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Building the wall [Updated]

You remember Pastor Coates in Canada? This guy.

Well, now this is happening. He was released from jail pending his trial. His church continued to meet. The RCMP has now built a big chainlink fence around GraceLife Church. Protesters gathered outside the fence today, though GraceLife itself says that its own members were not being encouraged to join those protestors.

I hope myself that Pastor Coates quietly gathered GraceLife's own congregation somewhere else just to hold a church service out in the prairie or on private property, but I haven't been able to get any information about that. Update: They did! Here is a video. It carefully just shows Pastor Coates and doesn't say where it was recorded. Bless 'em! I bet the police are carefully analyzing the video at this very moment to identify that gray brick wall and figure out where this dangerous, illegal activity is taking place. Click to watch the underground church in Canada meet and pray.

If you're a committed Christian and this barricading of GraceLife and fixation on the part of the Alberta Health Department doesn't bother you, it should.

Comments (8)

Let’s assume that it would not be elderly people who are most affected by the Corona virus, but children. Let’s further assume that social distancing and wearing masks are effective means to prevent the spread of the virus. Would you in such a case praise Pastor Coates’s acts and condemn the measures taken by the government against his church?

The members of Pastor Coates’s church not only refuse to engage in social distancing, but also refuse to wear masks. Is there a good theological justification for abstaining from wearing a mask in a church service?

In response to Patrick's second question, I would answer by saying that in my opinion yes, there is good theological justification for abstaining from wearing a mask. Regardless of how effective or not those masks actually are at impeding the spread of viruses like SARS-Cov-2, they have a symbolic meaning. When you wear one you acknowledge the state's claims to ownership of your life and person. State mask-mandates dictate that you cannot earn your living by either opening your business or going to your job, nor can you enter a store to buy the necessities of life, without wearing this totem. That is the same as dictating that you cannot live without wearing a mask. Indeed, by these mandates governments declare that they have the right to limit your access to the very resource that is proverbial for what God provides freely to man in abundance, i.e., the air we breathe. That is an authority no government legitimately possesses, and no person can ascribe that authority to the government without blaspheming God Who alone has that kind of authoritative ownership of our lives and persons. This is why the Book of Revelation stresses that that when the final Antichrist of the last days demands the allegiance of all who live upon the earth, the mark of such allegiance will be required to buy and sell.

There is also the fact that mask mandates were imposed only after governments imposed other totalitarian health restrictions to which it would be a clear violation of Scripture for Christians, whether as individuals or churches, to obey, such as the forbidding of the church from assembling together, and the allowing them to re-open only if they limit their capacity, i.e., turn people away from the church's ministry. Wearing the masks as a symbolic acceptance of our ownership by the state is an implicit acceptance of the legitimacy of these other restrictions.

First, yes, I would. There are significant issues with mask wearing in terms of very important social and interpersonal values. By the way, this is *especially* true for children, who need the social cues of facial expressions. In church, especially, we are trying to encourage one another, we are trying to support one another in our struggles and trials, and we are using incarnate means (including facial expressions) to communicate important truths to one another. Having to be six feet apart is also inimical to the privacy required for such conversations.

The Alberta health department also allegedly requires (though not enforcing it for Muslims, by the way)

--no more than 15% capacity in church
--no socializing before or after the service. Attendees must act like they don't know one another or briefly call out greetings or wave or whatever can be done very quickly before going away. Hence, no mutual support, encouragement, and comfort in person.

The church service is thus to be treated like attendance as more or less strangers coming to hear a lecture or a concert, rather than a body of believers who are close to one another and supporting one another.

Pastor Coates's church did provide the opportunity for those who wished to attend and distance to sit in a different section. This was insufficient for the health department.

He and his wife have made all of this clear repeatedly. Yet comments like the one above continue to focus only on the Holy Sacrament of the Mask while not even dealing with the truly draconian nature of the (inconsistently enforced) regulations in question.

It was never even *proposed* to him that he be allowed to open to his full congregation while requiring only masking, allowing mutual conversation at the services, singing, and all the other normal services of the church (such as Communion and baptism). He might have refused anyway (and I would also have supported that for the above reasons), but this was never even offered as an option.

I strongly praise him for his actions.

and we are using incarnate means (including facial expressions) to communicate important truths to one another.

Something I saw recently drives this point home rather pointedly. I got pulled in to watching one of those ubiquitous videos where we get to "watch what happens when Soldier X comes home and greets his (pick one: wife, sweetheart, daughter) for the first time in 14 months". It has an invariate result: X and the spouse/sweetheart/daughter get caught into an embrace so strong they could probably crack walnuts between them if anyone wanted, and they STAY in that close embrace for a minute or two. They are performing an act of PHYSICAL affirmation of something that they already know perfectly well intellectually: you're HERE, you are alive and well and HERE, you are WITH ME. Yes, we know the fact with the mind, but we still want to affirm the truth with our bodies. (Note, also, that this reaction is not in the least bit a romantic act: even if it is between two lovers, they engage in the same close embrace that a father and daughter do, for the first period, and only AFTER that (if they are lovers) do they pull apart far enough to be able to kiss each other. HUMANS ARE PHYSICAL BEINGS. Physicality enters into our relationships all the time, and we cannot pretend to be angels with "messy stuff attached temporarily".

I might not take the case as far as Gerry Neal has above, but I would insist that the range in which the government has a say in how we conduct ordinary daily activities MUST have limits, and what is sadly the case here is that even if governments (perhaps, arguably) reacted reasonably in the initial UNCERTAINTY of just how bad the disease is and what it would take to defeat it, many governments later acted quite perniciously in acting as if our lives and behavior belongs to the government and what we do is by their permission: officials who knew that current circumstances and info allowed for loosening some rules, but who refused to do so.

I am very glad that a very good deal of hue and cry was raised about the possibility of the governments issuing "vaccine papers" for individuals, because this would certainly represent the thin wedge of intrusion whereby government would "grant" us permissions to carry on ordinary life. If that prospect doesn't give you shivers, just note how close it comes in similarity to Germany only allowing Jews out and about who wore the yellow star of David. I understand the inclination to make use of the information "see, I have been vaccinated" to expanding allowed activities, but people should (by now) be used to the idea of the "law of unintended consequences" and asking themselves what ELSE such rules would do.

It amazes me that I still see people driving in cars by themselves with their masks on, hiking alone in a nearby state park with their masks on, walking their dogs by themselves with their masks on. Do they really think the virus is free-floating in the air? I simply don't get it and never have. Just last week I was in a local store where some millennial blowhard was pontificating about how great it was to see all the employees wearing masks, because earlier that same day he was in another store where the employees weren't wearing them, and "as soon as I saw it I turned right back around and walked out, because a store being that irresponsible isn't going to get my business," blah, blah, blah. I have no problem with him walking out, mind you, but the self-righteous virtue signaling was just too much. "Sheeple," as a friend of mine repeatedly calls them.

"Do they really think the virus is free-floating in the air?"

That bizarre fear has been deliberately promoted by, at least, the state of North Carolina. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJFZDIIpTGg

Oh, wow, Christopher, that video is...interesting.

Christopher's video would seem to vindicate the idea that the mask is essentially a talisman.

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