Compromised Churches

Several months into the pandemic of 2020 I wrote a few blog posts raising concerns over churches that were too easily influenced by the State, too willingly submissive to mandates of closure, too willing to substitute a genuine, physical fellowship for a virtual, online version, then reopening with mask, distancing, even no-singing mandates.
One of those posts highlighted the curious case of numerous churches around the country that applied for and received business loans from the federal government for closing their doors. In other words, they submitted to the state and were paid for it. The list was large and distinctive. In another post from this period, I highlighted the rift that was happening among so-called evangelical leaders who were critical of one another in closing their doors under certain conditions for certain periods of times. Their disputes were awkward and disingenuous given the revelation that both parties took State money in the form of the PPP loans.

These issues concerned and troubled me. As one who has devoted a good deal of time studying and writing about the nature of the church (ekklesia) under the authority of Christ, these aren’t secondary issues. Indeed they go right to the heart of the problem with the modern form and function of churches as businesses operating hand-in-glove with the government.

Now comes this little revelation: How The Federal Government Used Evangelical Leaders To Spread Covid Propaganda To Churches | The Daily Wire The article begins by noting that Ed Stetzer interviewed National Institute of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins on his podcast back in September 2021. Stetzer is currently dean of Wheaton College, previous editor of Christianity Today and executive director of Lifeway (Southern Baptist), author, current director of the Billy Graham Center and otherwise highly influential evangelical figure.

According to the article on Stetzer’s show, Collins was given the opportunity and platform to encourage pastors to follow the government guidelines and mandates, “I want to exhort pastors once again to try to use your credibility with your flock to put forward the public health measures that we know can work” with Stetzer adding, “I just tell them, when you get vaccinated, post a picture and say, ‘So thankful I was able to get vaccinated,’” Stetzer said. “People need to see that it is the reasonable view.” The author, Meg Basham, then informs us that Stetzer and Collins shift the conversation then to the masking of children noting specifically that Christians have been resistant to it. At the end of their interview, Stetzer announced the Billy Graham Center would be, “formally partnering with the Biden administration. Together with the NIH and the CDC it would launch a website, coronavirusandthechurch.com, to provide clergy Covid resources they could then convey to their congregations.”

As Basham’s article continues, she highlights that this isn’t the first time Stetzer and Collins have joined together to influence evangelicals to stay in line with the official narrative and protocols, indeed much earlier Stetzer had pushed back on the Wuhan lab theory narrative, following the lead of Collins, and gave him a platform on a Christianity Today livestream event to shutdown “Christian conspiracies” related to lab leak, gain of function, etc. Basham’s article specifically notes that, according to a Time magazine publication in Feb. 2021, “While Fauci has been medicine’s public face, Collins has been hitting the faith-based circuit…and preaching science to believers.”

When reading the article, I first thought ok, it’s Ed Stetzer, how influential is he these days. But then it goes on to highlight the similar stance of The Gospel Coalition in several of their online articles. Not only were they complicit in following the company line, but there are a number of ministries and leaders, embracing Collins as a fellow brother in Christ, who gave him a platform to specifically address Christians including the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission formerly headed by Russel Moore. Recall that one of the articles I had written discussing how churches were to “get back to normal” included differing opinions by Trevin Wax (The Gospel Coalition) and Russel Moore.

More than just Stetzer, Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and the ERLC, Basham’s article goes on to highlight Tim Keller, who interviewed Collins where both decried churches reopening such as that of John MacArthur (though remember we covered MacArthur here: Caught in the In-Between) as well as Rick Warren. Warren’s interview of Collins is especially enlightening as he informs his audience that he and Collins met in Davos, Switzerland at a World Economic Forum meeting. If you didn’t know that Warren and other religious leaders, as well as media members, have a long and historic involvement with the WEF, then you haven’t been paying attention. Basham’s article includes the following quote from Warren during his interview of Collins where they were discussing the efficacy of masks and the need to follow the government narrative,
“Let me just say a word to the priests and pastors and rabbis and other faith leaders,” he said. “This is our job, to deal with these conspiracy issues and things like that…One of the responsibilities of faith leaders is to tell people to…trust the science. They’re not going to put out a vaccine that’s going to hurt people.”

As if the above list wasn’t enough, Collins continued his faith tour appearing on his friend N.T. Wright’s podcast as well as in the publication Relevant. In concluding the roundup of Collin’s tour, Basham summarizes with a quote from Warren, “He’s a man you can trust.” At this point the article turns to a very informative and well-written expose on Collins. In short, he is a typical liberal hiding under the guise of Christianity who believes and asserts policies contrary to Scripture including the woke, critical race theory. As our Lord said, “you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-20).

Perhaps you’re reading this and think that Stetzer, The Gospel Coalition, the ERLC, Tim Keller, Rick Warren and others have had little to no influence over you or more specifically your church’s pandemic response involving closure, masks, vaccines and following the general government narrative. Directly, that may be true. Indirectly, the influence is undeniable. As we’ve seen, most of the churches responded in the same way – closing for months at a time, shifting to an online model, reopening with masks and other mandates in place. Concerning the vaccines, you may recall the narrative push that it too was a case of loving your neighbor. Should we think that these churches independently came to the exact same conclusions? Or, like sheep did they look towards each other for a common evangelical response not realizing that many, many churches and leaders were compromised?

What God has done through the pandemic is nothing short of apocalyptic. Apocalypse simple means revealing and that is precisely what He has allowed to happen. We have seen how easily doors were shuttered and how willingly an online model was propped up as substitute for in-person fellowship. We have seen how easily influenced churches are by the State, because they are wed to the State through the ownership of property and the desire for tax-exemption (or even 501c3 status for some), and subjection to codes and regulations. Now, we have seen the level of compromise is much deeper than we initially thought. But why?

Typically there are three primary motivations: 1. Money 2. Power 3. Respect.

Sometimes it is one member of this unholy trinity that entices, other times it is all three. We have previously seen how many cashed in on closures, but consider this, is a gathering of believers, aka a church, meeting in a home, a basement, a barn or a countryside considered respectable? How many churches do you know that may have started out this way but moved to respectability by owning a building with a marquee and name? Would anyone care what the teachers and elders of this gathering might have to say concerning the narratives and mandates? And now we see just how cozy many of these leaders are with powerful government officials and the World Economic Forum. Money. Power. Respect.

If we as believers can be so easily swayed, so uncritical in our thinking, and so unscriptural in our practices in the midst of this so-called pandemic, what will happen when critical theory and social credit scores come full force? What will happen when persecution strikes?

“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”

John 16:1-4

About the author

Christian saved by grace through faith.

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