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Hi my name is Dean Smith and in this podcast I want to talk about Christians and civil disobedience and I even include women in this discussion because of what is happening in Iran.
Iran is one of the most oppressive anti Christian regimes in the world, but Christianity is not only thriving in that country but according to some reports Iran has one of the fastest growing Christian populations in the world and it’s fostered by its rapidly growing house church movement.
We know it’s growing because of the statements being made by Muslim leaders warning of Christianity’s growth in Iran. In a speech to Shia Muslim leaders in May, 2019, Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi warned that mass conversions were happening right under their eyes.
It’s all the more amazing when you consider leading a muslim to Christ in that regime can result in a prison sentence.
So who is to blame for these illegal conversions?
In their documentary entitled Sheep Among Wolves, Frontier Alliance International reported that 55% of the house group leaders in Iran are women.
Yes, women are major players in the growth of Christianity in Iran and by default are also leading the civil disobedience.
So, while we kind of approve of Christian civil disobedience in places such as Iran or Communist China, we are not so certain closer to home.
And along this line, I recently read a newsletter published by Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit legal organization, dedicated to preserving religious liberty in the US.
In its May 1, 2020 newsletter, Mat Staver reported that the mayor of Kansas City was allowing churches to reopen but demanded they provide the names, addresses and telephone number of any who attended a service for longer than 10 minutes. And he wanted those names:
“For tracking and surveillance purposes.”
Though his order was related to the coronavirus pandemic and included businesses, speaking on behalf of Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver said:
“I am running out of adjectives to describe how completely insane the tyrannical abuses launched by state governors and local officials against pastors and churches are becoming. It is as if these leaders never bothered to so much as glance at the Constitution they swore to uphold and defend. They seem to be governing from some make-believe, dystopian viewpoint.”
Staver added that the Nazis in Germany did the very same thing early on in their regime as they collected the names and addresses of Jews attending synagogues in that country.
“Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined Nazi-like measures designed to surveil, track and spy upon what was once a Free American people.”
Staver concluded that the coronavirus pandemic may be bringing out the worst in some politicians.
Many believe such actions are unconstitutional and no government should be allowed to break a law to enforce its law.
Though Kansas City eventually backed down on its arguably “unconstitutional” demand for names and addresses, making it voluntary instead of mandatory, this nevertheless revealed some disturbing concerns about government overreach.
And this is not the only time we have seen this happen.
During this pandemic, we have also seen governments trying to shut down drive-in church services, where people simply drove to a church parking lot, stayed in their cars and listened to the service being broadcast over short wave FM.
This is exactly what Temple Baptist Church did in Greenville, Mississippi. Even though they complied with state regulations on quarantine, the police issued $500 tickets to everyone who attended.
Meanwhile the city was allowing people to use drive-ins at coffee shops and restaurants, where people rolled down their car windows to get served but could not listen to a church service in a parking lot with their car windows rolled up.
Fortunately the Alliance Defending Freedom, another legal non-profit, stepped in and forced the mayor to back down.
Nevertheless, this has many wondering if some politicians are using Covid-19 as an excuse to crack down on churches.
So should churches comply with these orders?
Perhaps, the larger question is should Christians participate in civil disobedience.
Now, there are several passages in the Bible telling believers that we need to submit to governmental authority, because all authority comes from God. Paul writes along those lines in Romans chapter 3 and the Apostle Peter gives a similar exhortation encouraging believers to submit to every human authority.:
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. … 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; (1 Peter 2:13, 14 and 16 NIV)
You get the impression from these passages that churches should have just instantly complied with government demands, with no questions asked.
But we need to balance Peter’s exhortation with an earlier statement the Apostle made after he was dragged before the council in Jerusalem in Acts 5 for preaching the Gospel. When the council ordered the Apostles to quit preaching Jesus, Peter replied with:
“We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
But to fully understand this statement we need to know why Peter came to this conclusion. Peter and the apostles were healing the sick and preaching the Gospel in an area beside the Temple. This so angered the High Priest that he ordered the apostles arrested.
We are told that they were specifically thrown into a public jail. But that night a very strange thing happened, an angel of God broke the apostles out of jail and told them to return their preaching.
So Peter understood through God’s direct intervention, that believers were subject to a higher law.
And in their statements urging believers to submit to human authority, both Peter and Paul were simply stating that though Christians are subject to a higher authority, that was not a license to break human laws at our discretion.
So aside from Peter’s illegal jail break, with an angel as an accomplice, there are several examples in Scripture where believers practised civil disobedience.
In Exodus chapter one, the Egyptian Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill the Jewish baby boys at birth. But the Bible says Puah and Shiphrah feared God more than man and refused to obey.
In 1 Kings 18, when Queen Jezebel ordered the death of all the prophets, Obadiah who is described as another God-fearer, saved a hundred of them by hiding the prophets in caves.
