Over 2,000 years ago, when Jewish religious leaders asked Jesus whether it was lawful to pay head tax to the Roman Caesar, at a time when the Jewish people felt especially weighed down by the Roman yoke, his reply astounded them. His response, as recorded at Mark 12:17, was to say, “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (New World Translation.)
His point? When the instructions of authorities do not conflict with those of God, they should be obeyed.
Apparently, there are modern-day church leaders who are not following this direction, even though it comes from the one whom they claim as their ultimate leader. While many church and other religious leaders have been quick to comply with lockdown directives across the globe, there are some who have placed themselves and their followers outside of the law by refusing to stop meeting together for services.
But, is it necessary to place the lives of all these people in danger when many other religious groups have successfully harnessed technologies like Zoom to ensure that their congregants can continue to meet together safely? (Related: DC priest who shook 500 hands at communion has coronavirus.)
In an exclusive interview with TMZ, Louisiana pastor Tony Spell, leader of the Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, indicated that if members of his flock were to die from COVID-19, that would be acceptable, because they would have done so “in the name of God and freedom.”
When asked about the possibility of one of his parishioners dying from coronavirus, he told TMZ: ‘The Bible teaches us to be absent from our bodies and be present with the lord.
‘So like any pure religious person…death looks to them like a welcome friend.
‘True Christians do not mind dying, they fear living in fear.’
In fact, he went so far as to say that people who prefer tyranny over freedom “do not deserve” to have such freedom. He believes that Christians who die as a consequence of continuing to attend church services during the epidemic will have died as “free people fighting for their convictions.”
He also feels that since medical experts have warned that “everybody’s going to get it,” that people should just “get on with life.” (Related: Doomsday cult member exposes thousands of other ‘end of days’ worshippers to coronavirus.)
After sending representatives to attend a Tuesday evening service, CBS reported:
CBS Baton Rouge affiliate WAFB-TV reported the service was jammed with hundreds of parishioners. The station said there were also dozens of cars on hand to see if anyone stopped Spell from holding the service.
Afterward, people began leaving the church, some chatting outside the front doors, and many appearing to not be adhering to social distancing recommendations to remain at least six feet apart. Hugs and handshakes were shared freely as people said their goodbyes and departed.
And Pastor Spell feels that while utilizing a platform like Zoom might be safer for his congregants, in his opinion “it does not work.” If virtual meetings could be successful, he adds, then why does America spend “billions and billions of dollars on churches?”
Perhaps it is this statement more than any other that gets to the real heart of the problem: Perhaps more than anything else, Pastor Spell fears that people will stop donating money to his church if they aren’t there in person to put money in the contribution box?
Irrespective of his reasons, one protester summed it up best when he said, “God don’t like stupid.”
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