Police Block and Barricade Canadian Church Over COVID-19 Violatons

Health officials in Alberta, Canada, made the decision to “physically close” a local church building until its leaders agree to finally comply with coronavirus regulations.

Police vehicles blocked entrances to the parking lot of GraceLife Church in Edmonton Wednesday morning and temporary fencing was erected around the building. The congregation has met normally since summer 2020, despite requirements that church gatherings limit capacity, require masks, and practice social distancing.

Over the last nine months, the province’s health department fielded more than 100 complaints about GraceLife and conducted 18 inspections, resulting in multiple fines and orders to comply. Its pastor was arrested and spent a month in jail refusing the conditions of bail, that he agree to follow health regulations.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represents GraceLife and its pastor James Coates, said the move to barricade private church property prevents citizens from “exercising their Charter freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and worship.”

As officials surrounded the church, dozens of GraceLife members gathered outside and sang hymns, according to a report by the Globe and Mail.

“Please pray for wisdom as our elders navigate this new development!” one member tweeted, posting a screenshot of the view of the new fencing from the church’s security camera.

Premier Jason Kenney told Albertans a week ago that the province is in its third wave of COVID-19 outbreaks. He suggested that more stringent enforcement by police may be necessary at this point, saying authorities have “been very patient during a difficult time trying to get compliance through education, through voluntary compliance, and using sanctions as a last resort.”

The GraceLife case has drawn the attention of those in both Canada and the US who fear government overreach during pandemic. Alberta legislator Dan Williams, a conservative politician and a Christian, spoke up to defend worship as a fundamental freedom. He said while he respects the 15 percent capacity limit for gatherings, “it is a different line to cross to barricade a church, a place of God.”

GraceLife leaders consider the COVID-19 risks overblown and claim that their ability to continue gathering without spreading the virus is proof.

“We believe love for our neighbor demands that we exercise our civil liberties,” the church wrote. “We do not see our actions as perpetuating the longevity of COVID-19 or any other virus that will inevitably come along. If anything, we see our actions as contributing to its end—the end of destructive lockdowns and the end of the attempt to institutionalize the debilitating fear of viral infections.”

Pastor Coates is due in court next month for violating gathering limits at GraceLife.

Lessons for today from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

What is happening in the world? Sometimes we stand so close that we cannot see the bigger picture. In today’s world of Covid, vaccine passports, police raiding churches, endemic sexual abuse, gender confusion, disillusionment with government, there can be a temptation for the Christian to either despair and retreat, or despair and end up fighting the wrong battles.

We need to constantly remind ourselves that the Lord is sovereign and can even use what men meant for ill, to bring about good (as we see for example with Joseph’s brothers). He is also able to teach us through those who are not his people. I am amazed that it is secular commentators like Jordan Peterson and Doug Murray who seem to have a better grasp of the bigger picture than many Christian ones.

Looking back, I see CS Lewis, Francis Schaeffer and today, Os Guinness, as Christian prophets who saw where we were going and accurately predicted the state we have now found ourselves in. But there is another secular ‘prophet’ who in my view was astonishingly prescient and that is Aldous Huxley, the author of amongst other books, Brave New World.

This book, written in 1932, foresaw a ‘soft totalitarianism’ of absolute government where conformity was enforced, as Margaret Attwood summarises it, by bio-engineering, hypnotic persuasion, endless consumption, state encouraged sexual promiscuity, drugs and a caste ‘class’ system where everyone fulfils their pre-ordained function.

Recently I came across Huxley’s 1946 introductory essay to his book. It is a revealing and astounding addition because much of what he shares in it we can see happening today – 85 years later.

Here are some quotes and lessons I hope we can learn for the church.

Huxley explains that his novel is about the advancement of science as it affects others. He recognises that: “This really revolutionary revolution is to be achieved, not in the external world, but in the souls and flesh of human beings.”

The Church at its best has always recognised that.

