Please be in prayer for Christ Church in Moscow Idaho this morning. They had a Psalm sing at the courthouse and some members were arrested.
They sing beautifully.
I now see that Gabriel Rench has been picked up by the conservative talk-show circuit (Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck, other FoxNewsies). Many of the headlines make it seem as if Christ Church was just singing some psalms publicly and the police broke in and took a few to jail. For example, “Idaho Police Arrest Three Christians Singing Hymns During Outdoor Worship Service.” Even their own description gives that impression: “Good Christians were charged and arrested at Moscow City Hall for assembling peacefully and singing religious hymns without a mask.” FoxNews reporter even said that this psalm-sing was taking place in the church parking lot. Not so.
Christ Church made a decision that civil disobedience was required in response to the masking mandates of the Moscow City Council, and they took those actions in the parking lot of Moscow’s City Hall. The psalm-singing does make for a nice contrast to Molotov cocktails and foul-mouthed rants, but let’s not forget that their main activity was disobedience to the mandates of the city council. They’ve gone on record that they are pleased, in this case, to have their members disregard not only the mandates of elected officials but also the direct commands of law enforcement officers.
I think we are all continuing to process when and where and how God would require us to disobey the authorities that He has put in place. Those are difficult questions that require discernment and direction by a church’s officers. I don’t want us to lose sight of the fact that what Christ Church did was provocative—as all civil disobedience is. Is this religious persecution? No, I don’t think so.
They’ve drawn the line at masks. They’ve taken their stand. And here they go again.
“There was no misbehavior in terms of the protocols for arresting someone but you really shouldn’t be arresting someone for singing a hymn without a mask,” Wilson said.
Again, the singing was incidental to the purpose of the gathering, which was to protest the city’s ordinance. My popular take of the day: I think Wilson’s language is disingenuous and opportunistic.
Toby’s too (from his most recent blog post):
“By now you have heard of some excitement in our little town of Moscow, Idaho. One of my deacons and two of my parishioners were arrested Wednesday at a flash Psalm Sing at our city hall in protest of the recent renewal of a mask mandate. Yes, that’s right. Three people were arrested for singing Psalms (for like 15 minutes) and not social distancing or wearing masks.”
It would be better for them to have simply said they were being arrested for violating the masking and social distancing mandates and leave it at that.
I agree that it does not seem to be religious persecution. A non-Christian group could have decided to do the same thing while reading excerpts from Shakespeare. Would it have led to arrests? I don’t know, but I think there’s a good chance it would have.
The attempt to spin this as religious persecution is very sad.
I think we need to think long and hard about whether our unwillingness to practice civil disobedience in response to the sanctioned slaughter of God’s image-bearers (whether principled or not) makes us hypocrites and oppourtunitists when it comes to any civil disobedience for lesser matters. Particularly lesser matters that cost us virtually nothing. I suppose you could make the case that these are not lesser matters; but you’d actually have to make the case. I think this might explain why they are compelled to cast this as a matter of religious persecution, not merely libertarian constitutionalism.
Casting this as persecution is disingenuous. It’s sad that these activities are going to color the greater church in the same light. It damages the testimony of the church.
I have seen several people contrast the willingness to practice civil disobedience over lockdowns, social distancing, or masking mandates with the willingness to practice civil disobedience over abortion; and I’m afraid they are apples and oranges. In one case (COVID mandates) the magistrate is requiring a positive action be taken, protesting is as simple as going about your business. You can show up and sing as a group in a public place and be cited for breaking the law.
This is rarely the case with abortion. Typically in order to get arrested for protesting an abortion clinic you must do something morally questionable. Protestors are arrested for physically obstruct others ability to come in or out of a building, shouting at or harassing people, or otherwise disturbing the peace. If your church shows up outside an abortion clinic and respectfully sings some psalms nothing will (likely) happen.
I am sympathetic with your overall take on the issue. It is hard to not see this as an intentional escalation: Christ Church has been meeting unmasked in their sanctuary for weeks now, and they have been unmolested by the magistrates, so they have taken to the streets to get some photo-ops. But a comparison with civil disobedience over abortion feels like a category error.
Edited to add: Also, to give Pastor Wilson some credit, I believe he was arrested at an anti-abortion protest years ago.
This comment assumes churches have any cultural capital remaining with outsiders.
I really doubt it.
I posted because of the recent back and forth that our Presbytery and its men have had with the men of the CREC on this issue. I have had my disagreements with Wilson and Sumpter on this issue and I have been blessed by what men like pastor Bayly and others have written to them warning Moscow of it’s influence in other churches and their responsibility for disrupting the peace of the local church. Because of these posts I actually stopped listening to Cross Politic, AD Robles and a myriad of other Anti-Masking commentators because I recognized the rebellion it could stir in my own heart towards God ordained authority. For this I am grateful and blessed beyond measure. The goal of my post was for us, even in our disagreement to pray for them as brothers and sisters in the faith.
Our church is active in Abortion ministry and the police have been called the last two weekends that we have been at the mill. If our church members are arrested I hope we can receive more help from the men in our Presbytery than they have given to the people of Christ Church.
Or perhaps we too will not meet the high bar of religious persecution.
