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Budding totalitarians in state capitals

Some say crisis produces character in leaders. Others say character formation is far more complex and that crisis merely reveals character. Whichever is more likely true, the present pandemic crisis has been a revelation in this regard.

Frank Wright
Frank Wright is president and CEO of D. James Kennedy Ministries. |

In a season where it looks like protective masks may be our close companions for some time, leftists at all levels of government are taking off the masks of their political disguise. And it’s not a pretty sight. Government overreach never is.

And significantly, in this broad overreach we see a bona fide answer to a great cultural question — one especially consequential for the young. What does a socialist government look like? Well, just take a gander at the pandemic-related actions of far-left leaders in the so-called politically blue states. You and I are witnessing what is, without doubt, the most invasive display of domestic tyranny in our lifetime.

But first, let’s engage in some Monday morning quarterbacking. While admittedly dealing with a highly contagious virus and false or inaccurate data from China’s cover-up, our health officials have been astonishingly wrong with most of the important predictions and prescriptions they have made. Even the highly-touted epidemic model these officials relied upon has failed miserably and has been branded by experts as computer-code junk.

We were told masks are not needed (no, wait: yes, they are). Now we find they seem to work only for those already sick. We were told lockdowns are essential (no, wait: they are mostly ineffective). We were told optimal social distancing is six feet, no five feet, no three feet.

All this failed science notwithstanding, we should be thankful for our government’s efforts during the pandemic. Most have done admirable work with insufficient information and resources. But we should never forget the lessons of the lockdowns. Like Jekyll and Hyde, it was in the lockdowns that the true repressive nature of the leftwing autocrats emerged for all to see.

Redefining Freedom

Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War, when the nation was under martial law. With no such mandate today, many state leaders unilaterally (and wrongly) redefined freedom according to their leftwing proclivities. They did this mostly in the designation of essential and non-essential services. Who would have guessed that these lefty-leaders would rule religion non-essential — in some cases calling it third-tier non-essential.

Witness North Carolina, a state not hit particularly hard by the coronavirus, where the governor has restricted indoor worship to ten or fewer people. Funerals held in those same spaces may include up to 50 people. Hmmm.

Or Louisville, Kentucky, where the mayor sent his citation “swat team” to get after people worshipping alone in their cars, as part of a drive-in worship service. What good luck that Louisville’s finest could later go through the drive-thru at McDonalds — without need of a mask — after a long morning of ticketing the transgressors of the mayor’s unilateral edict.

Or New York City, where the mayor personally participated in a raid on a Jewish funeral to disperse mourners, while remaining strangely silent about the thousands gathered in close quarters to watch the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds flyover.

These authoritarian types assure us they are all about religious freedom. Just pay close attention, and they will tell you what your freedoms are.

God Bless the Lesser Magistrates

One hopeful spot amidst the power grab is the work of the “lesser-magistrates.” During the Reformation Calvin, Knox, and others argued the right and responsibility of governing authorities beneath the king to resist unjust laws and tyrannical actions. Writing to Scottish nobles, Knox emphasized the duty of lesser-magistrates in resisting the tyranny of chief magistrates, when they exceed their God-given authority, or makes declarations which are in rebellion to the law of God.

In the current pandemic, some governors have usurped authority not accorded to them under the U.S. Constitution or their state constitutions. They have ignored or circumvented their own state legislatures to rule by diktat. In these states, some law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and district attorneys (examples of lesser-magistrates) have refused to enforce the governor’s decrees as though they were law.

As for the budding totalitarians in various state capitals, we are thankful many have been spanked by various state and federal courts. They all deserve another paddling —in November.

Frank Wright, Ph.D., is president and CEO of D. James Kennedy Ministries,  He was the former CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters.

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