He then explains how “a really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control the population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”

That sounds eerily familiar! How will we love our servitude? Not just by the kind of propaganda Orwell wrote of in 1984 but by silence: “The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is the truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view is silence about truth.”

Sometimes it is not so much what we discuss but what we do not or are not permitted to discuss. The greatest problem facing the Christian church today is not that our message is rejected but that it is not heard.

“The most important Manhattan projects of the future will be vast government sponsored inquiries into what the politicians and the participating scientists will call ‘the problem of happiness’ – in other words, the problem of people making people love their servitude.”

One of the problems in Christian evangelism is that we too often assume that people are basically unhappy and are just longing for a way out. But in much of modern society, people are bound in sin, but are happy to be that way. They know nothing different and need to be shaken out of that soporific complacency. The state wants to make us content and silent so that we will not question. The Church should make people question and challenge, so that we will recognise the illness and accept the remedy.

He talks about how governments will need to offer economic security and use drugs, as well as create a pre-conditioned status for its citizens. They will also need to use eugenics as a means of standardising the human product. The Church needs to resist this attempt by the state to recreate humanity in its own image.

Huxley was also prescient about where sexual morality was heading (remember that this was written before the pill and the sexual revolution of the 1960s), and he foresaw the diminishing of marriage.

“Nor does the sexual promiscuity of Brave New World seem so very distant. There are already certain American cities in which the number of divorces is equal to the number of marriages. In a few years, no doubt, marriage licences will be sold like dog licences, good for a period of 12 months, with no law against changing dogs or keeping more than one animal at a time.”

This following paragraph chillingly summarises the route that Western society is on today: “As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator [unless he needs cannon fodder and families with which to colonise empty or conquered territories] will do well to encourage that freedom. In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under the influence of dope, and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.”

Again, note that he wrote of all of this before the development of the Internet and the resultant brain dumbing effects of YouTube, Twitter, Tik Tok etc.

In 1932 Huxley thought that this brave new world would take 600 years to come into existence, but by the time he wrote this essay in 1946 he thought it would happen within a single century. He saw the choice as being between “national militarised totalitarianisms … or else one supranational totalitarianism, called into existence by the social chaos resulting from rapid technological progress in general and the atom revolution in particular, and developing, under the need for efficiency and stability, into the welfare tyranny of utopia.”

Huxley in this essay offers a third alternative between the insanity of the Brave New World, or the insanity of the Savage world. He suggests that sanity is possible. For him it was a kind of hyper religious Taoism – all reaching for the highest good. He thought that the use of mescaline and lysergic drugs would help us to connect with the spiritual and have ‘open minds’. He advocated this in a book, The Doors of Perception (1954), that would become a bible for the hippies and the psychedelic Sixties. The Doors named their band after the book and the Beatles placed him on their famous Sergeant Pepper cover.

Huxley was right in his analysis of the problem and wrong in his solution. The 1960s’ sexual and drug revolution occurred, and not only has it not stopped the insanity, it has accelerated it.

In the Gospel we have a far greater remedy. Because we are looking forward to a new world, we are able to serve and care for the old one. Because we believe in the law of God, we are able to challenge the law of man. Because we are renewed in our minds, we are able to think, challenge and be radical.

The real revolutionaries are not those who bow to the all-encompassing will of the elites, but those who, in following Jesus Christ, know that the poor and marginalised really do matter – and are not just there to be used as soundbites. Instead of people loving their servitude, let us teach people to love their Saviour. Then we will see a renewed world.

David Robertson is director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at www.theweeflea.com

Equality Act Would Close or Punish ‘Thousands’ of Religious Organizations, Senators Told

Equality Act Would Close or Punish ‘Thousands’ of Religious Organizations, Senators Told

Thousands of faith-based organizations would be closed or punished by the government if the Equality Act becomes law, senators were told during a Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.

The bill, H.R. 5, would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – a law that was passed to confront racial discrimination – by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of protected classes for public places and accommodations, education, housing and employment. President Biden supports it.