Thanks, I’ll think about what you said…
It occurs to me initially that mask mandates and the protection of abortion are apples and apples in that they are both decisions of the state to which I am called to make judgments. Yes, they are different in that one requires positive action from me while the other doesn’t…but we should have more concerns here than individualistic libertarian freedom. Should I not be concerned about my nation’s bloodguilt? Should I not want the state who rules over me to do so in the fear of God? In other words, what is at stake with abortion, given God’s hatred for this kind of bloodshed, is desperately important even though it doesn’t play as well as masks in the libertarian playpen into which many Christians today are entering. Maybe I don’t properly understand the importance of or history of individual liberties, but I keep finding myself thinking that Christians—who have had their sins forgiven and have awaiting them a glorious eternal Sabbath, who know the one true living God and who are called to suffer—should have broader concerns than individual liberty.
That Jesus submitted Himself to Pontius Pilate says something about the relative importance of individual liberty.
I have been praying all along for these brothers…and also praying all along that what we have written publicly and privately would be a help to them. If you view what we’ve done as abandoning our brothers, I’m saddened.
Precisely. And that’s because the civil magistrate has determined that they do not want people just going about their normal business. They want people to act differently today because to act the same will (in their judgment) result in many deaths. This is the civil magistrate’s prerogative.
You might or might not, but if you don’t, I hope you will reach out to us. The help I’ve got for my brothers that are suffering for doing good looks quite different from the help I’ve got for my brothers that are picking a fight with the civil magistrate and then get arrested.
I should add that there are some rules being made that are clearly unconstitutional, others that are clearly not legal under state law, others that, while technically legal, are causing major problems. My point is not that people cannot or should not protest these laws or engage in civil disobedience or get arrested in order to have standing to challenge them legally.
What I really don’t like to see is the church making that its priority, or muddying the waters by acting as though it’s religious persecution that they are suffering.
Yes, this was a definite and deliberate act of civil disobedience, but it can also be religious persecution. Do you really believe the Moscow police department (under the direction of the wildly leftist Moscow city council) would have arrested a group of BLM protestors, cross-dressers, pink-haired university feminists, or Antifa lesbians if any of these groups had gathered in the same way? If not, then it is religious persecution since this group is clearly defined by their religion.
The civil disobedience of these Christ Church parishioners is admirable, but I take Andrew’s point that it isn’t the same thing as persecution.
Why is that? Keeping in mind that I’m wading into territory here way beyond my learning, what you have here is an event that’s taking place in Christ’s Temporal Kingdom that some Christians are taking action on, but the Christians involved want to make it appear that they are suffering for Christ’s Eternal Kingdom when they are not. This is a political issue, not so much churchly or theological one.
If Doug Wilson is being disingenuous in treating what happened to his people as persecution, he’s being disingenuous sincerely, in the sense that in Doug Wilson’s soft Theonomic/Postmil/Reconstructionist view, the violations of the state of individual liberty are Christian issues because Christianity applies to all of life. Now, I think Doug Wilson is probably wrong about that. Probably a better model, a better theological grid to process this through would be something like Classical Two Kingdom theology. Some of Doug Wilson’s proteges have actually been working on that project at places like the Davenant Institute and the Calvinist International. I’m thinking of W. Bradford Littlejohn in particular, and also of Stephen Wolfe, if you’ve seen some of his writing on the web.
If you want to take apart Doug Wilson and Moscow, it really isn’t enough to say they’re wrong, but you also need to articulate an alternative to what they’re selling. Those alternatives are out there, but understanding them and teaching them will be a challenge, because so much of what Christians, both in the Reformed world and out, have been taught on these matters is wanting.
I appreciate Moscow for going public with psalm singing and putting their money were their mouth is. I think it’s a bit bad form to criticize that but I also hope they will be humble and not be too prideful in it. I’ve been reading Augustine’s City of God recently. I love he really takes on the pagans and defends the church for its bold stances.
I don’t disagree that they can overlap. I just disagree that it does in this case. You might think that the police wouldn’t have acted the same with different groups, and you might be right. But that still doesn’t prove that it is religious persecution. You might be interested to read this article about the legality of various sidewalk chalk bans. Selective enforcement plays a key role in the question.
Although I don’t know the details of that town’s actions, I do know that many people and businesses around the country are being cited and fined and shutdown over refusing to follow these sorts of rules. That on its own is enough for me to say this isn’t religious persecution unless they can prove it. Indeed, the burden of proof will be on them in court to prove it. And my very strong suspicion is that they won’t fight this on the grounds of religious persecution but rather on the grounds of other elements of the 1st amendment. But selective enforcement of rules can be done for all sorts of reasons. One reason that the police refuse to arrest protestors is out of fear of starting a riot. No reason to fear that here, and thus no reason not to arrest people. So… selective enforcement. Is that religious persecution? I don’t think so.
That would look like telling the people in their church to stop wearing masks to church since it is a violation of the third commandment.
Edited to add: Putting their money where their mouth is has definitely not happened. Instead, they have steadfastly refused to take responsibility for what they’ve said. They have even gone so far as to make up insane and harmful new ideas on incredibly important concepts that strike to the heart of Christian living and the gospel, like freedom of conscience. Putting their money where their mouth is would look like telling their wives and children the same thing about authority and how it works and when you must listen as they are telling the men. No. They haven’t put their money where their mouth is. This has been nothing but good press, high publicity, and pats on the back for them.
Exactly what I was going to say. Threat assessment has to factor in.