Do You Worship in a State-Approved Church?

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So now that the call for pulling churches’ tax exemptions is gathering Internet speed, I wonder if future commissars will make a distinction between “bad” churches and “good” churches. The former would have their charitable status eradicated, while the latter would continue to enjoy the tax benefits of getting on History’s good side, and no negative stigma would be attached to flouting one’s membership in same.

A “bad” church, of course, would be one that remained impenitent and continued to believe, teach, and confess the historic Christian faith and uphold the moral code embedded in that faith (regardless of, and even because of, how many fail flawlessly to obey it).

Which is to say, Southern Baptist, confessional Lutheran and Reformed/Presbyterian, “continuing” and confessional Anglican, Assembly of God, and Eastern Orthodox ministers, pastors, and priests may very well have to have “the talk” with their members.

That talk will probably go something like this:

As we know from history, the early Christians were sent out into a world that demonstrated great hostility to their message. They had neither political nor social status or props to keep them afloat nor financial incentives to encourage generosity. They did have, however, the Word and the Sacraments and the Great Commission. And of course, each other.

These inducements, prompting great courage, hope, and perseverance in the face of all manner of persecution and marginalization, were enough. Within one century, a small band of outlaw Jews and the believers in their care had spread the Good News and established churches throughout the Near East, as far south as Africa, as far east as southern India, and into various parts of Europe.

Those who gave — of their time, money, goods — gave gratuitously, and could count on no immediate reward, certainly not from Rome’s tax assessors.

Are you made of the same stuff? Or should I say, are you filled with the same Spirit? Will you continue to give, to support this ministry, to support this minister, regardless of whether you can write it off at the end of the year? Are you willing to dig deeper to make up for the losses owing to the changes in the tax codes?

Or will you walk away, the doors of this church closed shut forever behind you?

Why are you here? For the music? You don’t have to come here for that. That’s what iTunes is for. To see familiar faces, catch up on the latest news? Throw a party. Take your friends to lunch.

Or is it for the Word and for the Sacraments? That you cannot find anywhere else. It doesn’t have to be this building — in fact, we may have to move. It doesn’t have to be with air conditioning that works all summer, or even at all. It may not have a dedicated fellowship hall or special space for children and teens. But it has to be somewhere, with someone standing in the pulpit and at the altar. It doesn’t have to be me. You may have to find a single minister, at least for the time being, or one who has a second source of income. In fact, every minister, every priest, may, like the Apostle Paul, have to go back to tent-making now and again to make ends meet.

But you will need someone, someone who has received a call to minister to you what only a called and ordained minister of the Word can.

In the coming weeks we will throw open our books to all members so you can see exactly what it takes to keep the lights on here, and what losing our tax-exempt status will mean for our budget.

But please know this: I will not harangue you every Sunday about how you’re not giving enough or doing enough. There will be no guilt trips or strange looks at those who don’t give at all, who have never given at all. You will either rise to this occasion or you will not. Perhaps you cannot.

God has not been displaced by this court, this culture, this country. He is still on his throne and Lord of that History that is so often spoken of as it if were as autonomous as the Western Self, a contradiction that very few of the elite and enlightened seem to grasp.

We all know that nothing can ultimately prevail against the Church, the Body of Christ. Not hell, not hate, not even our own moral failings. Christ died once and cannot die again. We died once, in the waters of baptism, and rose with him, our new lives kept safe with him, no matter what the short term brings.

Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me free.
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The LORD is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.

Or something to that effect. You can write your own version on your lunch hour tomorrow.

Roman Catholics will be in an interesting position. I wonder if Catholic Dems will force the IRS to make distinctions between “Francis” Catholics (good) and “Benedict” Catholics (bad). Yes, yes, you and I know there is no real difference when it comes to affirming all that. But we’re dealing with crazy people here, for whom theology, reason, tradition, legal and social precedent, First Amendment rights, separation of powers, etc., etc., are so many humorous asides in the keynote speech at the Annual Transhumanist and Euthanasia Dinner Dance.

In 1957, China established the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Assocation, “the only organisational body of Catholics in China officially recognised by the government of the People’s Republic of China, but [that] is not recognised by the Vatican. Experts consider it wrong to identify this institution of political control with the part of the Church in China that accepts or tolerates its control, some of whose bishops the Holy See recognizes as in full communion with it.

That quote is from Wiki. Here is something from the Cardinal Kung Foundation:

Bishop Andrew Tsien, Bishop of Hualian, Taiwan, explained that the objectives of the Patriotic Association are:

Short term: To substitute it for the true Roman Catholic church.

Long term: To eliminate religion in order to achieve a pure materialistic and autocratic society.

Catholics and other Christians, as well as Buddhists, Muslims, and other religious Chinese, have been and continue to be punished in far more extreme ways than just suffering hits to the wallet.

