We were driving today, and we went further than we usually do. We drove out of the city to a suburban place, for our shopping. That travel is permitted, under our COVID restrictions, the change of scenery was nice, and I like to get away from the busy places where infection rates might be higher.
It was all good, until I saw a huge crowd of people, on a street that is usually quiet. We drove closer, and we saw people waving signs, to protest something. It was a surprise.
When we got close, we could see that no one in the protest rally was wearing a mask, or doing anything to prevent Covid infections. There was no social distancing in that crowd. A large crowd of people were protesting something at a suburban courthouse.
I didn’t have to ask what was happening. A pastor named James Coates is in jail because churches are restricted, for COVID safety.
- READ: Despite pastor behind bars, members of GraceLife Church near Edmonton continue to defy COVID-19 rules
My eye-witness impression is that the demonstrators were like the people we see on the way to work everyday; ordinary people who have jobs and families, and pay taxes and vote. We saw a huge protest by the neighbors.
When I was younger, we had a culture of protest and demonstration, mostly focused on the Vietnam war, but those radicals were young and had long hair, they used drugs. They did not have steady jobs and families to support, and paying taxes was not a big discussion. I don’t remember any time when Christians held up signs and demonstrated. And I really don’t remember a time when church people protested that their pastor was in jail.
COVID 19 has made our world very strange.
In a newspaper article about the pastor, people wrote comments. To understand:
- READ: GraceLife Church pastor remains in custody after holding another service violating COVID-19 public health orders
There was support for calm reason:
“The pastor spoke his entire message on Romans 13 on Sunday. This church has not had one case of covid in 7 months open, and even if they had, the opinions of any of us as to what we agree with or don’t are inconsequential. There’s a Charter and a test for when the rights within can be violated. He has been ticketed and let the courts apply the test to the facts and determine the outcome. Holding him in jail until trial is not just.”
There were personal attacks:
“This pastor seems to have a jesus complex. He seems to think he is saving his people from something, not sure what it is, its whatever martyr manifestation is working around in his head. Lock him up and lock up his congregation if they continue behaving like this.”
This will continue. Protest rallies are planned for other cities, far away, and the story is news around the world. I told someone on the phone about my experience with the local protest, and I got an angry argument. The angry words were like ‘My church is following the rules, and they should too!’ I changed the topic.
This problem with one pastor is a picture of a much bigger problem. The arrival of the COVID-19 has exposed our biggest weakness.
We can’t solve problems.
If you are wondering, I have opinions about the pastor in jail, but my small voice won’t make much difference. This is a COVID soapbox that we can stand on so that we can abuse each other, and feel good about it. Calm reason is not wanted.
I believe both sides, church and government, should try to compromise, just a little. I have been a member of church boards, and calm discussion is possible. I hope that governments can do the same. If they don’t, the damage from the emotional arguments will be with us for a long time. The pastor’s story, one percent, opens the gate for a flood of abuse, ninety nine percent of the damage.
The whole world is lazy about compromise and reason, and calm solutions; and project management. The Covid problem is damaging economies and societies, and it seems to me that people everywhere want a good fight. We have blunt orders, and angry defiance. It’s fun to abuse the neighbors and to feel self righteous.
We can fix the damage later, maybe.
Someday this will pass, but our bigger problem will still be with us.
A man once spoke to a crowd and he told them: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28) Those words were spoken by a Jewish Rabbi named Joshua. We know him by the Greek pronunciation ‘Jesus.’
Jesus walked with people who had no rest in their souls; they solved problems the way we do. A few years later, the Jews defied the Romans, and their holy city of Jerusalem, with its holy temple, were destroyed. A few centuries later, Rome was conquered by barbarian invaders. We call that civilization.
History is not on our side.
The old argument, with God, is true today:
Speak up and present your case, yes, let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago? Who announced it from ancient times? Was it not I, the Lord? There is no other God but Me, a righteous God and Savior; there is none but Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:22)