2. Christianity and the Survival of Creation

This week, just for one more week, I am reflecting one last time on Wendell Berry’s book of essays, Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community. [1] Among some secular opponents of Christianity, it has become commonplace to blame the environmental crisis partially on Christian faith. There is a kind of half-truth embedded in the charge, which Berry acknowledges. The Judeo-Christian world view, with its emphasis on the independent, contingent reality of nature, has long been credited with the emergence of modern science and its child, modern technology. However, it would be more accurate to lay the blame not on Christianity, but on the mechanistic world-view that prevailed from the time of Isaac Newton until the early 20th Century.

One reason I am studying political theology just now comes from a conviction that we are at the dawn of a new era, ushered in by the revolution in modern physics at the beginning of the 20th Century with the insights of relativity and quantum theory. An older, mechanistic world-view has been supplanted by the relational and organic process insights of modern science. Unfortunately, every day one sees the impact of decisions by an academic, business, and political elite still held captive by an outdated worldview. [2]

There is a second response that Berry makes to the charge of secularists, which might be levied against many contemporary Christians: We have often formed our views without reading and studying the Bible in detail to understand what it really says. When one does study the Bible in detail, one finds an enormous wealth of passages that deal with the wonder of creation, the beauty of creation, the responsibility of the human race for creation, and the need to treat all of creation, human, animal, and inanimate with the love of a faithful steward of the blessings of our planet. [3] Berry’s basic argument is that (i) God created the world good (Genesis 1); (ii) the reason we human beings are unreliable stewards of God’s good creation is that we are sinners, alienated from the God, creation, and others; and (iii) it is part of God’ redemptive purpose in history to restore human beings and our relationship with God, other humans and all creation (Berry, 96-97).

Berry understands that God is not a distant landlord, a kind of mechanistic watchmaker who made the world and is now just watching things unfold. He is immanent in his creation, holding it together and sustaining the earth as he works for the restoration of all things (95). As Paul mentioned to the Athenians in the first Century, “…in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The God of the Old and New Testament is not a distant designer, but an intimate lover of his creation, who continues to hold all things together (Colossians 1:17). As stewards of his creation, we should have the same intimate, self-giving love for the earth that God has.

Berry sees a problem in the way many Christians view themselves and the world as a key to understanding a lack of interest in environmental concerns: a tendency to see the human person as made up of two radically things (i) matter and (ii) spirit. Christians often read the creation story to teach that God formed the man out of the dust (matter) and then breathed spirit (Spirit) into the man (Genesis 2:7; Berry at 106ff). This is a profoundly wrong idea. We were created as a unity not as a duality. “The dust, formed as a man and made to live, did not embody a soul; it became a soul” (Berry 106).  We are both dust and spirit, matter and mind, soul and “stuff”. The dualistic vision of human personhood ignores that God created and is in the dust and in the spirit and both are precious to God (107).

There is an obvious and important deduction to made from all this: God created and is is in the dust, the mechanism, the order of our universe, and it too is holy. Therefore, humans must be good stewards of this “dust” as well as of the “spirit”. Humans are not just thinking matter. We are persons created in the image of God participating in the creation of which we are a part, and given a special task to care for it. This means that what we do, how we manage the resources God has given us, how we treat the environment while using it to sustain our lives and civilizations, are divine tasks. Thus, Berry concludes:

“If … we believe that we are living souls, God’s dust and God’s spirit, acting our parts among other creatures all made of the same dust and breath as ourselves; and if we understand that we are free within the obvious limits of mortal human life, to do evil or good to ourselves and to the other creature—then all our acts have a supreme significance” (Berry, at 110).

In our work, we are all craftsmen and women, artists of God ‘s creation, placed upon the earth to manage and make things of goodness and beauty from the physical world we inhabit, whether we are a painter or an automaker,  a computer designer or software analyst, a farmer or businessperson, education or public employee. Our economies are a part of the management of the household of God, and if we see economics and business in any other light, we are deceived. [4]

I am sure that I have not done justice to Berry’s thinking. In particular, I have not noted the connection between his ideas about creation and the need for human beings to steward small, local portions of the creation. For those who wish to know more and better, read “Christianity and the Environmental Crisis” in Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community. This book and all of its essays are well worth the time to read, especially if one is interested in agriculture, civilization and environmental concerns.