When King Nebuchadnezzar ordered everyone to bow before a 90 foot idol at its dedication, three Jewish men refused to obey — Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Daniel also got in to trouble when he refused to pray to the King after a law was passed demanding that people do so. It also said in this account, that those hoping to remove Daniel from his position of authority had found no corruption by which they could accuse the prophet, so they concocted the prayer scheme as a way of removing him. In other words, Daniel obeyed the other laws except the one that contravened the laws of God.
But in all these instances it was civil disobedience, not violent disobedience.
We also have a modern example of civil disobedience in the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was an evangelical pastor in Nazi Germany during World War 2. He was one of the few Christians to take a stand against Adolf Hitler. What is all the more amazing, in his biography entitled Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Metaxes describes Bonhoeffer as a mild-mannered man, the last person you would expect to practice civil-disobedience.
But he did and Bonhoeffer was executed on April 9, 1945 a month before Germany surrendered. Hitler knew it was all over by this point, but he wanted vengeance on those who opposed his totalitarian regime.
So with that in mind I want to close this podcast with an article written by Dennis Prager for the Daily Wire entitled “Our Dress Rehearsal for a Police State.”
Dennis Prager is an Orthodox Jew and popular conservative talk-show host and founder of PragerU, an organization that promotes conservative values on a variety of issues including political, economics, cultural and moral.
In his article, Prager outlines four disturbing things that have surfaced in the political landscape during the coronavirus pandemic.
Now Prager differentiates a police state from a totalitarian state by saying under a totalitarian state he would be arrested for writing the article he did. A totalitarian state also tends to be a one man dictatorship with absolute authority.
But even democracies can verge towards a police state, when we are told to give up our rights for what is said to be a higher good.
So what are the four signs concerning Prager?
Number one is “Draconian laws depriving citizens of their elementary rights”
Citizens in America and around the world are being hit with laws restricting their freedoms at a federal, state and even municipal level, as governments ban people from operating businesses, working or even meeting together in groups.
Number two is “A mass media supportive of the state’s messaging and deprivation of rights”
Prager points specifically to mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times and CNN who have been supportive of lock down and ending of basic human rights and condemning any who would oppose such draconian measures.
Number three is the “Use of Police”
Politicians are using police to enforce their dystopian laws with fines and even jail time for those who disobey stay-at-home orders. Prager referred to police threatening a woman who took her child to a party and joggers running without a face mask.
And in the midst of this we have also witnessed some amazing contradictions.
Recently, a Texas judge threw a woman in jail for opening her hair salon seven days earlier than lock down schedule allowed in order to feed her children. She has since been released because of the public outcry.
Then on the other hand we have the California governor releasing hardened criminals, many of them rapists, who the California DA said are a clear threat to break the law again, simply because they might get COVID-19 while in jail.
So on one hand the Coronavirus is being used as an excuse to throw people in jail and then on the other hand to release hardened criminals?
Are you confused yet? Well, I am.
Finally, Prager points to the use of “Snitches”
As a result of the coronavirus, some US state governments are encouraging their citizens to snitch on people they suspect of breaking the government’s lockdown orders. Prager talks about New York Mayor Bill de Blasio who set up such a snitch line so people can spill the beans on their neighbours, friends and, of course, particularly their enemies.
Prager says in his article, when East Germany was under Communist rule, about one in a hundred people worked for the Stasi, the East German secret police, as snitches.
And in his book, Postwar: A history of Europe since 1945, author Tony Jude says that after Nazi Germany conquered France in World War II, the Nazis were able to control a country of 35 million people with just 6,000 German military personnel.
How were they able to do this? Well, there are a couple of reasons:
First, the Nazi’s controlled the French police force and basically had it do the dirty work. Secondly, it also had snitches. The Nazi Gestapo boasted every morning that their postal bin was full of letters accusing fellow French citizens of resistance to the Germans.
These snitches were not the vast majority of the French people who just wanted to go on with their lives. These were people who collaborated and in many cases used it as payback for past disputes.
Some politicians are using this crisis to develop this snitch mentality. Once developed, it could easily be switched into snitching on any areas that state deems questionable.
In His description of the end times, Jesus warned of this very thing happening when the Lord said:
16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. (Luke 21: 16 NIV)
And, according to an article on CBN, this is already taking place in North Korea. In his article entitled, In North Korea There is One Homework Assignment, this Christian Wished He had Never done, Vernon Brewer who helps smuggle Bibles into that Communist country reported that teachers are asking children to look for Bibles in their homes, described as black book. He was told this story by a young man who received a red scarf as a reward for doing so and never saw his parents again.
On his blog, Jack Wu, a Chinese believer, uploaded a form that parents and teachers across China were ordered to fill out. They were asked if they attended an underground church and if they did they were then told to list the leaders and the members of this house church. Most of them probably refused to tell, but it would only take one person to endanger the whole group.
I realize, the West is not Communist China, North Korea or Iran, but if recent events are any indication it reveals how easily it could happen and how quickly things can change.
Our Dress Rehearsal for a Police State: Daily Wire