Lives Versus Money: No Contest for Defiant Evangelical Pastor

Back on August 17 of this year--165,641 lost American lives ago--I posted an article on Jeff and Greg’s On the Fence Voters’ (OTFV) site. I gave the article the title “When Winning Is Losing: Evangelicals’ Pugnacious Pursuits.” In it I wrote of Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church’s open defiance of state and local health regulations aimed at slowing the COVID-19 infection rate. Not only had MacArthur defied those regulations, but he also sued Los Angeles County and the state of California over those regulations. And beyond that, he encouraged other pastors to follow his lead.

The First Follow-Up

Then, on October 26, when the nation’s COVID official cumulative death total had reached 217,693 I wrote a follow-up article for the OTFV site. That article had the title “Their Money or Your Life,” and it revealed that three members of MacArthur’s Grace Community Church had tested positive for COVID-19. That’s obviously a small number, seemingly insignificant statistically. In that article I wrote, regarding that small number,

But that’s not the key point.

What is the key point? Social responsibility. MacArthur and his defenders may want—like our oblivious president—to pretend that the COVID-19 virus is a hoax, but nearly nine million infected Americans, and nearly 220,000 of those infected now dead, contradict their contention. Even in the unlikely event that no more than those three confirmed cases become infected at Grace Community Church, MacArthur has circulated a dangerously false message—that a fast-spreading and potentially deadly disease need not be feared. It’s akin to the fire marshal telling folks in a burning building that it’s safe to stay inside because the flames haven’t reached them yet.

The Second Follow-Up

So, here we are, December 23, two months after that first follow-up, and the U.S. death total from COVID-19 is now 328,139. And here’s the latest on John MacArthur’s response to a virus that has killed nearly a third of a million Americans—and very possibly some within his Grace Community Church congregation. According to a December 21 article in the Christian Post, “Staff and members of Grace Community Church, which is led by Pastor John MacArthur, say multiple people have been infected with COVID-19 but those with knowledge of the cases are being pressured to remain silent, according to a new report.”

“Staff and members of Grace Community Church, which is led by Pastor John MacArthur, say multiple people have been infected with COVID-19 but those with knowledge of the cases are being pressured to remain silent, according to a new report.”

Also according to the Christian Post article, “‘Multiple members’ of the church, however, told Roys that they were ‘scared of speaking out about the outbreak for fear of retribution.’ Some said they feared losing their jobs while others said they feared being ostracized and losing their community.”

And what is MacArthur’s official response to such allegations and possible government intervention? “Government officials have no right to interfere in ecclesiastical matters in a way that undermines or disregards the God-given authority of pastors and elders.”

The government has no right to interfere with a church that encourages folks to gather inside, by the thousands, masks optional, while many among them have tested positive for a highly contagious, potentially lethal virus. Such utter nonsense that imperils not only the thousands of Grace Community Church members, but also their friends, relatives, neighbors, and from there ripples out throughout cities, counties, states, and the entire nation is exactly why governments must interfere.

Greed Versus Responsibility

Many have stated the following maxim in a variety of ways, but Russell Kirk’s version is among the most apt: “Every right is married to a duty, every freedom owes a corresponding responsibility.”

John MacArthur, and far too many other evangelical leaders, now seem incapable of comprehending that fundamental principle of responsibility—not when it conflicts with their ability to generate income.

As I wrote in that October post on the OTFV site,

So what’s really behind the determined drive by evangelical leaders like John MacArthur to keep churches open in the midst of a global pandemic? The answer is, of course, to be found in following the money. John MacArthur’s annual salary is reported to be $160,000, and his net worth is reported to be in the neighborhood of $14,000,000. A closed church means dramatically reduced income.

But, hey, why worry about a few hundred-thousand American lives when the loss of one’s $160,000 annual income might be at stake?

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”- 1 Timothy 6:10