Two panelists told senators the Equality Act would have a dire impact on religious liberty.

“Any organization or any school … that held to a biological view of sex as part of its religious belief, would come in the crosshairs of this new anti-discrimination law,” journalist and researcher Abigail Shrier said.

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) argued that “millions of Americans will be treated as second-class citizens and threatened with lawsuits simply for believing that men are men and women are women.”

Cotton asked Shrier and Mary Rice Hasson of the Ethics and Public Policy Center if they believe the Equality Act, if it becomes law, would “shutter or punish thousands of charities, clinics, community services and schools across the country” that are faith-based.

“Yes,” Shrier said.

“Absolutely,” Hasson said, adding that “any religious house of worship, faith-based charity that abides by restrictions based on biological sex” would be impacted.

“For example, if you have a Jewish charitable outreach that separates men and women, it is going to be subject to a discrimination lawsuit, because they’re going to be risking violation of that provision, protecting gender identity. So it is not true to say that people of faith don’t lose anything [under the Equality Act]. We lose everything. … It’s a complete, just radical, radical change in the rights for religious Americans.”

The text of the bill, she noted, explicitly forbids individuals from using the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act to sue based on classes covered by the Equality Act. That law was signed by President Clinton and prevents the government from “substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion,” according to its text.

Religious Americans “do not have recourse to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act” under the Equality Act, Hasson said.

“It’s expanding their potential liability and vulnerability, and at the same time, pulling away what has been a tremendously important statute for religious people,” Hasson said.

The Equality Act, Hasson said, does not exempt houses of worship from what is considered a public accommodation.

“To the contrary, what this does is it expands that definition of public accommodations,” she said.

A church that “opens the doors to the community” with any sort of ministry, she said, can be “subject to discrimination suits, because they’re now going to be considered a public accommodation in the same way as a stadium or something like that.”

People of faith, Hasson said, want to “live out” their faith and “carry it out in action.”

The Equality Act, she added, tells religious Americans: “You’re not welcome to live your faith in the public square.”


Equality Act Would Mean the ‘Effective Death of Religious Liberty’ In America, Mohler Warns

Biden Urges Congress to ‘Swiftly Pass’ Equality Act that Would Let Boys Play on Girls’ Teams

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Ak Phuong

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

How God’s Father-Love Could Change Your Life

Addressing God as Father is something pretty close to innate for most Christians. How many times do you begin a prayer with “Father in heaven”? It’s the first line of the Lord’s Prayer, after all. Yet too often our striving, our insistence on control, and our insecurity suggest that we have not truly grasped this magnificent truth, that God is our Father.

I wonder, what damage have you done to yourself, and your relationship with God, and those around you because you don’t act like God is your Father? If you don’t know what you have, you’ll try to find it elsewhere. And that may destroy what you’ve had all along.

Hope Changes Everything

In Isaiah 63, God’s people need to know him as their Father. The chapter is a plea for rescue, for God to act again in compassion and mercy. But the rescue the prophet longs for isn’t rescue from outward enemies—it’s rescue from the enemy within. Isaiah despairs over Israel’s sin and God’s inaction to address it. And in that awful intersection is the hope of God as Father.

“For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name” (Isa. 63:16).

What damage have you done to yourself, and your relationship with God, and those around you because you don’t act like God is your Father?

We must understand the significance of Abraham and Israel to God’s people in Isaiah’s day. Because they were children of Abraham, they were heirs of God’s promise. Because they were children of Israel, they were God’s people. The people of Israel without Abraham is inconceivable. And the people of Israel without Israel, their namesake, was inconceivable.

But God says there is one further impossibility: that he should cease to be their Father. Though Abraham and Israel call it quits because of the people’s sin, the Lord never will.

And that is the Israelites’ hope. Yes, they’ve rebelled, as the first half of chapter 63 laments. Yes, God seems silent, as the second half of the chapter laments. But God is still their Father, and that changes everything.

