On this week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is news out of Portland, as an anti-Bible campaign emerged in the midst of the protests. Also, Chinese state-sanctioned churches are preparing to re-open, but the pre-requisite is to follow Communist Party directives. And, another California church is at odds with government authorities, as a local judge has said that the church could not hold indoor worship services.
Portland protesters burn Bibles
The violence in Portland continues to be a problem, even after the withdrawal of Federal agents. A CBN News story said:
While CBN News was there, windows were smashed, buildings defaced, and fires burned nightly around the courthouse, but Portland mayor and police commissioner Ted Wheeler ignored the conduct, even joining the protesters in calling for federal police to leave the area.
Wheeler has since taken protesters to task and reminding them that they are contributing to the re-election of Donald Trump. Meanwhile, as the story, posted last Monday, points out: "Tensions eased somewhat over the weekend as federal agents were replaced by...police officers who must follow much more restrictive rules of crowd control measures. But that didn't stop protesters from burning American flags and even Bibles. How that relates to racial justice wasn't immediately clear.The story quoted Pastor J.W. Matt Hennessee from Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church Portland, who said: "We need to pray for the ability to listen, to learn and to find out how God wants us to engage and to do that in a very, very like, intentional way for us to be able to be used by God, as instruments in this space..."
Author and commentator Eric Metaxas has been on the forefront of decrying this behavior that has disrespected the Bible. A Christian Post article chronicled Eric's appearance on Tucker Carlson's show on Fox News recently:
In an interview with Fox News opinion host Tucker Carlson on Thursday, Metaxas stressed that he wasn't suggesting everyone living in the U.S. must identify as Christian. Instead, his point was that the Bible is more than a sacred book; it's "what led ... to freedom and self-government" that most Americans cherish.
“We’ve forgotten that freedom is utterly impossible on the American model without the values we got from the Bible,” said Metaxas, a bestselling author and radio host, in response to images of rioters burning stacks of Bibles in Portland last Friday night.
Metaxas went on to say:
“All of the Founders understood that the Bible wasn’t just a sacred book for some people. It was what gave us the West and what led to the idea of freedom and self-government,” Metaxas said, asserting that those who are attacking the Bible and Christianity are “attacking foundational ideas” that built the nation.
Chinese churches allowed to reopen after COVID only after swearing allegiance to leader
The reopening of churches is not only an issue in the United States, but the nation of China has some troubling guidelines in its progress to reopening, according to a Bitter Winter article referenced by the Christian Post. The article, released last week, says that:
In mid-June, the Religious Affairs Bureau of Zhengzhou, the capital of the central province of Henan, issued a list of 42 requirements for places of worship to start functioning after the coronavirus lockdown has been lifted. On top of scrupulous adherence to the epidemic prevention measures, people who want to enter religious venues must register online, cross-referencing their health code, and provide their personal details, including name, gender, ID card, and phone number. Venues must intensify patriotic education and study China’s religious policies and other regulations, and implement the “four requirements.” Those that fail to meet the prerequisites are not allowed to reopen.
The article reports that these types of requirements were seen throughout Henan province. In June, churches in one particular county in the province were given their "marching orders:"
They all were to extol President Xi Jinping for “the right way to lead people in defeating the epidemic” and praise China for its single-party rule while slandering the United States and other countries. “I had to preach as the state required,” one of the preachers said. “Otherwise, the church would not have reopened.”
These restrictions, of course, are for the government-sancition, Three-Self churches. The article says:
“The government said that churches must preach about national affairs if they want to reopen,” a Three-Self church member from Henan’s Sanmenxia city commented. “With Xi Jinping’s speeches as the main content, it’s better for churches not to reopen.”
The Christian Post article said:
It was previously reported that Communist authorities converted a number of state-approved Three-Self churches into cultural centers promoting Xi's socialist values.
Amid the coronavirus outbreak, poor Christian villagers in several provinces were ordered to renounce their faith and replace displays of Jesus with portraits of Chairman Mao and Xi or risk losing their welfare benefits.
In recent years, hundreds of Christians have also faced arrests, detentions, imprisonments, and church attacks.
California judge places halt to church's indoor services
The law firm, Tyler and Bursch, reported on its website on Friday that, "A Ventura County Superior Court judge issued an emergency temporary restraining order today against Godspeak Calvary Chapel and its Pastor Rob McCoy. The church has been holding indoor worship services asserting its constitutional right to the free exercise of religion." A hearing has been set for August 31; the firm states, "The church intends to present expert witnesses for the purpose of establishing that the State of California and the County of Ventura lack a compelling interest for the prohibition of indoor worship services and that the decision to prevent indoor worship services, while allowing other indoor activities, is arbitrary and without a rational basis."
The VCStar.com website reported that in mid-July, the county's Public Health Officer, Dr. Robert Levin "...ordered the closure of indoor activities at places of worship as well as for protests, offices offering non-essential services, malls, salons, barbershops and gyms. That followed a similar action by the state after the county and others were placed on a state watch list because of concerns over progress in curtailing the disease."The law firm's website says that, "We believe that COVID-19 can be fought with far less restrictive measures than banning all healthy persons from church and our expert witnesses will prove that," citing statistics that the risk of death for Ventura County residents under age 65 is .18%, based on reported cases.