Civil disobedience, Romans 13 and the Communist Virus
There are times when a legitimate crisis requires the state to use emergency powers that would never be appropriate in times of peace and prosperity.
I am concerned that some Christians are far too eager to reflexively obey the government's quarantine orders during the COVID-19 outbreak, and it seems that many of them do not recognize that there are ominous and frightening storm clouds on the horizon. We need to watch this carefully and closely guard our liberties, especially our First Amendment and Second Amendment rights.
But some hard-line libertarians also need to develop a sense of proportion regarding the Communist Virus and understand that there are times when a legitimate crisis requires the state to use emergency powers that would never be appropriate in times of peace and prosperity. This is true even in a nation like the United States where we have a Constitution that forbids government from infringing on our rights.
Typhoid Mary was a healthy woman who unknowingly spread a potentially deadly disease to dozens of people, which resulted in fatalities. When you hear people argue that the government does not have the authority to quarantine healthy people during a viral pandemic, she is a good counter-example.
The purpose of state-mandated quarantines to slow the spread of the Communist Virus is not to protect people who are healthy. The quarantines are in place because there may be many people who are carriers of the Communist Virus but have either mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. As many as 80% of people infected with COVID-19 fall into the mild or no symptoms category. We do not want them spreading the coronavirus to people who are elderly or have compromised immune systems – people who are at high risk of developing severe complications or dying from the disease.
I am very worried about the precedent this is setting, and we should be very wary of what is happening right now. Specifically, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio has said that churches who violate the quarantine order could be permanently closed. It is one thing to limit the size of gatherings during a viral pandemic. It is another thing entirely to forcibly abolish a church. DeBlasio is a wicked tyrant who should be behind bars, or stripped of his citizenship and deported. I am not using hyperbole. I am dead serious.
But I do believe the civil magistrate has the rightful authority to impose a temporary quarantine to protect public health, especially in a unique outbreak that has the potential for mass casualties. A fatality rate of 0.1% could easily lead to 100,000 deaths in these United States. And as Christians, I believe our orientation under Romans 13 should be to respect the government's orders and obey them... up to a point.
Does that mean we cannot question the orders and openly lobby for a better strategy? Of course not. The founding fathers expected engaged and informed citizens to be a watchdog over the government. And creating a second Great Depression would lead to ruined lives and poverty, people choosing between food and medical care and other bad outcomes. We will see an increase in "deaths of despair" from alcoholism, addiction and suicide. Every policy has negative and positive consequences.
So have we reached that point, where civil disobedience may be required? Not yet. Will we reach that point? That seems more likely as power-hungry statists are exploiting the Communist Virus to grab more power for themselves. But people like a pastor who was recently arrested for defying orders and holding church services anyway are making it more difficult for us if and when we reach that point. He was not just defying the quarantine orders, he is actively engaged in fraud by falsely claiming he has a virus-destroying machine that he does not have and does not exist.
The Apostle Paul wrote that God has placed these men in authority for our benefit - and he wrote that while under the thumb of the pagan Roman Empire as well as the oppression of the Pharisees. Whatever you think of our government today, we are not the pagan Roman Empire, which executed the Lord Jesus Christ and would later viciously persecute Christians in terribly inhumane ways. In a time where we hate authority, we should all remember the example set forth in Scripture.