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Rogue Religious Authority

To question these experts is to question science itself, the chief deity of secularism–who are we, the peasants, that we could lodge any speculations? This superstitious, blind fervor must be called out and rejected wherever it is found, be it in Jihadist Muslims, fundamentalist Christians, or radical secularists.


The Unanswered Question

Across the globe once again, we find ourselves witnessing renewed lockdowns, mask mandates, and various other public health policies in what is shaping up to be a strange sequel to the surreal summer of 2020. For all citizens, but particularly for Christians, the question that ought to have been asked for all of last year is the same one which yet remains unanswered, now 18 months into the Covid Age: Why? By what standard and on whose authority are free citizens to be coerced into shutting down business, remaining indoors, and hiding their faces behind masks? If the elusive reasoning process was not suspect enough last year, the authorities of “public health” and “science” are now not even to be bothered with any attempt to consistently justify these renewed dictates. 
Regardless of how many times the CDC, Dr. Fauci, the WHO, and the other elements of the global public health establishment contradict themselves, cite shoddy research, use misleading statistics, and ignore credible studies challenging their policy suggestions, we are still chided and exhorted to obediently follow their every whim, given that they are the experts, and we but lowly, ignorant simpletons. And all of this on top of the fact that any rational discussion about how they may just be mistaken on this one will promptly be removed from the public discourse. It is vital that we accurately see and name what is going on.
This series of historical events that we have witnessed over the last year and a half is not a display of a rigorously empiricist and skeptical society—people who go wherever the facts, the hard data, the experiences of the material world lead. It is not even ultimately a display of a people driven by irrational emotion and panic—although this is much more accurate than the former. Rather, we continue to see evidence of a deeply religious society, a culture of zealous superstition, and it is with this understanding that Christians can better respond to our cultural moment. 

A Deeply Religious Society

Part of what it means to be made in God’s image is that mankind is inherently religious–we were made to worship (Eccl. 3:11, Acts 17:26, Rom. 1:25). Essential to being human is to worship, yet because of sin, man is eager to worship anything besides the God who made him and to whom he is accountable. It is this very religious impulse that forms and shapes societies—cultures will reflect their worship. And of course, all religions have their authorities, those elite few to whom the masses offer great deference and reverence. 
This principle can be easily perceived in pre-Reformation medieval Europe. Consider the historical scene. The extreme majority of the population are subsistence farmers. Disease, war, and hunger are not uncommon experiences, and the Catholic Church is the unquestioned center of existence. Individuals are born Catholic and die Catholic—it is essential to stability, identity, purpose, and hope. And in this society, where most are illiterate and few would have access to a Bible even if they weren’t, priests carried God-like authority.
It was the priest who communicated the vital truth of the gospel to the otherwise ignorant masses who desperately placed all hope in their teaching. So if the priest said that baptizing your infant would ensure he was spared from the fires of Hell, that repeating certain prayers would lead to the forgiveness of sins, or that purchasing indulgences would shorten one’s time in purgatory, it would be utterly foolish to question it. After all, the priests were the learned experts—who was a peasant to question their wisdom? 
To question a priest might as well be to question God Himself. One of Martin Luther’s great crimes, for which he was liable to be killed, was his translating the Bible into the common vernacular, getting God’s word into the hands of the common people, and allowing individuals the study the Scriptures for themselves, therefore liberating them from the clutches of the Catholic establishment, which relied upon the people’s dependence on priests to receive the gospel.

Cult-like Devotion To Authorities Remains Unchanged

We accurately look back upon that time as one of zealous religiosity, which more often than not resulted in irrational, not to mention unbiblical, superstition. Where our culture is utterly blinded, however, is in the fact that, while the dominant religion may have changed since the middle ages, the superstitious zeal and cult-like devotion to the authorities have not. The ubiquitous religion in the west today is undoubtedly secularism: the privileging of naked human reason and man-made standards and practices, without reference to a transcendent, universal, and authoritative law. 
The authorities of this religion are the scientists—those with insight into the otherwise inaccessible mysteries of the universe, who have been properly schooled and subsequently ordained by the powers that be to inform the ignorant masses as to the origins of the cosmos, the essence of humanity, the apocalyptic eschaton that will soon arrive, and all that we must do to live and to thrive. To question these experts is to question science itself, the chief deity of secularism—who are we, the peasants, that we could lodge any speculations? This superstitious, blind fervor must be called out and rejected wherever it is found, be it in Jihadist Muslims, fundamentalist Christians, or radical secularists.

Implications & Ramifications

What we must get straight as Christians are the implications and ramifications of this recognition. To throw off the scientific method and data-driven study in response to their flagrant abuse would be as egregious as Europeans ridding themselves of the Scriptures entirely due to the sins of the Catholic Church. The solution to the abuse of genuine authority is not the removal of authority. Likewise, Christians ought to respect and value genuine expertise and specialized training in various fields—we do not possess infinite knowledge, and we are not competent in every discipline.
God has blessed certain individuals with a deep understanding of a particular subject, and the rest of us should be eager to properly apply their discoveries and insights to our own lives where appropriate. This is the case for doctors, engineers, physicists, lawyers, computer scientists, and pastors too—we rely on the specialized training of these people to function in the world, and despite the unprecedented access to information that we have, rare is the individual who has a deep and competent grasp on these varied disciplines. 
This reality demands trust, and trust demands willingness to welcome and answer questions. So just as Christians since the Reformation have been able to go to their pastors with their open Bible and say, “what you teach doesn’t seem to line up with what this says”, so today, with all of the access we have to data, studies, and a plurality of qualified opinions, we should be free to approach our scientific experts and say “what you’re saying doesn’t seem to align with this data.” And when these questions are not permitted or are written off in scoffing condescension, trust erodes. 
This is the situation we find ourselves in. The rogue religious authorities of our day are telling us that boys are girls, that babies in the womb are not babies, that the world is facing imminent destruction by a global flood, that wearing a piece of cloth over your face in public will protect you from germs, and that 350 COVID deaths a day should be sufficient to scare us into once again alienating ourselves from society.

Do Not Be Willfully Mislead

Everybody will be duped and misled from time to time, but being ignorantly misled is not the same as being willfully misled. While we as Christians are called to give due respect to all legitimate authority, and to humbly acknowledge the limitations of our understanding, we are also called to exercise the common sense abilities that come with being made in the image of God, and when we neglect these—be it out of fear or laziness—and go along with beliefs and behaviors that are plainly misguided and deceptive, we dishonor that image.
This is not to argue that every Christian must ditch their masks as a matter of obedience to God, but it does mean that every Christian at the very least must critically examine his heart attitude towards the current situation, and how his actions may be complicit in the fortification of the religion of secularism at the expense of Christ’s kingdom. Christians ought to be for the vindication of truth in every realm, we must bring the Lordship of Christ to bear in all circumstances, and we are commanded to tear down every stronghold that postures itself against our Lord. Secularism and its god of Science is one such stronghold; far be it from Christ’s people to leave such an enemy unscathed.
Luke Griffo is a member of leadership at Redeemer Church of South Hills in West Mifflin, PA.  Click here for more RCSH Blog posts. 
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