Copyright 2020, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved

[1] Wendall Berry, Sex , Economy, Freedom and Community (New York, NY & San Francisco, CA: Pantheon Books, 1992). Sex Freedom and Community is hereinafter referred to as “Berry” and citations will be in text by page number to this book. The essay, “Christianity and the Survival of Creation” is found on pages 93-116.

[2] Many years ago, I traveled in Russia and witnessed first-hand the terrible environmental damage done in the name of dialectical materialism. Berry thinks that Eastern Religion and. Buddhism might be more congenial to environmentalism, but again, one sees no evidence of this when looking at the pollution in India, China, Japan, the Philippines and elsewhere in the east. For Berry’s comment on this, see Berry at 93-9).

[3] Berry goes over many of the relevant texts and I am suggesting others. In addition to Genesis 1, one must study Job 38-41, the creation Psalms (especially 1, 8 and 19), the Proverbs that reflect the order and wonder of creation (Proverbs 8-9), the many creation passages in the prophets that reflect on creation (see for example Isaiah 40, 42) the parables of Jesus on stewardship, and the passages of the remainder of the New Testament that are relevant to stewardship of the gifts of God. When one does this, one is struck by the need for Christians and others to be good stewards of the creation God has given to us.

[4] Berry constructs one of his best arguments from his correct understanding of the derivation of the word economics, which comes from a Greek word meaning “household”.  Economics is a part of our management of the household God has given to the human race. When it is reduced to profit and loss, unconnected to human stewardship and to the good of the human race, economics becomes less that it was intended to be (See Berry, at 99-100).

Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community

I suppose that it is necessary to sell books to put the word “sex” in the title somewhere. In the case of Wendall Berry’s Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community, the title is not just a marketing ploy, for the title essay contains one of the most interesting and enlightening discussions of the place sex plays in a healthy society. [1] Not to disappoint readers, but my interest in Sex, Freedom, and Economy is not in the first word, except for as it impacts the larger argument of the book as a whole. Berry believes that contemporary America is characterized by the deliberate destruction of local communities under the impact of misguided politico-economic forces, and in so doing he makes a wonderful argument for the importance of community.

Underneath the environmental issues we face and the destruction of families and small communities lies the same deep cause: the modern era’s disinterest in the local, the particular, the humble, and the small. Western elites have little familiarity with or interest in agriculture and small local communities. In the creation of the all-powerful nation state and the large private corporation, the modern world has become, in a word, inhuman.

Wendall Berry, for those who do not know the name, is one of the most prominent members of what used to be called, “The New Agrarians” –- a group of writers whose work is critical of both the left and the right of American politics and of both modern capitalism and socialism. I first became interested in Berry after reading his book, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, in which Berry unleashed a critique of modern “corporate” agriculture. [2] (In the sense that Berry uses the term, “corporate” includes what we might call “Centralized Management,” whether by a central government or corporate operator or by socializing national policies.

Locality and Community.

Berry’s call is to return to a closer relationship with the earth, small, local communities, wholesome family life, and the particularities of a local culture. For those who love the slogan, “Think Globally and Act Locally,” Berry has some very important advice: You cannot “Think Globally” and “Act Locally” in a rational way. The very attempt to “Think Globally” cuts a thinker off from the reality of a particular place and its climate, geography, fertility, culture and the like. So, Berry concludes, “Global thinkers have been and will be dangerous people” (19).

“A healthy community,” Berry says, “is a form that includes all the local things that are connected to by the larger, ultimately mysterious form of the Creation. In speaking of community, then, we are speaking of a complex connection not only among human beings or between humans and their homeland, but also between the human economy and nature, between forest or prairie and field or orchard, and between troublesome creatures and pleasant one. All neighbors are included” (15). It is in local communities that life becomes worth living.