In his remark on the pastoral letter on women issued by the Patriotic Association’s Bishops Conference, Rev. Matthias Lu, Ph.D., S.TH.L., Director of the St. Thomas Aquinas Center in California, wrote:

“Its (the Patriotic Association’s) commitment is to manipulate the mass of the Catholic population in order to integrate them into the Socialist revolutionary movement by submitting them to the leadership of the Communist Party in all things.”

To accomplish this goal over the past 45 years, the Chinese government put tens of thousands of Roman Catholic faithful in jail for 10, 20, 30 or more years. Thousands perished in jail. Many were shot in public. All foreign missionaries were banished. As you are painfully aware, this persecution continues even today.

We are certainly not there in the United States, and it would be hysterical in the literal sense to assert we are, or anywhere close. But you don’t have to throw people in jail to destroy them, or at least marginalize them politically and socially. You can shutter their businesses and wrestle those mediating institutions that stand between the individual citizen and the Leviathan state—like churches—into desuetude.

Who would be the equivalent of the CPCA in the United States, given a pass by State functionaries and allowed to function, tax-exempt status intact? TEC? ELCA? The Moravians and the Quakers? UCC and American Baptists? The United Methodists may find themselves split between “good” and “bad,” with Hillary as a member of the former and George W. Bush a member of the latter.

Would the State have to make historically black churches exempt from persecution, for fear of a backlash from its base? (Not to mention the extraordinary good they do in their communities—but that may be seen as neither here nor there when it comes to political purity.) Would more traditional clergy be pushed out of those churches or be persuaded to focus on social-justice issues only?

This will all work out for the Church’s good in the long term, of course. The only reason History is allowed to run any course is for the sake of the Elect. That does not mean there will not be a lot of pain along the way. Purging and pruning guarantee it. But about how the story ends, there is no doubt.

Let’s just say we are definitely living in interesting times, as the Chinese curse goes.

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10 thoughts on “Do You Worship in a State-Approved Church?

  1. Of course, if you look at China and Vietnam, you will see that the “official ” churches are monitored closely by communist religious bureaucrats overseeing any departure from accepted and approved sermons. The rest, mostly underground and “outlaw ‘ churches are either burned down or told that without proper “permits” they cannot exist. Pastors can be imprisoned or sent to hard labor for life at ‘re-education camps”.. ….but of course….we know that can’t happen here in America…right? In my view, most biblical churches will lose exemptions in the near future, except ELCA and other willfully apostate denominations. We will learn what Bonhoeffer experienced when many churches lined up behind Hitler while about 8,000 Confessional Pastors true to the Faith experienced the boot of tyranny…..while the rest of the so called Christian community stood by….happy to avoid any conflicts with the Nazi Fascists. Hence…..we are now seeing the storm of persecution rolling lazily over the American landscape.

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  2. Almost fifty years ago I remember my mother saying that we all may be meeting in homes again just like the early church did when it first started. The time has now come.

    If you are worried about not having a preacher may I suggest reading this from “Job 38:1-4 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: “Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.” Men need to stand up and start doing the work our Lord and Savior commanded us to do; that is spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    You may say well the Lord hasn’t called me to do this, yes He has. It is all thru out the New Testament and even the Old Testament. In Numbers 11:29 “Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!” Don’t we have that same Spirit that Moses had? Not only has God put the Holy Spirit upon us, but that same Spirit resides within us. If you have been born again of the Spirit, you are washed in the Blood of the Lamb. We can enter the Holy of Holies at the foot of the throne and speak to God what is on our hearts.

    We do not need a specified building to meet in to have communion and worship God. In John 4:21-24 “Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” That hour is now. Jesus said in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

    All sin is an abomination before God and all sin leads to death. What an opportunity to show those who are lost that if you want to live by the law you will die and be eternally separated from God. But if you accept God’s free gift of Grace, you will live with Him forever.

    Now I did not go to Bible College or a seminary. I chose to go to Farriers school, that is horseshoeing. I worked on ranches and feedlots, taking care of cattle. Not quite the same as sheep, but they had to be doctored and cared for all the same. My father and mother did teach me all that I needed about the Bible for eighteen years. They also gave me a living example; they were missionaries on an Indian Reservation. Then they moved from one side of these United States to the other, all the time spreading the Gospel of Jesus.

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  3. Then, too, maybe it will all boil down to which Bible we worship as the literal, inerrant, immutable word of God. So many choices; so many voices. The “bad” ones, of course, won’t question or take liberties for us living today with other languages and cultures — indeed the very words! — whispered first orally … then written and copied one at a time … then translated, transliterated, edited, redacted, and reproduced on paper and online. The “good” ones that are progressive and take liberties — blaspheming the Holy Spirit by paraphrasing and offering optional meanings and messages to the Holy Writ voted on by political fiat, lo, back in the days of Nicea’s council — these will be the acceptable manuals and manifestos sanctioned by the governing authorities.

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