AFA-IN: “Close That Indiana Church” . . . Corona Stress Rises

 
Tired of the C Word . . .

            I am very tired of the Coronavirus and the endless 24/7 news cycle surrounding it.  I wish there were other things to discuss, but we are in the midst of a national tsunami in which almost everything else has stopped to focus on this crisis.  There’s almost no getting away from hearing about it every hour.  It makes me reluctant to add to the noise. 
 
            Let me start with a little good news.  First, none of this has taken God by surprise. He still reigns.  As the famous quote goes, “I do not know what the future holds, but I do know who holds the future.”   Second, a recent Johns Hopkins University study has found that at the end of 2019, America was (and still is) the best prepared nation in the world for this kind of crisis.   References to Italy, China, and other places, are not equal comparisons due to our superior health care system and numerous other factors. 
 
            America will get through this, though I worry that the Congressional Democrats are using this crisis to massively grow government through a wish list of unrelated left-wing spending.  (The Senate Republican stimulus plan is a 500-page bill. The Democrat plan in the House is 1,400 pages!)  Trillions were spent by the government to “stimulate” the economy during the Obama years, and he had the lowest level of economic growth of any president in nearly a century.  Help is needed, but I hope Congress doesn’t do the same thing now, that failed then. 
 
            Last week, I stated that I felt that President Trump and Governor Holcomb were doing a good job with this crisis based on what little we knew.   My observation got a mixed reaction with many people expressing frustrations with Governor Holcomb for overreaching.  I am sure with his announcement yesterday of a statewide stay-at-home order, many of you are still frustrated with him.   I don’t pretend to know enough about this virus to judge him.  News on the impact of this virus are all over the board. 
 
            However, I am thankful that in his announcement he specifically recognized the importance of churches in this crisis. (In this age of widespread hostility toward faith, I will always appreciate when an elected leader mentions the important and positive role faith plays in America.)  I think I know a possible reason why he said this.  
 
            Shortly after midnight, early Sunday morning, the Allen County Health Department (Ft. Wayne) became the first county in Indiana to issue a specific “church closure notice.”   
 
            I believe that the government singling out churches raises constitutional problems.   
 
            Churches in Fort Wayne, as they are all across Indiana, are not holding regular services.  Most are closed and are “live streaming” Sunday services for congregants to watch at home.  They are complying with the recommendations for meetings.  The Health Department order appeared to be a targeted response to a couple of churches that were looking into small group meetings of 10.   Whether one agrees with this specific approach is not the issue, the point is that churches were, just like businesses and families everywhere, trying to navigate in some form of safe normality in this crisis.   They were not being reckless or defiant.   Using a sledgehammer to swat a fly wasn’t warranted.
 
            This caused quite a controversy when the order made the local news.  Several Fort Wayne area elected leaders raised questions asking why the Department seemed to single out churches when groups greater than 10 can be easily found in businesses and locations all across the county.  Some questioned why in Allen County, with a population of more than 370,000 and only 5 Corona cases (on Sunday), was this a “church closure order” rather than a recommended safety guideline.  Why wasn’t it titled for all sorts of places of meeting, including some city properties like parks and government buildings?   For many people, this seemed to be a premature overreach targeting churches. 
 
            Interestingly, the new Ohio shutdown excludes churches, and the Governor of Michigan recently said that the government does not have authority over churches. 
 
            I weighed in on this publicly too.  You can read my comments in a news story here: https://journalgazette.net/article/20200323/WEB/200329956
 
            The Governor’s statewide stay-at-home order makes this controversy somewhat moot now, even though the exemptions to it are quite broad.    
 
             By the way, when we get into shutdown modes, I often hear the term “non-essential government workers.”  It always makes me wonder why we have non-essential government employees in the first place. 
 
            Let me say this.  Tensions seem to be very high surrounding this virus.  I know that there are a wide variety of views on how America and Indiana should handle this, even among AFA-IN supporters.  My own views are fluid and uncertain at times.  I do know that religious freedom and small government are principles that mattered a month ago, they must still matter now and a month from now, even as we take steps to protect our vulnerable populations and family members.  I also know that people of faith are called to respect those in authority over us, and to pray for them. 
 
            I want to specifically thank you for being gracious toward myself, AFA-IN, and others.  I’ll get back to this, but I have also said that I fear mass hysteria as much as I do a dangerous virus.  Just for fun, as well as for thought, you and your family may want to look at Hulu or Netflix for Season 1, Episode 22 of the classic Twilight Zone TV show titled, “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.”   Early on, I remembered this episode, probably after a trip to the grocery store seeing the empty toilet paper and bread isles.  (Maybe it was when I saw that my local gun store had completely sold out of firearms and ammunition in less than a week! The owner told me nearly all his sales were to first time buyers.)
 
            AFA of Indiana is still doing what we can within guidelines and health safety to follow our mission.   Since our founding in 1993, God has always moved in the hearts of Hoosiers to support us in regular and difficult times.  We strive to be good stewards of your support at all times.   If you would like to support us, we value your prayers.  (Pray for my wisdom in how to lead and speak with truth, discernment and grace through your organization.)   If you would like to donate online, you can do so at: https://www.afain.net/donation/
 

 In Their Own Words:

          “As quickly as you start spending federal money in large amounts, it looks like free money.”  – Dwight D. Eisenhower
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