Enemy Controlled Territory aka Your Local Church

Remember that password protected post that I accidentally sent out? That started out as a normal blog post, thusly:

I woke up ten minutes before my alarm went off this morning. I got my Bible reading and prayers done, made breakfast, took the trash, took Get Along Husband to work, did the grocery shopping, and still made it home by 9 a.m. to start lessons with the kids. We did a great job, then I spent an hour working out before our late lunch. In short, I did the sort of things I always do, and that every homeschooling mom finds herself doing routinely. Nothing special, right?

But man, I felt GOOD. All morning long, I felt good. And I started wondering, why do I feel so good right now? And why haven’t I felt this way in such a long time? My habits haven’t changed. My motivations and dedication to duty haven’t changed. My willingness to do the work hasn’t changed. I’ve been basically getting it done all along. It’s just better right now.

I haven’t been so focused and just plain happy to be getting things done in a very long time.

“Why do I feel so good?” I wondered, all morning long. And I think I have it figured out, after looking back on my day yesterday, then the weeks before that, and the eighteen months before those weeks. You want to know what the secret sauce is to being totally into life, and able to face it joyfully? One word:

Fellowship.

Yesterday, I got to worship with God’s people, my people, my tribe. I got to teach Sunday School (although our church is so much cooler than that, so it’s not called Sunday School here, but another name that means the same thing).

I got to see a bunch of sweet little faces, tell them about Jesus, and give a hug to a little guy who was having a tough moment. Then I got to lift my scratchy voice in praise to the One who redeemed me. I heard the Gospel preached by a pastor who loves the Lord and loves His flock with a sincere heart, and brings good Doctrine to sustain them.

Then I had an elder pray with me over a difficulty that I’ve been dealing with for 13 long years, with a hand on my shoulder and a heart that understood my need without being told very much about it. That kind of prayer can only come through the Holy Spirit praying for us, and with us, and through us.

I didn’t get much rest yesterday, though it was a Sunday, because I brought eight hungry kids home with me. I still had a couple more (laid back) meals to crank out, and the little ones still needed a lot of attention. A busy “day of rest” with all that social activity, for someone who is happiest locked in a quiet room with a book surely can’t account for how well-rested I feel today.

The only thing that can account for this long-absent sense of wholeness and wellness is the fellowship. This burst of happy energy was a pretty regular Monday occurrence for me, once upon a time. Before things went off the rails, my week would always start at the top like that, and then take a downward slide as the weekend approached. Then there would be a recharge on Sunday, and we’re off to the races again! (And let me put in a good word for Wednesday night prayer meetings here.)

“When Covid happened”, as people like to say, my good attitude started slipping. I didn’t really even notice it at first, because my lifestyle stayed basically the same. Our family weathered the storm of the tyrannical lockdowns much more easily than most probably did, simply because we’re stay-at-home people anyway. We’re a big family, so loneliness is easier to overcome, or at least to not notice. But over time, it started to wear on us, too. When church opened back up, but with masks, it wore on us even more. Because we knew the masks were a tool of political control, not of a virus, but of the population itself, our consciences wouldn’t allow us to wear them, so we were even more alienated than those who wore them.

Even inside church, because others were masked and social distancing, we were apart, as if a new sacrament, one of masks and hand-sanitizing, had been introduced to mark the True Christians. We were told that this is how we “honor our weak” and “show we care”, but to our family, it sounded like–because it was–gaslighting. It was second-hand gaslighting, to be sure, spoken by people who had been gas-lit themselves into thinking they were bad for questioning whether it was right, or even sane, to cover their faces and refuse to touch other people.

We couldn’t see faces, or hug friends, or even shake hands. Conversation was awkward, especially in a large church where we don’t recognize people quickly in a crowd just by the top third of their faces. I literally ran out the doors after most services, it was so unfriendly a place. Worship itself was sincere, I believe, but strangled. I know I’m not the only one who emotionally couldn’t handle the physical and emotional distancing. We skipped a lot of Sunday mornings because it was too hard to watch.

We couldn’t really hear the voices of those trying to sing with muzzles on. We had to pray without touching each other, or even getting closer than shouting distance. We had to feel awkward about violating the 6-foot distance to speak to friends. Every meal at home became a mechanical event, just feeding a body, because we’d had no meals with the Church to remind us that we are more than the body. The sterile communion cup packages felt–well, sterile, obviously. I wonder if it’s even truly communion like that. God forgive us!

One of the most painful memories I have of this faceless time was when we were sitting two taped-off rows behind a family with a little guy, maybe a year and a half old, and the sweet fellow couldn’t take his eyes off my face. It would be nice to think that he was staring so much because he’d never seen anybody so pretty, but my mirror tells a different story, so I can’t comfort myself with that explanation. My daughter noticed it, too, and asked me later why he was so interested in my face. “I think,” I said, “that it’s because mine is the only adult face he’s seen without a mask since he was too little to remember. He doesn’t know what to make of grownup strangers’ faces.” It’s a scary thought for our society’s future when you consider all the babies who went through that crucial phase of development without adequate exposure to community faces.

We lost a year of learning each other. Our children lost a year of development (there are reports that IQ in the very young has declined drastically), a year of community, a year of Sunday School, a year of friendship and learning who and how to trust. Those years can never be reclaimed. While I did my best to make sure my kids still had human contact, our church connection was first non-existent, then horrifically alienating as things “opened back up”.

