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Squires: COVID-19 has created American god-kings – but we don’t have to serve them

Op-ed
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The author of a recent column in the Los Angeles Times titled “Mocking anti-vaxxers’ deaths is ghoulish, yes — but necessary” perfectly captures the current direction of American social life.

The author argues that people who raise questions about government orders should be publicly ridiculed if they die from the coronavirus in order to teach others a lesson.

The entire column reflects the ethos of a nation whose fading faith in God has been redirected toward an unholy trinity of big government, big business, and big media more than willing to be the object of our affection, veneration, and obedience.

COVID-19 has ushered in America’s “god-king” era.

By any reasonable measure, it is clear that Americans are less religious than we have ever been. One Gallup survey found that church membership fell below 50% for the first time in 80 years. Another study from the Pew Research Center found that the percentage of Americans who identify as Christians fell from 78% in 2007 to 63% in 2021, while the percentage of religious “nones” who identify with no particular faith rose from 16% to 29% in the same time period.

At the same time, Americans seem to be defining ourselves by our politics more than ever before. The infusion of race, gender identity, and sexuality into every aspect of the culture has intensified this change. People wear their political beliefs on their sleeves and seek out others with the same views. One survey found that 30% of Democrats in 2020 are unlikely to have friends with very different political views. This is up from 16% in 2016. The percentage of Republicans unwilling to have friends across partisan lines increased from 16% in 2016 to 20% in 2020.

These trends are two of the most important cultural developments facing our America today.

It is no wonder that as our country grows more secular, the citizenry has become more comfortable with being ruled by god-kings, who have been aided by the crisis in faith brought on by the pandemic. Impending doom and fear of death often push people to seek out religion.

Big government, big business, and big media have filled that void.

Elected officials have grown comfortable issuing orders in the name of public health and safety about what medical treatments people must take. Disobedience is met with the threat of financial and social punishment. They have also taken on the role of provider for more Americans. We understood it in 2020 when temporary payments went to workers forced out of their jobs by the lockdowns. Now there are calls for more permanent payments for people who think the existence of any risk due to COVID is a reason not to work.

Large corporations in the god-king era have become unelected, unaccountable instruments of public policy. They are the implementation arm of government mandates related to masking and vaccination – threatening to terminate the employment of their workers and withhold service from customers who do not comply. They also insert themselves into contentious political debates around voting laws, abortion, and even gender.

Their influence often has the effect of subverting the will of the people. This is why the Republican governors of Arkansas and South Dakota were harshly criticized by Tucker Carlson and other conservative personalities for allowing Walmart and other business interests to pressure them into opposing bills that would have restricted girls’ sports to biological females.

The third, and often most influential, part of this alliance is corporate media. Journalists whose job should be to challenge the powerful and hold them accountable now challenge the powerless and hold us responsible for social outcomes they don’t like.

The recent L.A. Times column that argues for mocking the deaths of “anti-vaxxers” captures this phenomenon perfectly. It is much easier to find opinions like this in liberal news and media sites than an editorial that is critical of any aspect of the current administration’s response to the pandemic.

The ruling class in a constitutional republic with democratic elections should acknowledge an authority higher than the civil government, respect civil liberties and individual rights, encourage debate, and respect the principles embodied by the phrase “consent of the governed.”

What we have in America today is very different. The unholy trinity thinks it is the highest authority, echo chambers have replaced debate halls, and individual rights are trampled.

They do all of these things with the help of minor prophets who craft sacred texts – and tweets – that are used to separate true believers from infidels. These people change the definition of gender, convince us men can become pregnant, tell us which protests are righteous, and enforce compliance with all the new rules of society.

The god-kings and their supporting institutions obsess over race, but a person’s skin color tells you nothing about their values and beliefs. But what a person believes about God – if anything – can give you some clues. People who think Caesar is the highest authority in the land must look to him, his oracles, and vice-regents for meaning, protection, and provision.

The only way to end this era is to put our faith in something higher than the government. Jesus did that when he told his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” As a Christian, I acknowledge that civil government is a creation of God. The Bible teaches that the government’s authority, like all human authority, is derived from God to reward good and punish evil. That doesn’t mean its authority is unlimited, as evidenced by biblical examples of people defying government orders.

Finding those limits can be difficult at times, but the lines become much brighter when an elected official–or unelected bureaucrat–claims the power to make unilateral health decisions for millions of people without any debate. The same goes for politicians who forbid churches to meet in person while encouraging thousands of people to take to the streets for their approved protests.

The decision before us is clear. Some will continue to grow even more dependent on our god-kings who reject absolute truth, only speak the language of transactional politics, and believe moral problems are answered with material solutions. Others will put their faith in the true and living God who is worthy of all honor, glory, and praise. Choose today whom you will serve.
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