Joe Biden Is Not Going To Close Your Church

There’s this persistent fear on the Right that liberal Democrats are always just moments away from somehow banning prayer/church/Christianity. Its a refrain we hear often from conservative Christian politicians during election campaigns, that their opponents want to criminalize prayer, or ban the practice of Christianity, or some other over the top, completely false insanity about the supposed death of religious freedom in America at the hands of the godless Left.

Joe Biden restricting religious freedom attending St. Michael’s Catholic Church on Inauguration Day.

This rhetoric has, predictably, heated up quite a bit since Joe Biden was elected President. Amongst the very irresponsible and inflammatory things conservative thought leaders have been pitching to their base in an attempt to stoke panic and fear is the idea that Joe Biden – a devout, church going Catholic, a man whose experience of faith far outstrips that of his predecessor – is going to sign an executive order greatly restricting religious freedom, especially that of conservative and evangelical Christians.

Of course, the Covid-19 public health measures being implemented don’t help tamp down this fearmongering, as many states around the country have made the common sense decision to restrict large gatherings, which of course includes church gatherings. I certainly have complicated feelings about the state putting restrictions on religious gatherings, even in the face of a global pandemic. But, nevertheless, I have never once interpreted the closing of churches in order to combat Covid-19 as some kind of specific attack on my religion. But I apparently am in the minority among my co-religionists, at least here in the more conservative parts of the country, where these public health measures are viewed as tantamount to Nero’s purge of Rome or Soviet destruction of churches. Historical context is in short supply amongst these folks, not to mention any sense of perspective.

Over the The Way of Improvement Leads Home, John Fea highlights what he is calling the “evangelical lost cause” movement among Trump’s former Court Evangelicals. Dr. Fea takes one for the team, and watches the video of Liberty University propagandist Charlie Kirk’s visit to Jack Hibbs’ Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills, California. Check out his post for a blow-by-blow account of this farcical church proceeding.

Of course, one of the key talking points for Kirk and Hibbs was the alleged impending doom of Christianity in America at the hands of the Biden-Harris administration. Fea summarizes:

At around the 18:00 mark, Hibbs implies that those churches that have not stayed open during COVID-19 or failed to “stand” with Trump during the election will “not get a chance to stand again” in 2021. Notice how Hibbs connects the ability of the church to “stand” with those in political power. He then moves into evangelical fearmongering mode by suggesting that the “powers-that-be” want to shut down churches and are “sharpening their swords as we speak. He adds:

If you [are a church] that didn’t make the cross over into the new year standing, I don’t know if you are going to get a chance to stand again…I want to put a cry out to churches: you really need to open-up now because there is a high probability that you may never be granted the freedom to do that from the government again, and if you are waiting for permission from the government to open-up again I don’t think it is going to come from this administration.

I share all this because I want to do my part, as both a devout Christian, and as a member of the political left – and also as somebody who voted for Joe Biden, and has previously worked for the Democratic Party in several capacities – to help bring light to the intentions of Democrats and the Left in regard to religious freedom, and especially conservative forms of Christianity. So here it is:

Joe Biden, Democrats, and the Left are not going to close down your church.

No one is going to ban prayer.

No one is going to restrict your ability to practice your faith as you see fit.

No one is interested in oppressing your religious freedom.

Again, no one is shutting down your church.

I feel like these things shouldn’t have to be said. These are the kinds of things that generally have been taken for granted in our democracy. But, as with so many elements of our politics and communal life together, extremist claims and fear mongering on the political Right have whipped up a frenzy of panic, and caused many level headed people to think that a cabal of Democrats, liberals, academics, media members, minorities, and other Americans are intent of destroying the country, tearing up the Constitution, killing Christians, and otherwise insane, non-sensical things.

There are certainly extremists out there on the left who take a very poor and very militant view of religious practice in this country. There always has been. But, the key is, most of those folks are outside the mainstream of leftist political thought and practice in America.

On the legal front, the opposition to school-sponsored prayer and Bible study is not an extremist view. This is the general legal and social consensus in America for almost 75 years. And it should be! As a Christian myself, with a very particular view of my faith and how I want it taught to my children, the last people I want teaching them how to pray or read the Bible is their teacher, someone who is neither trained to do so, nor is someone who I may agree with religiously. Further, I don’t want faith being dictated from the courthouse. Again, my faith is a result of my connection to God and the teachings of the Church community I come from. Some of the last people I want taking a role in the public expression of my faith are judges and lawyers and politicians. I would think conservative Christians would agree with that assessment! So, when liberals and Democrats defend the strict separation of Church and State, and oppose the practice of prayer or religion in public schools and other public forums, it baffles me that conservative Christians – usually so skeptical of the government – would all of the sudden be so gung ho for it to take such an active role in faith.

So, let me say it again: no one is going to shut down your church, ban your prayer, or restrict your right to experience God in whatever way you deem fit. I am willing to stake a large amount of money on that. What they are going to do is continue to defend the separation of Church and State, not so that religion has no role to play in our common life together, but so that those who have no business making decisions about our faith are staying out of it. Is it a perfect system? Not at all. But its the best we’ve got, and the deranged rantings of political opportunists cannot be allowed to undermine it.

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