When totalitarian forces take over a civilization, it begins at night. During the day you may go to your job and fraternize with friends. You may stop in at the bakery or the local coffee shop and chit chat with the owner. The knock on the door comes after your neighbors are in bed and the lights are out. Since the police are governed by some code of conduct and are not afraid to perform their duly appointed duties in broad daylight, these will not be police. They will come from some vague division of the government concerned with the public good, who answer only to an individual or a board of powerful people.
This is not a conspiracy theory: these are true stories collected by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It was his incredible documentation of the process from arrest to confession to internment in The Gulag Archipelago that whitewashed the rosy hue off of communism that was being embraced by 20th century academia and revealed the Soviet Union for what it was. No sane person can read this book and still think that communism is a good idea. (Which is why it should be required reading in every high school in America.)
Solzhenitsyn’s harrowing account of his own plight, as well as the collected stories of fellow prisoners, shows the power of isolation. It reveals the effective tactics used by that corrupt State to remove the safety and security of the crowd and bring individuals to a place of alone-ness. Even the most powerful can be rendered helpless when they are outnumbered at night. Which is why the old preacher said, “I always have my best friends sleep at my house; Smith in one room, and Wesson in the other.”
There are currently several lawsuits filed by churches against various government entities concerning the gathering restrictions placed on churches. Grace Community Church’s lawsuit against Governor Newsom in California followed by the lawsuit against the DC Mayor filed by Capitol Hill Baptist Church are probably most familiar to me, but I’ve heard there are lawsuits all around the country. It has been interesting to see the different ways Evangelical organizations have approached these two cases in particular. I would describe the response to Grace as somewhat standoffish while the response to CHBC as effusive (see here and here for examples of the latter).
So why does it matter that Christians are restricted from gathering while BLM protesters are not only allowed to gather, but those same gatherings are attended by the very people restricting the Christians? Several reasons, but the one that jumps out at me is because they come for you at night. Clearly the agenda being pushed by the protestors is an agenda that the authorities not only want to permit, but to harness for their own purposes, while the agenda of Christians in gathering is a threat to those same authorities. “Divide and conquer” might be an old strategy, but it is still effective. The less Christians are allowed to assemble, the easier it will be to “manage” them. And while this might sound fanciful or paranoid, one simply has to take a look around the world to see how a totalitarian government operates.
In their own ways, I appreciate the attitudes of both Grace and CHBC. Grace has simply declared that Christ, not Caesar, is Lord. The submission that Christian citizens owe to their local government stops at the place where the local government is intruding on the mandate to worship God. CHBC has simply declared that gathering is essential to the church and politicians don’t get to play theologians with that truth.
I’m sure it is true that not every policy is being pursued for nefarious purposes. I’m sure there are those legitimately concerned with addressing the virus for the good of all. But consequences are consequences whether intended or not, and one consequence of the lock-downs is that is has separated believers from each other in a significant way. While there are different circumstances for each church, I think the natural bent should be toward an eagerness to re-gather and those who are looking for excuses to push off regathering are asking for a knock in the middle of the night.