A community is a society in which friendship, friendly intercourse, having things in common, a particular locality and its geographic peculiarities, form a people who belong to a place and a culture. (48). Obviously, for there to be community there must be personal connection and common interest. While Berry is interested in small, primarily agriculture-based communities, this definition is true of small communities to be found in larger cities and states. “Community” is about communion with a group of other people, and without communion among people, community is not possible. [3] And, without community, meaningful life is not possible.

The destruction of community in the industrial world, East and West, Capitalist and Communist, is a terrible thing. Berry explores over and over again the way in which modern industrial society, capitalist, socialist, and communist, has wreaked havoc on local communities and human scaled economies. The result of this is a society and cities unconnected to their biological and agricultural setting, dependent up huge international supply lines, tied to a fossil fuel based economy, and unsustainable into the distant future. Sustainable, human cities are and will be in balance with its environment and living off of its “net ecological income.” [4] The only way that political and economic groups will do this is if individuals and communities begin to “draw in” their supply lines, purchasing locally produced goods produced by smaller local farms and businesses. We need, Berry thinks, to live more simply and more connected to a local place.

Sex, the Family and Community

This gets us to sex. (Well, in a way.)  One reason why Barry is convinced that we must recover our connections to a local community, including its land, is that the modern world has become inhuman in the way that it has individualized and commodified everything. This “everything” includes sex, family life, and the fundamental building blocks of society. If sex is only about the individual, then the modern Sexual Revolution might possibly be justified. However, until the modern world throughout all human history no one thought that sex was “private”. Sex was part of a complex of relationships. Sex was and is a powerful force—an inducement for marriage, family, children, which also generally involved small family businesses and farms. Sex was not merely a private act between two people, but the private foundation for the community and therefore, extremely public in its importance. Sex is not a solely personal, individual act, it is an act involving an entire community of parents, grandparents, children, friends, neighbors, and members of the community at large.

The modern industrial economy and its child, the service economy, with its commodification of everything and its hostility to the small, local, rural, components of society, has triumphed in the last century—and with that triumph came the alienation, and death of community we have witnessed. “The triumph of the industrial economy is the fall of community. But the fall of community reveals how precious and how necessary community is. For when community fails, so must fall all the things that only community life can engender and protect: the care of the old, the care and education of children, family life, neighborly work, the handing down of memory, the care of the earth, respect for nature, and the lives of wild creatures. All of these things have been damaged by the rule of industrialism, but of all the damaged things probably the most precious and most damaged is sexual love. For sexual love is the heart of community life” (133). [5]

I have often spoken about how my life as a minister was impacted by my first pastorate in a small, rural, poor, agricultural community. In my congregation there were many farming families. In addition, there were many small business owners and employees, and state agricultural employees, as well as employees of larger businesses who served the local farmers. I am thankful for those years. I have many, many stories to tell of those days.

We lived in a small town with all of the weaknesses and limits of a small town, but it was a community. People were much closer than is possible in large cities. I could tell many stories, but will only tell one. In my congregation there was a poorer family with a grown child who had the mind of a child. One day the county sheriff’s office called me and asked if he could drop off this young man at the church to stay until his parents came home. He had wandered off and been found walking on a local highway. The sheriff knew his parents had gone to Memphis for a doctor’s appointment. (How I do not know.)

Everyone knew the young man, the family, and that the family attended our church. The care that sheriff showed that day could not be found in Memphis, just a few miles away. It could only occur in a local community in which people knew, cared for, and were in fellowship with each other.

What I think Berry longs for, and wants us to long for, is that kind of community in which true humanity can grow. I doubt it can or would involve a return to an agrarian way of life, though if it did, it would be a small price to pay. I think that it means working on building a society from the bottom up, as an integrated series of communities that give meaning and purpose to life.

Community and Polity.

