Monastically Speaking

In Traditionally Speaking, I suggested the coronavirus pandemic may change traditions that many, me included, feel are essential to human interaction. Other traditions may develop to replace handshakes, hugs, and other forms of personal contact, but that is a subject for another time. Here, I want to speak of something looming on the horizon that may change more than traditional forms of physical greetings and mutual agreement.

Specifically, we should be concerned about the current and future crises such as COVID-19. As we have seen, governmental and medical entities have been quick to press for limitations on what some would call liberties. The powers that be instituted guidelines or regulations involving social-distancing, quarantines, and outright banning of some activities and traditions in the interest of public health.

One can only imagine what the world will look like in a few decades. Viruses, murder hornets, civic unrest, and outright terrorism may turn the United States and other modern nations into societal and cultural equivalents of some third world countries.
Yes, that last paragraph may make me sound as if I am a bit of an alarmist. If that is what you think, fine, but do yourself and me a favor.

Take another look at what has been happening throughout the country this spring. We have seen isolation-induced increases in some classes of crime and mental disorders. We have experienced rioting in the streets, which are direct threats to our society. Now, one of the most stabilizing forces in society is being threatened as well.

A ruling by the United States Supreme Court concerning the states’ authority to regulate certain businesses and activities should scare the hell out of us all. In a case brought against the State of California, the high court equated churches and church services with “lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports, and theatrical performances.”

Essentially, the supreme court ruled believers had no more right to assemble in worship than patrons attending the local cinema. Tangentially, the court is saying church members have fewer rights in the area of assembly than protestors. Apparently, protestors have the right to assemble, despite social distancing orders. If you doubt that consider how protestors are being handled.

Protestors are not being arrested for coming together. Instead, they are being arrested, if they are arrested, for violating curfews, blocking streets, destruction of private property, assaults, and other crimes. Heaven forbid they should be arrested or even cited for standing shoulder to shoulder when the rules were “six feet apart!” Yet, in some areas of the country, worshippers are being told they will be breaking the law if they hold services, even if they practice social distancing. In closing, one final thought on this aspect of the controversy.

The governors of some states, as well as five Supreme Court Justices, have decided churches are nothing more than businesses. If pressed, on this issue, I can already hear the response from members of the court, and the officials shutting down church services. They will say, if they have not already, that worship does not require a church. They will claim, if they have not already, individuals and families can exercise their faith and their first amendment rights, without a church!

Again, I can sense the reaction of many if they have gotten this far in my thoughts. They will smile wryly and say or think something such as, “That’s right! You don’t need a church to have a relationship with God.”

My response to them, and to the supreme court is simple. Coming together in fellowship and worship is essential to followers of Jesus and others whose faith is derived from or an outgrowth of the Bible. Individual faith was tried in Biblical times, and it failed miserably. People who believed they could have a one on one relationship with God went into the wilderness and did their human best to make that work. It did not, as the monasteries and monks of today are living proof.

God did not only create a man. He did not only create a woman. Through Adam and Eve, he created a people. He did not create them to be alone with Him. He created them to come together with Him as a people.

Monasticism did not work in Biblical times. It will not work in modern times. Even monasticism supported by social media gatherings will not work. If this Supreme Court decision stands, those who want a secular society have been given a windfall. Another crisis requiring controlling gatherings may bring about further restrictions, and other, as yet unknown, reasons for controlling the size, frequency, or purpose of gatherings may create additional restrictions.

It is possible, our grandchildren or great-grandchildren may be worshipping in cellars, back rooms, or hidden locations, as is the case in other countries. Justice Roberts opened the door for this possibility by siding with the left-wing of the court.

May God help us all.

© – 2020

About S. Eric Jackson

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2 Responses to Monastically Speaking

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