Dave Paxton

It appears the faith community nationwide is finally getting sick of the government shutdown of churches. It’s about time.

In Iowa, we have had the great fortune of having a governor who actually understands and appreciates the role of faith in our lives. We had the opportunity to return to church a few weeks into the pandemic. But I’m not sure Governor Reynolds ever had the constitutional right to shut down churches for the weeks she did.

People like Victor Davis Hanson and Mark Levin, two intellectual giants in American conservative circles, both make convincing arguments against government shutdown of churches, in terms of constitutionality. Hanson lives in California, Levin on the east coast and they both say that religious freedom is the bedrock of our republic, that it is a God-given right with absolute constitutional protections from government intrusion.

So constitutionally speaking, if a parish in California wanted to infect its entire congregation with COVID-19 by regular worship, that church has that right. Would it be a smart thing to do, a moral thing to do, a responsible thing to do? Probably not, but the government has no say.

A Catholic bishop in San Francisco has finally said enough to Gavin Newsom’s fascist style shutdown of churches. Incredibly, Newsom has said only one worshiper at a time can enter a church, synagogue or mosque. In a Christian sense, we are admonished not to deny the gathering of the faithful. It’s like the 11th Commandment and Newsom has forced California congregations to deny one of the benchmarks of the faith.

All the while Walmart has unlimited access to its customers in California because Newsom has deemed it “essential.” Churches, in Newsom’s leftist mindset, are not essential.

That opinion while suicides are spiking, depression is on the rise and hopelessness sweeps the nation.

John MacArthur, whose church in California regularly reaches a congregation of 30,000, was the first major church leader to tell Newsom to stick it. Newsom and his leftist cronies have struck back by taking away the church’s parking. Did I mention that Wal-Mart has maintained its parking lots throughout the state?

I have admired actor Jim Caviezel’s work for better than 20 years. I really liked his work as a WWII soldier in “Thin Red Line.” Had Hollywood pariah Mel Gibson not been the producer of “The Passion,” Caviezel would have received the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Christ. Then he became the star of “Person of Interest,” along with co-star Michael Emerson, my high school classmate. I watched it for a couple of seasons before it got too weird for my tastes. Still Caviezel is an “A” list Hollywood star. He’s also a devout Catholic. A practicing Catholic. A man who has never backed away from sharing his Christian faith. Unlike Joe Biden, a cradle Catholic who practices virtually nothing of Catholic orthodoxy, Caviezel is the real deal.

Which makes what he said about California’s shutdown of churches so powerful. He likened it to persecution of the church. He expressed his heartbreak over churches abiding by the governor’s order. He spoke in terms of government denying people their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And he called out Catholic bishops for not standing up to government intrusion.

He is, of course, exactly right. It too grieves me that church leaders across the United States have in large measure buckled to the pressure of the state. My church in Albia is an extremely conservative United Methodist Church and we observed the governor’s edict not to hold worship services as the outbreak of COVID-19 gripped the nation with fear, mostly of the unknown.

Then our United Methodist Bishop, Laurie Haller, fell in line with the government and extended her edict to keep congregations shut down after Gov. Reynolds lifted her restrictions. Just as we have ignored the bishop’s heretical stand on moral issues the Methodist Church faces, our Albia church ignored her plea to remain shuttered. We reopened, while continuing our month-long experiment in on-line worship, and have for the past month or so regained most of our in person congregation. At the same time we’ve kept our on-line congregation.

I’m not going to criticize or second guess those churches who have chosen to remain shuttered, as long as it is their choice. However, like schools and school teachers, in-person church attendance and the ministry of the church is essential to the mental and spiritual health of the nation. On-line ministry will never replace the hugs, hand shakes, the person to person interaction that is the church.

And in terms of protecting our Republic for every American, believer or not, the church standing up for its First Amendment constitutional right is critical to the American experience. It is actually crucial to athiests and non-believers because their right not to believe is also at risk.

So to Gavin Newsom and other commie progressives on the left…go pound salt…in Jesus name…amen.

A couple of other semi-political thoughts. I stopped at a Casey’s for my morning cup of coffee and one of the employees was wearing a “Thin Blue Line” mask honoring our police officers. As the brother of a cop, I thanked her for wearing it and asked where I could get one. “You know it’s double-sided?”

“Really,” I said. “What’s on other side?”

“Trump” she whispered.

I told her she didn’t have to apologize and she said company policy prevented any show of political favor. I get that. I’ve never had a political yard sign or bumper sticker based on my career as a newspaper guy. But it leads me to believe there is a large and growing number of silent Trump supporters who will speak their mind on Nov. 3.

In terms of meaningless observations. Traveling throughout southern Iowa covering high school football and chasing my granddaughter and her volleyball team, from Mount Ayr to Mount Pleasant east and west and from Centerville to Oskaloosa north and south, there is at least a 10 to 1 difference in Trump to Biden yard signs and there is no comparison in sign cleverness.

There is the lighted Trump sign on the roof on Highway 5 between Moravia and Centerville. In Albia a guy on Main Street has a set of signs that change every week or so and range from funny to snotty to somewhat crude. There is an enormous Trump flag on Highway 34 west of Albia.

I’m still waiting to see the first truthful sign from the left... “Harris-Biden for President.”

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