This brings me to a distinction that we too often fail to make. There is a difference between belonging to a community and being a part of a political entity. As mentioned before, the idea behind community is a group bound together in a place by culture, family ties, interests, faith, etc. It derives from two Latin words meaning to be bound together with another. Polities are derived from the Greek word, “polis,” which refers to a political entity. The Latin, refers to the external legally imposed government of a place or group. It comes from public center of Greek cities. Political entities are bound together by force of law, police and police and military power. Both communities and polities are important and necessary for human life. [6]

Large political entities, like the United States of America, by their very nature, cannot be communities except in a derivative and metaphorical way. They are not fundamental to human flourishing the way local families, church, social groupings, work groupings, and the like, are. In fact, the health of larger political entities is deeply dependent upon the health of smaller communities of which they are composed. This is something that I am afraid we have forgotten in the late Modern world. The biggest and most important task before contemporary Americans is not which political party should be elected or the details of legislation or administrative decision. It is the rebuilding of community.

COPYRIGHT 2020, G. Christoper Scruggs, All Rights Reserved

[1] Wendall Berry, Sex, Economy,  Freedom and Community (New York, NY & San Francisco, CA: Pantheon Books, 1992). Sex Freedom and Community is hereinafter referred to as “Berry” and citations will be in text by page number to this book.

[2] Wendall Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (Berkley CA: Counterpoint., 1977).

[3] In my view, Berry’s argument is important in a deep and powerful way. However, his definition of community may be too concrete to fully explore why a more communitarian polity is important. I for example belong to several communities, churches, professional associations, etc. They are not necessarily connected to a particular place, which is one requirement for which Berry argues. Berry’s point is important and should not be lost, but theologically thinking, concrete communities reflect the Divine Community Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bound together in limitless self-giving love. See, John Zizioulas, Being as Communion Studies in Personhood and the Church (Yonkers, NY: SVS Press, 1985).

[4] This is a fairly difficult concept to understand. For Berry, our society does not count the ecological and human cost of its economic organization, and so is constantly “borrowing” from rural areas and future generations. His general policy prescription is to help cities become viable by gradually insisting that cities and society live on the net economic income after all the relevant costs, human and environmental have been factored in.

[5] I had to cut off the quote, but he goes on to say, “For sexual love is the heart of community life. It is the force that in our bodily life connects us most firmly to the Creation, to the fertility of the world, to farming and to the care of animals. It brings us into the dance that holds the community together and joins it to its place.” Berry at 133.

[6] The word “community” is derived from from the Latin, “communitas,” fellowship, which, in turn, is derived from communis, or “common”. The word “polity” comes from a Latin word, that means a particular form or system of government, such as civil polity; ecclesiastical polity. It refers to a state or other organized community or body or to a government or administrative regulation, and in this sense refers to a state or organized political body. See, www.dictionary.com/ searching for “Community” or “Polity” (downloaded, April 21, 2020).



Emotionally Healthy Discipleship

Last week, I indicated that I was going to take a break from the posts I have been doing on Christianity and Public Life to share reflections on a book by Peter Scazzero called, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.” [1] One of our children was in a small group that studied the book. When we were visiting, she saw me looking at the book and allowed me to read it. Then, she allowed me to take it home and really study the book. I have to say that the book made a big impression.

Like everyone, I did not come from a perfect family. My parents, like all parents, had their brokenness. One of my parents grew up with a parent that can only be described as “dysfunctional.” As a spouse, parent, and pastor, I have had to deal with some of the brokenness of my family of origin. As a pastor, over and over again I have seen that the major point of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality is absolutely true: People cannot be the disciples that they want and desire to be, that God wants them to be, if they are emotionally immature, broken and trapped in dysfunctional behavior patterns as the result of experiences of childhood and youth. Worse, we all pass on to our own children, who are also wounded, some part of the baggage from our past that we have not taken the time to identify, study, lift up to God, and find healing for in this world. This should give all of us an incentive to read and study Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

