A Polish-born pastor in Canada has a message for government officials who want to interrupt his church services, enforcing in-person gathering restrictions. “Get out. Get out!”
Canadian Pastor Artur Pawlowski has had several encounters with Calgary health officials and police who tried to enter his church during worship, including Easter services, to close them.
Two days ago he and his brother were arrested for defying state orders by having a church service that didn’t conform to local health standards.
Pawlowski set off an Internet firestorm with his passionate defense of liberty. He forcefully resisted the intrusion. “I am not interested in listening to you… You are Nazi Communist Brownshirts and you are not welcome here.”
According to the The Calgary Herald, Pawlowski is no stranger to local officials as he has been a target of fines and notices for in-gathering violations.
Pastor Pawlowski knows about tyranny. He grew up under the Communist dictatorship behind the Iron Curtain. “It was like a flashback when those police officers showed up at my church. Everything kind of came back to life from my childhood, and the only thing I could do is to fend off the wolves as a shepherd, and I use my voice to get rid of them,” he said. “Encroaching on our rights during the holiest days during the Passover celebration. How dare they? The audacity of those people coming.”
Fighting off the wolves
As a shepherd, Pawlowski took on the toughest role of a pastor – fending off the wolves, those who would come at the flock to destroy.
Preaching outside his church over the weekend his words reverberated off the helmets of the riot police. “They hate freedom. We are a pack of lions and lions never bow to hyenas…”
Beyond the times
As citizens, most Christians willingly lived by the rules. We wore masks. We stayed home. We gave up our right to assemble, to express free speech and to worship for the greater good. But as the crisis wanes, in many situations, the rights are not returning.
By its very nature, liberty is always at odds with the government.
As Arthur Brinkley writes, “The history of civil liberties in America, like the history of civil rights, is a story of struggle. Even in peacetime, Americans constantly negotiate between the demands of liberty and the demands of order and security.”
And he warns those who think our current reaction is reasonable. “The history of civil liberties in times of emergency suggests that governments seldom react to crises carefully or judiciously. They acquiesce to the most alarmist proponents of repression.”
There is a balance and most Christian leaders have led their flocks to become responsible citizens.
But tyranny loves to worm its way into power and with the winds of a pandemic at their backs, the restraints of power have been lifted. And the most vulnerable in our population, the Christian voice, is the easiest target.
There is a time for everything
I have been understanding, even compassionate for Christian leaders during this time. In any church they had to deal with congregants who felt any and all of these emotions:
- The pandemic was a hoax
- The pandemic was real and churches should adhere to government rules
- The pandemic was real but the Bill of Rights gave freedom to worship
- It is irresponsible to have anyone in church
- It is fine to have people in church as long as they socially distance
And on and on and on.
Every single day someone will be mad at you.
Pastor Pawlowski was righteously indignant when a squad of officers showed up at his church on Passover Sunday. And he is right to speak against oppression. But that may not be you. It may not be your situation.
You are likely living in peace with your government, coexisting until this mess goes away. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t time to roar.
Bonhoeffer. Ghandi. Martin Luther King. Martin Luther. Jesus. Hear them roar.
God is calling his leaders – professional and lay – to rise up and speak. If there is tyranny, then we need prophets. If there is a need for healing, then we need physicians. If there is need for reconciliation, we need peacemakers.
This is our time to stand and be lions.
(Please send me a note about the lions who are roaring in your neighborhood)