As we see in the New Testament, that changes everything for us too. Recall Paul’s magnificent words: “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:5–6). For all of us in Christ, God is our Father too. Not by Abraham’s flesh through ancestry, but by Abraham’s faith through adoption.

How does this change everything? Consider three implications of God being our Father.

1. Security for Eternity

Here is the first implication of Isaiah 63:16, the verse quoted above: security. God doesn’t change. That’s the point of the last phrases in Isaiah: “from of old is your name,” “from eternity is your name.” God does not change and so he is forever our Father. Our relationship with him is no more dependent on performance than my children’s is with me.

For those in Christ, God is our Father and will always be. Society constantly sells us security, from Pennsylvania Avenue to Madison Avenue. It says that secure comfort is everything, that it’s worth anything. But we already have what we need, because God is our Father. He will be our Father if markets fall, if nations fall, if mountains fall. That’s real security. And it means you don’t need to build your “forever life” here in this world.

2. Hope for Change

There’s a second implication in this verse: hope for change. That’s what’s at stake in Isaiah 63. And amid such desperation for change, Isaiah clings to God for hope: “You, O LORD, are our Father; our Redeemer.” God had redeemed them from slavery in Egypt, generations ago; and because he is their Father, he will redeem them again, from their sin.

But while the final result is sure, the timing is not. Thus Isaiah’s anguished question immediately following this statement of hope: “Why do you make us wander from your ways?” (v. 17). Trusting God as Father means not only trusting him for redemption but also trusting him for the timing of that redemption.

Because God is your Father, his timing for change is purposeful and perfect. Strive to change, yes. Pray to change, yes. And then be content with God’s pace.

Pray to change, yes. And then be content with God’s pace.

I’ll never forget what a dear friend told me, her eyes full of joy, as I prayed for healing while she was dying of cancer: “Jamie, I know that your prayer will be answered. I know that I will be healed. Maybe here on earth. More likely by going to heaven. But I will be healed.”

3. Affection Without Conditions

Here is one last implication of God as Father: affection. You realize, don’t you, that God designed the father-child relationship in order to teach us about him? Our sovereign God did not simply seize on it as a convenient illustration; he designed it with his relationship to us in mind.

Not all of us grew up with affectionate fathers. Not all of us knew our fathers. But we all have some sense for what a father should be, and we know that a father’s affection for his children should be rooted not in their lovability but in his love. How much more is this true for our heavenly Father?

God loves you, Christian. Full stop, no qualifications—no ifs, ands, or buts. He delights in you. He wanted to be your Father, from before the foundation of the world. His affection is in no way conditioned on your lovability. He loves you because of who he is.

That means that we can stop trying to earn his affection. Is there something in you that thinks God’s basic attitude toward you is a big frowning face? Is there something in you that feels that if you could just read more, study more, evangelize more, disciple more, serve more, feel more, do more, then God would love you more?

His affection is in no way conditioned on your lovability.

Stop trying to earn his affection! He placed his affection on you before the foundation of the world as your heavenly Father. His affection is better than conditional; it is contra-conditional. He has placed his affection on us, despite the condemnation we have earned.

Do my kids make me happy or sad by what they do? Of course. Can we grieve God’s Spirit? Of course. But is my love as a father conditioned on my kids’ performance? No. How much more so with God! How much damage does your striving, your insecurity, your restlessness do to those around you and to the reputation of Christ? To put it more strongly, because you are not resting in Christ’s love for you, how much damage does that do to your love for Christ?

Trust in a Perfect Father

Society encourages us to mistreat others in order to climb the totem pole of power. You call the line manager to reach the general manager to reach the vice president to finally to reach the person at the top. Not the God of the universe! “Though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father.” That should blow our minds.

So stop entrusting your hope to earthly security. Stop insisting on change on your terms. Stop trying to earn God’s affection. He is our Father. He is good, he is strong, and we can trust him.