Peter Sazzero is the pastor of a larger congregation in New York City. He grew up in an Italian family with a lot of the unwritten rules and less than optimal behavior patterns present. You will have to read the book to discover the story. Both his parents had their brokenness. Early on in his ministry, at a time when he was the pastor of a multi-site campus, there was a split that, among other matters, exposed to some of his brokenness. His leadership style, impacted by his past, was hard on his family and others. In the end, it took a marital crisis to bring him to a point where he acted for positive change. Fortunately for his marriage, family, church, and us, he not only took it seriously, he wrote Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

The action he took, and the advice he gives us, falls into two basic parts: first of all, he studied and analyzed his family history and the family system in which he grew up. Second, he began to study the resources of Christian history about the nature of Christian maturity, and especially about what we sometimes call, “Dark Nights of the Soul” and the great heritage of the Church in spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation.

As part of coming to terms with his family background, Scazzero created a “genogram” of his family’s past, going back three generations. (A “genogram” is a graphic representation of a family tree that displays information concerning relationships among family members. It goes beyond a traditional family tree, allowing the user to analyze hereditary patterns and psychological factors that impact family relationships.) [2] The author suggests that we go back about three generations, which generations seem to have the most impact on the people we become.

The biblical basis for this is the famous quote, “I the Lord will visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:5; cf. Numbers 14:18). [3] For most people, three generations is enough to get an idea of family dynamics. Practically speaking, most of us will have difficulty going  further unless someone wrote down a lot of information that most people never write down.

In my own case, the impact of a family tragedy and the consequences of a dysfunctional grandparent had a significant impact upon my character, life, marriage, children, and churches. This historical fact does not eliminate my own personal responsibility, nor does it indicate that my parents or grandparents were particularly terrible people. They were just human beings, like all human beings. In fact, as I’ve grown older, I have seen that my parents and grandparents did a pretty good job—but they were not perfect by any means.

Armed with some self-understanding and understanding of the family system from which we came, we Christians are in a position to make positive change, not just for ourselves but for those closest to us. Sometimes, this change may involve counseling. It did with the author. Sometimes it may involve spiritual direction. It did with me. Sometimes, it may involve getting together with a group of other Christians and talking out where we are in life and in our walk with Christ.

Christian response doesn’t stop with therapy, spiritual direction, groups or self-awareness. It also involves spiritual growth as a follower of Christ. Scazzero recommends that all Christians study and adopt historic spiritual disciplines of the Church, particularly the ideas of having a Rule of Life by which we live and the regular practice of the Sabbath to prevent that most Americans of all sins, “careeristus” and overwork. (It will not surprise any of my former congregants that overwork and excessive dedication to career are issues with me.) By reading the Church Fathers and Mothers, engaging in regular spiritual practices, observing the Sabbath, and facing ourselves, we can become the disciples that Christ wants us to be.

From the perspective of growing as a disciple, times when we feel far from God are signs that we have work to do. When God brings a “Dark Night of the Soul” upon us, in greater or less or degree, it is an act of love. God knows that we won’t change until we are motivated—and times of suffering and sensing we are far from God are times when most serious Christians are willing to change. God also knows, as Jesus knew, sometimes he needs to recede from our consciousness for a time so that we can grow in significant ways. [4]

I read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality the first time before this COVID-19 seclusion began. One of the blessings of this time of seclusion is that it enabled me to re-read the book and work through it in a dedicated way. I think it’s been profitable. I recommend a book to all my friends, and perhaps even more importantly, I want to suggest that you get together as a group and do it as a study. Not only will you be better off, but your family and church will be as well.

God bless!

Copyright 2020, G> Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved

[1] Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It impossible to be Spiritually Mature While Remaining Emotionally Immature Updated Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017).

[2]See,www.google.com/search?q=genogram&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS769US770&oq=Genogram&aqs=chrome.0.0l8.6623j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8 (Downloaded April 14, 2020). There’s an abundant amount of information about genograms on the Internet and several fine books one can get. As will be mentioned below, Scazzero has created a course that churches an individuals can purchase for small groups. It also includes information about genograms.