My soul started to dry out. That was the worst thing, but my body started to feel the changes, too. I had more allergies and minor malaises–the kind you can’t really pin down, but you just don’t feel good–during this “safe at home” time than I did in the twenty years preceding it combined. My children were often just not quite right, as well. It was a physical depression due to isolation. I was frequently discouraged with my diet and exercise, feeling like I just wasn’t worth the effort, though by force of will I stuck to it anyway. I’ve been quite healthy by any objective measure, but like every other human being, I need more than a mirror and a thermometer to tell me I’m doing ok. Introvert that I am, I’ve discovered that I really do need people to show me myself. That’s a good thing to know, so I guess God can pull something good out of just any situation.

Touching, smelling, swapping pheromones, producing oxytocin and all those other hormones we have during face-to-face interactions, catching colds that educate our immune systems (in fact, they educate our immune systems to handle covid!): we need all of that germy, messy human contact. Because I was aware of these needs, I did everything in my power to keep my family in contact with others, and not just by Zoom meetings.

But the Church is the contact we need most. We didn’t just need to hang out with friends and family, which we managed to do often enough that I think we weathered this storm pretty well. We couldn’t get the same spiritual and physical boost from “worship” in front of the teevee. The Holy Spirit works uniquely through our physical meetings.

We are a literal Body. We share our immune system in a very real way.


And this, dear Reader, is where my blog post took a hard right and turned into a desperate plea to our pastor and elders not to let our church be plunged again into that faceless Hell. I won’t share much of what I said past this point, because I wouldn’t want to drag anything local into it by accident, nor embarrass anyone. But what is happening here must surely be happening in many places as mask dictates and threats of lockdown are once again coming down from on high. I honestly thought we’d at least have until late September, when cold and flu season started up, but the experimental injections have worsened the situation, so even our summer respite was shorter than it should have been.

But did my plea bear any fruit, you ask? Well, what do you think? Do you think a church that congratulated itself on being so wonderfully First-Peter-submissive the first time we were induced into this mass psychosis would feel at all like examining any evidence, even if it was just anecdotal and intuitive, as mine admittedly was, that they have, in fact, been doing great harm to their own ministry? Do you think that an influential group of people in a large church would turn on a dime to hear the heart of one who holds no place in their inner circle? Do you think that a bunch of community leaders with reputations as intelligent, educated people would buckle to the requests of a hillbilly with no degree at all?

Do you think they’re even capable of thinking anything other than what respectable people are expected to think?

Yeah. No.

They will comply. It is narrative uber alles here. To keep the peace, and to be known as good people, and because they trust the Scienceā„¢ they will comply. Worship services are now masked and distanced, and praise the Lord we’re all such good citizens! Because they believe the narrative that staying apart makes us healthy, and they believe that they were right to comply the first time, they’ll go ahead and comply this flock right down into the grave. When lockdowns come, they’ll feel good about merely piping the music and preaching into our homes via Facebook (and if you’re a good citizen, unlike my perma-banned self, you’ll still be allowed on Facebook). They’ll call that “church”.

We will not.

Our family has been faced with 3 options. We can comply with the senseless dictates that only make everything–mentally, spiritually, and physically–worse, just so we can enjoy in some limited capacity the reduced, faceless kind of worship that is “allowed” to us by those outside the church who passionately hate whole-hearted, intimate, corporate worship of Jesus. We can go be just like the rest of the congregation, and then when the next “lockdown” comes, we can pretend with them that we’re all in it together, apart, in our individual prison cells.

We can, alternatively, go to this same meeting place, but mask-free, as we did before, dodging the mask-waving greeters, standing naked-faced and unashamed in our taped-off rows. I really don’t know how such intelligent people can find it at all reasonable that the singers and preachers go bare-faced while everyone less essential to Worship remains covered. It has to be humiliating to pretend that this makes any sense. I won’t, myself, torture my own mind with such illogic. I find the rigmarole to be emotionally exhausting, and antithetical to the entire purpose of corporate worship. I can’t again face the prospect of being so far out of line with the behavior of the rest of the church. I can handle being a little out of step–the story of my life, really–but for me, the masks serve only as a constant reminder that Covid is the real King around here, and we’ll do whatever Covid requires. I can’t worship with people who don’t even know what they’re really worshipping.

Our last option, and the one we will take, is to find a new group of Christians to worship with–one that values and respects human faces, imago Dei, normal human psychology, normal interactions, and normal physiology. There are believers out there that trust God’s design of our immune systems, and of normally functioning communities, as much as we do. We just have to find them.


We had some family stuff to keep us home yesterday, so I’m feeling a little bit less than enthusiastic about this coming week. It is past nine o’clock, which begins our school day, so I’ll put this up as is, though there is a lot more that I can (and probably will) say later.

 

1 thought on “Enemy Controlled Territory aka Your Local Church

  1. Spot on, friend. Christ is king of the church, not covid or the civil magistrate. You are not alone in your observations or convictions. May the Lord answer your prayers for a change of heart and mind (repentance) of churches in your area.

    If you live anywhere near St. Louis, Atlanta, Burlington NC or Greenville SC, you are welcome to one of our churches (https://www.westminsterconfession.org/congregations/). Worship will continue in person and with open face, beholding the glory of God and being changed into his likeness.

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