By Norris Burkes Oct 18, 2020
Did you ever sing that classic campfire song, “Nobody Likes Me”?
“Nobody likes me, everybody hates me,
Guess I’ll go eat worms.
Long, slim, slimy ones,
Big, fat, juicy ones,
The kind that wiggle and squirm.”
The lyrics from yesteryear’s campfires were sung in a self-deprecating style poking fun at campers who complained of mistreatment.
Today however, some churches use the song’s persecutorial theme as a cry for sympathy against the quarantine rules restricting indoor gatherings.
I hear the tune being promoted by the anti-masking pastors like a whining parody: “Nobody likes Christians. Everyone hates us. Let the coliseum lions loose.”
Promoting this repeating chorus on the national level is Sean Feucht, a volunteer worship leader at Bethel Church in Redding, Calif. Feucht considers the ban on public gatherings to be an oppression of the church, so he’s hosting a series of nationwide “worship protests.”
Last week, without permits, Feucht gathered an estimated 9,000-10,000 worshippers on the courthouse steps in downtown Nashville. Tweeting in all caps, Feucht declared – “THE CHURCH WILL NOT BE SILENCED!”
The Nashville health department said they were “…investigating and will pursue appropriate penalties against the organizer.” My question is: Does legal prosecution amount to “religious persecution”?
Because if it truly constitutes persecution, then I have good news for Sean. Jesus promised his followers a great reward for their suffering. But if Sean is bucking for that incentive, he should read the fine print.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The little word “because” is a stipulation often overlooked. Jesus grants the reward only when suffering comes “because of righteousness.”
This means that when religious folks claim to be persecuted, they must first ask themselves if their suffering is a direct result of doing virtuous things.
Churches can only know righteous suffering when they stand alongside those who are hurting. It’s the kind of suffering Jesus endured when he took a stand against the religious hypocrites. It’s the kind of anguish endured by Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Theresa.
We cannot say we are suffering for righteousness when our fellowship-hall donut hour is canceled for COVID. Wearing a mask for outdoor worship is not biblical suffering.
In other words, as long as cities are closing convention halls, skating rinks, nail salons and city council meetings, the church cannot claim its persecution badge.
So Sean, in the meantime, even though your website promises more city protests in upcoming weeks – please – this is no time to get the band back together.
If you won’t take my word for it, you might consult the COVID “No-masker-pastors” who suffer not because of their righteousness, but because of their foolishness.
Founding pastor of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church, John Hagee, 80, famous for declaring God’s judgment in natural disasters has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Greg Laurie, 67, pastor of Riverside Calif., megachurch, Harvest Christian Fellowship positively resisted worship restrictions, but is now COVID-positive.
Paul Van Noy,59, the “no masker” pastor of Candlelight Church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is happy to be home after doctors initially saw only a 20% chance of survival.
Van Noy survived but Erin Hitchens did not. The 46-year-old pastor from West Palm Beach had dismissed COVID as just the flu. She met her maker last month.
Pastor Mark Price, 62, of Martinsville, Va., also joined the celestial choir. Even with open-air worship, 59 of his church members tested positive for the coronavirus, and 15 of them were hospitalized.
In the meantime, the same song, second verse, is being sung by pastors like Todd Bell of Maine. Social Media critics dubbed him “Pastor COVID” after he officiated a wedding where the virus sickened over a hundred and killed eight.
Pastor Rob McCoy of Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Southern California’s Ventura County is willing to pay a $500 daily fine to defy a court order against indoor worship for his 1,500-member congregation.
Pastor Rob admits that 158 deaths in his county are “tragic,” but he maintains a greater injustice in “the measurers of our government.”
With 13,423 active coronavirus cases in his county, clearly Pastor Rob McCoy is not the one suffering for righteousness sake. But if he thinks it might help, I’m happy to send him a bucket of worms.