[3] Neither Scazzero nor I would want this to be taken in a fundamentalist or overly literalist way. God is also a God of love who rescues, saves, forgives, and undoes the sins of the past, ours and our parents. However, the fact is our parents and other forbearers and their character impact our character. If our parents and grandparents have done things that are immoral, illogical, or foolish, the impact doesn’t stop with them; we are impacted as well. If one reads the book, one will see Scazzero’s delicate handling of this matter.

[4] The great spiritual giants who have used the term “Dark Night of the Soul” are aware that God is never absent and has in fact promised to be with us (Matthew 28:16-20). They also perceived that sometimes God is present in his absence for our own good and growth. This is a great mystery, but true. God loves us enough not to let our spiritual maturity depend upon our feelings our knowledge of his presence, so that our faith might be deepened and grow, and so that our faith will not depend upon  our feelings but upon God.

11. Why a Wise Public Theology Matters

The Danger we Face

When I began this series of posts on The Naked Public Square, one of my favorite people told me my work was unnecessary. “No one really wants to exclude Christians from the public square!” was his or her opinion. Unfortunately, this observation is incorrect. For some time, the secular far-left has been trying drive Christian principles and Christians from the Public Square. For example, in one recent incident, left-wing Senators tried to block a person from a judicial appointment due to their Catholic faith and membership in the Knights of Columbus. [1] The person was a distinguished lawyer, well-qualified for the appointment, and ultimately confirmed.[2]

One tactic that has been used is to brand any conservative group that disagrees with the left’s social agenda a “hate group” and then attempt to block nominees on that basis. Conservative think tanks, for example, have been so labeled. [3] Another tactic is to malign Christians as not believing in science if they do not believe in evolution. Most recently, the faith of the Vice President was attacked as disqualifying him from leading the President’s Covid 19 response team. [4] One left-wing politician observed that he must be disqualified because he does not believe in science. [5]

Those who study history and philosophy know that, historically, antagonism to the Christian religion was characteristic of the first 300 years of Church History. After Constantine, Christian faith was protected, and during the Middle Ages Europe was both Christian and Catholic. Beginning with the Reformation, Europe began to experience a questioning of faith, which in France particularly became a full-blown opposition in the hands of some  Enlightenment thinkers. In postmodern Europe, the impact of two World Wars and Marxist thought created a large class of people hostile to Christianity. In America, we were spared this public, vitriolic antagonism until recently, but now  experience it in a major way.

In the face of hostility and bias, a defense of the right of Christians to engage in public life and to declare the relevance of their faith on issues of public concern is important. The growing attempt to remove Christian faith and Christian people from government is dangerous for all Americans, as it undermines our Constitution and freedom of speech and religion.

The Need for Religious Wisdom

On the other hand, in the past few days, the national and local news has included stories about churches which have violated the requests of national, state, and local governments to refrain from hosting public meetings. This forces serious Christians to think carefully about what it means to have the right to engage in public life and what exactly the first Amendment is intended to protect. The First Amendment provides that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievance.” [6]

There are two things set out in this provision: (1) Congress cannot establish a religion to be the official religion of the United States and (2) Congress cannot make a law prohibiting the free exercise of religion by adherents of a faith. While this may seem simple enough on the face of things, the fact is that religion and law interact on a number of levels that impact one another. In thinking about the request that churches remain closed for large worship gatherings due to the Covid 19 situation, one needs to begin the analysis by noting that nothing in these proclamations were directed towards establishing a religion or denying people the right to express their religious beliefs. The bans, so far as we know were designed to address a health crisis created by a highly contagious virus. Many of the national, state and local officials who made the request are serious and practicing Christians. The President and the Vice President, for example, were clearly not motivated by any animosity against religion, but by a concern for public health.

