Litmus test for when we should gather

I want to propose a litmus test for when we should resume our church gatherings even if they are still opposed by the civil government of whatever jurisdiction we find ourselves in. Since so many people online don’t seem keen on anything other than black-and-white categorizations, here’s a concrete test:

When a shutdown order applies equally to church and sports, the church should obey the order. When such shutdown order applies to the church, but not sports, the church should resist the order.

I’m sure there is a better test we could apply, but I think this one is pretty good. The actual right answer, of course, is about applying wisdom instead of trying to come up with a bright-line test. But even so, I think my little rule here is much better than the incessant “OK, but how many weeks of shutdown until the government is tyrannical?” that keeps popping up on my social media feeds.

If it sounds like I’m venting it’s because I am.


That’s funny. I almost made the observation on this topic that since our nation’s god (sports) is also under the meeting ban, we can be certain that we are not being persecuted for our faith.

The natural next step is what you’ve suggested, and I think it is a perfectly reasonable test.


Ehhh I am so eager to agree. And yet hesitant. And yet eager.

Fine. Because we’re calling it a litmus test only, I agree.


I mean, it’s not hard to imagine a tricky situation that breaks the litmus test (or makes it very hard to apply). Suppose televised pro sporting events are back on with 100% of participants tested the day of the event, and no spectators present.

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Yeah. My only reservation goes back to what I was saying on that other thread about the world and our worship.

I very much agree that since the world is willing to deprive themselves of worshiping their god during a given time, we shouldn’t think of ourselves as being persecuted. But at some point, just because the world is refusing to worship their gods doesn’t mean we refuse to worship the living God.

I mean, imagine if the emperor of Rome sent out an edict which decreed that all worship of the gods shall cease for a period of six months. All gods. Jupiter, Neptune, even including Yahweh – the god of those pesky Christians whom we are kind enough to tolerate. Should the Christians obey, simply by virtue of the fact that all worship is being commanded to cease?

Anyway, I don’t mean to drag that other thread over here, but that’s my hesitation. The litmus test definitely works to answer the question, “is this persecution.” Well, if all gods are being targeted (even the god of the atheists), then no, it isn’t persecution. But I don’t think that proves that the edict is to be followed by Christians, necessarily.

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Good idea. Even if a venting, it’s still a good thing to notice and (perhaps) to act upon. The safest thing, of course, would be to challenge the civil magistrate in the courts for discrimination against churches.

Another thing to keep an eye on is this: enforcement against Christian churches but failure to enforce against congregating in mosques.


So I just read that NYC Mayor deBlasio has threatened to close churches and synagogues “permanently” if they refuse to stop services during the COVID-19 outbreak. How can he possibly have the power to do this, legally?

Also, with regard to Joseph’s comment on a supposed situation where sports could resume on TV with no spectators, and with daily testing of all participants, wouldn’t that be a colossal waste of testing materials? I can’t see that one happening, for that reason alone.


I’m not saying that it will happen, but don’t underestimate the amount of money at stake here. And as testing continues to ramp up it will be quite feasible, I think.

As to NYC threats, I haven’t seen them myself, but they are empty threats. He can’t do that, but he can make life extraordinarily difficult for such a church in various ways, I imagine.

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I suspect he was speaking hyperbolically, even if that’s what he really wishes he could do. The other scenario is that he actually does it and we have a landmark Supreme Court case 5 to 10 years from now.

I get the hesitation. I’m not saying it’s water-tight, just that it’s a lot better than arbitrarily saying that X number of weeks is the difference between legitimacy and tyranny–or that because X number of weeks is arbitrary, therefore it’s all just tyranny.


Just a sad note: some states are still allowing abortion clinics to remain open right now . . . a different type of worship.