates a proportion of a taxpayer's income tax to the church to which he/she belongs.  This makes the churches that receive it very influential within their denominations (for example, the Catholic Archdiocese of Cologne is reputed to be wealthier than the Vatican itself;  and Aid To The Church In Need, a German ecclesiastical charity, funds mission work in many parts of the world out of those taxes).  Similar taxes are levied in several other countries, benefiting the churches that receive them.  Those churches naturally do all they can to avoid threatening such a cozy financial relationship with the State, including avoiding overt criticism, and tailoring their message accordingly.
  • In many cases, interdenominational disputes arise when some churches take a stand on a point of principle, and others do not.  For example, some denominations at least tolerate, if not support abortion, while others reject it outright;  some accept homosexual conduct as morally valid, while others do not;  some reject government attempts to control attendance, while others do not.  This may extend to some denominations actively seeking to encourage government pressure on others with whom they disagree.
One can get into the habit of obedience, of "going along to get along".  Once one does it in one area, it's easier to do it in another, then a third, and so on.  Because churches have gotten out of the habit of taking a stand on moral and ethical principles, they've become complicit rather than confrontational.  They've allowed the money-changers to take over their forecourts, to use a Biblical image.  Jesus cleansed his temple of them.  Modern churches . . . not so much.

Apart from money, there's also the question of defining what is true, and what is not.  (Ask Pontius Pilate.)  Too many churches have abandoned traditional Biblical morality and the tradition of faith, which for centuries have together determined what is, or is not, moral and right and true.  (It's not just Biblical.  To take just one example, abortion is not directly condemned in the New Testament:  but it is condemned in the Didache, written at the same time as most of the books of the New Testament, but not included in the latter because it could not be proved beyond doubt to have been written by an apostle - one of the criteria used to determine eligibility for inclusion.  Despite this, it remains a valuable and highly respected source of early Christian teaching, and it's influenced the traditional condemnation of abortion as evil and sinful.)  To many Christians, sound moral teaching must be based on the Bible and the teachings of the early Church.  To others, that's not so.

Those factors, in essence, are why so many churches have abdicated their God-given responsibilities to stand up for what is right and what is true:  and that's why they're more comfortable collaborating with the authorities than standing up for fundamental moral and spiritual truth.

I'm a Christian pastor, of course, so my personal response is conditioned by that.  In the end, I believe one's Christian faith, and how one expresses it in action, must boil down to a very personal response to Jesus Christ.  He asks every believer, "Who do you say that I am?"  Note, it's who he is - not who or what our pastor, or our church, or our denomination is.  Our answer will determine whether we regard his moral teaching as God-given and therefore binding, or merely as good (but secular) advice.  Nobody else can give that answer on our behalf.  If we find that the answer of our pastor, or our church, or our denomination clashes with the answer we must give in good conscience, then the time has come to very carefully examine our beliefs and determine whether we're in the right spiritual home.

As regular readers will know, I long ago decided that one's conscience is and must be the supreme guide to one's actions - not what others tell us to do, but what we truly believe God is calling us to do.  YMMV, of course.

Peter


15 comments:

catslave said...

God's judgement falls on His church first. He's exposing who is His and who isn't. He WILL have His spotless bride. Its very disappointing to see how very many churches are just social clubs instead of Christ-followers and disciples.

Amahl_Shukup said...

The Church has been at this crossroads before, in the days of Martin Luther. The Reformation shock waves are still being felt today. Maybe it's time some more Theses were nailed to the doors of churches throughout the West.

Skyler the Weird said...

The Biblical Commandments unlike the living breathing Bill of Rights are literally written in Stone.

boron said...

Abortion was in the list of ten that G-d handed to Moses - you'll find it under the VI Commandment Thou shalt not murder

Mind your own business said...

One of the areas I find this most disturbing is with regard to illegal aliens. There are numerous church-affiliated charitable/NGO groups that work hand in glove with the federal government in accommodating and relocating so-called refugees throughout the US. and they get paid handsomely to do so.

It is nothing more than a facade to allow the government to encourage illegals under the cloak of a religious marquee.

Jess said...

Churches walk a perilous path, since Satan has more knowledge of the Bible than any learned Biblical theologian. This knowledge is useful in swaying those attending, and those that are stewards of the church.

I don't think Jesus would have a good opinion of many of the churches found today.

Will said...

"I don't think Jesus would have a good opinion of ANY of the churches found today." FIFY

Jonathan H said...

Unfortunately, many denominations long ago changed from being a movement to an institution - and over time, institutions ALWAYS get captured by bureaucrats whose goal is power and money, not the original mission of the institution.

Additionally, many of the people willing to serve at the top of large organizations are in it for the same reasons, regardless of the ideology they espouse. The best (maybe only?) way to prevent this is to keep down the amount of money involved and the power of leaders - there are some small denominations who have not strayed in large part because they don't offer money and power to potential leaders.

Peter said...

@boron - I, personally, agree that abortion is, in most cases, nothing more than murder, and therefore covered in the Commandments. However, others disagree, claiming that the fetus isn't fully human (or even human at all before birth). That's why there's so much controversy about it.

Dave said...

The SARS CoV-2 was a huge shaking of the US churches. Those who went with Caesar were obvious as were those who stayed with scripture. Even now, the churches who went with Caesar are poking at those who remained open, worshiped properly and ignored the illegal dictates of the state.

In Moscow, Idaho, one church continued in person services, singing, and communion resulting in targeting by the elected and appointed officials of the city. As a result, on September 23rd, 2020 when Psalm Singers met at City Hall to protest the city actions, three individuals were arrested for not following the mask mandate. The part that doesn't make the news is that the mask mandate wasn't law, but only an official policy statement. Even now, the city refuses to admit that they broke the law and lied to every resident of Moscow.

McChuck said...

It doesn't help that one of the very first institutions to be converged was the seminaries. That happened back in the late 1800's. That project worked so well for the forces of evil that they went on to create college programs and degree requirements for teachers.

MNW said...

An attorney I know once made the statement the the Constitution was a "living" document.

My response was that the founders didn't think so Nd if it was then means of amending wouldn't have been included. I then asked the question: if the Constitution is as you say it it than what other laws can I ignore the letter of because I don't like them?

The facial expression was priceless


MNW said...

I wonder how much is $ and how much is pathological altruism

Tregonsee said...

McChuck sadly I think you are almost 2 centuries too late at least in the Northeast US. Part of the reason Yale (under the Collegiate School name, Eli Yale comes later) was founded in 1701 was because Cotton Mather and others felt that Harvard was getting, well a little squishy in its theology (the start of Unitarianism).
By early 1800's Andover Theological Seminary was created because both Yale and Harvard had gone into various Unitarian heresies, Finally in the 1880s Gordon College (later extracted and merged to form Gordon-Conwell Seminary) is formed as Andover and Newton Seminaries were wandering off path into liberal theology. Amazingly the Very liberal Seminaries (Andover-Newton, Bangor, Episopal Divinity School) all have financially collapsed and been pulled into other seminaries. Its like an old joke I heard
Q: What do you get when you cross a Fuller Brush Salesman and a Liberal Pastor?
A: Someone that goes door to door for no apparent reason.

lee n. field said...

Why? I see 2 somewhat contradictory possible reasons.

1) Taking Romans 13 seriously without trying to nuance it away. ("pay your taxes, honor the emperor, etc.")

2) Worldliness. "This-age"ness. Imagining that they have, or want to achieve, a voice, status, "a place at the table". The Am. Protestant mainline may have had that, a century ago. Not so much now.