Religious leaders need to be careful not to claim too much for the First Amendment, just as more secular-minded individuals need to be careful not to claim too little for religious freedom. Some years ago, in Cleveland v. United States, 329 U.S. 14 (1946), the Supreme Court upheld application of the Mann Act of 1910 to a fundamentalist group of polygamous believers, including Cleveland,, who had transported their multiple wives across state lines for the purpose of cohabitation. While not precisely on point, the decision indicates that Congress may legislate in a way that protects the public from a perceived social evil, even if it impacts a particular religious group. It is important that in that case, the law at issue was not directed against Mormons at all. It was directed against those who transmitted women across state lines for immoral purposes.

This case illustrates the  principle that that there are circumstances where government may act in ways that impact religious groups. As one author put it, “Although the text is absolute, the clause should not be interpreted to mean absolute right to a course of conduct just because it is permitted by one’s religion. The courts place some limits on the exercise of religion. The Supreme Court has held that religious freedom must give way to reasonable restrictions that have been adopted to protect the health, safety and convenience of the entire community. [7]

Faced with a global pandemic, a virus posing serious health hazards to not just the citizens of the United States but of the entire world, state and local governments have asked Christians to cease public weekly worship. This does not prohibit families from worshipping as family unites or Bible studies from meeting in small groups that do not violate applicable local proclamations. I am able to post this blog, have internet Bible Studies with our small group. and watch our congregation’s worship services without any  interference at all. There is no indication that the vast majority of public officials were motivated by antagonism to religion. They were simply trying to protect the public against a highly contagious disease.

In times like these, many religious people will fear that these temporary restrictions might be the beginning of a “slippery slope” and that governmental hostility to religion might result in this exercise of power leading to more restrictive measures. Of course, this might possibly happen, which is why all groups in America need to rededicate themselves to our historic principles of religious liberty and respect for the views of people and their right to declare those views in the public forum. Law can only take a society so far. In the end, it is the commitment of the members of a society to its fundamental values that is most important and most effective as a guarantee of fundamental rights. As time goes by, this important rededication will be the subject of future posts.

Copyright 2020, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved

[1] See,  Michael Gryboski, “‘Anti-Catholic bigotry’? Judicial nominee grilled by Senate Democrats over Knights of Columbus ties Christian Post (December  27, 2018, Downloaded, APRIL 5, 2020.https://www.christianpost.com/news/anti-catholic-bigotry-judicial-nominee-grilled-by-senate-democrats-over-knights-of-columbus-ties.html). Jerrat Stepman “These 2 Democrats Are Finally Standing Up to Anti-Christian Bigotry in Their Party” The Daily Signal (January 10, 2019, downloaded at https://www.dailysignal.com/2019/01/10/these-2-democrats-are-finally-standing-up-to-anti-christian-bigotry-in-their-party/ on April 5, 2020).

[2] In preparing for this article, I wanted to quote from a recent article in a national newspaper. When I googled my search, I was astounded at the number of articles the paper had written complaining about the evangelical support of the President and doing its best to diminish it. I was also amazed by the fact that other searches, some fairly specific, gave search results critical of the President and evangelicals who support him. I actually had no idea there was so much of this kind of literature on the internet.

[3] For example, not only have the Knights of Columbus been so labeled, but the American Center for Law and Justice, which opposes legalized abortion, and other groups have also been unfairly  labeled as “hate groups” on the basis of public support for traditional marriage and family life.

[4] Moshe Hill, “Corona Conniption: Left Attacks Pence’s Faith after Task Force Appointment” CNS News Report (March 5, 2020, downloaded on April 5, 2020 from https://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/moshe-hill/corona-conniption-left-attacks-pences-faith-after-task-force-appointment)

[5] Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez tweeted “Mike Pence literally does not believe in science. It is utterly irresponsible to put him in charge of US coronavirus response as the world sits on the cusp of a pandemic.”

[6] Constitution of the United States of America, Amendment 1.

[7] See, “Freedom of Religion,” Lincoln University (Downloaded April 5, 2020, at http://www.lincoln.edu/criminaljustice/hr/Religion.htm)