The COVID-19 crisis has obviously been a key point of discussion in the 2020 electoral season. People are responding in a variety of ways, including especially fear and anger. Those who fear the virus are often angry with those who don’t seem to be taking it seriously, and those who don’t fear the virus are often angry at the unprecedented use of executive authority in Governor Wolf’s response, considering the damage it’s done to small businesses and the economy at large.
Because there is such an emotional rift on the issue, I’ve found it can be challenging to present my position on the subject without insulting or angering those who view things in a different way. I don’t mind angering people if a situation requires it, but I think that there are a lot of good concerns on all sides of this issue, and I think we all need to be humble enough to listen and learn from those who disagree with us.
So I’ll present my position to you by splitting it into two separate issues.
- My position on the severity of the virus
- My position on the government’s response
The first issue is a question concerning the situation in which we find ourselves, and different perceptions of that situation will yield different understandings of the virus’ severity. I have a viewpoint, given the data I’ve looked at, but I’m entirely open to the possibility that I’m not seeing all of the data necessary to come to an accurate conclusion.
The second issue however is a matter of principle, a question of authority which ultimately is a question of theology. I don’t need to understand everything about the severity of COVID-19 to evaluate whether or not the government has acted justly and biblically in its response; I just need to study the Bible.
For example, let’s assume that it’s true that without social distancing and the lockdown of society, COVID-19 would kill several million Americans. As a private citizen armed with that information, pretend that I then took a gun and forced everyone in my community to stay in their homes to stop the spread of the virus. The question at my trial would be, “Does Nate Schmolze have the authority to lock people in their homes at the point of a gun?”
The answer of course is “No, I don’t have that authority.” As a private citizen, if I’ve come to believe that there’s a threat to my community, I certainly have the right to speak out on that issue, to try to persuade people to act in a certain way. But I don’t have the right to force my opinion about how people should respond to COVID-19 onto the greater populace around me.
Similarly, we have to ask if Governor Wolf has the authority to force his administration’s opinion of how people should respond to COVID-19 onto the greater populace. Does he have the authority to regulate his constituents’ everyday lives, to shut down businesses and churches, to force whatever sanctions he wants onto society such that we conform to his opinion of how handle the virus?
Unfortunately, it does appear that legislative power is granted to the governor in times of self-declared emergency. This is authority that needs to be repealed; it contradicts the very spirit of the original constitution of Pennsylvania, which separated legislative and executive powers to arrest the progress of tyranny. However at the present time, the governor does presently have the authority to give orders with the force of law, as long as he declares an indefinite state of emergency.
Those orders however are restrained by the Pennsylvania Constitution. In that regard, there are three areas where Governor Wolf’s lockdown has offended constitutionally protected rights, namely the right to assemble, the right to religious freedom, and the right to fulfill contracts unimpaired.
Above the constitution however there is a higher law, namely the law of God which governs all mankind. In the Bible, God describes how civil governments should treat deadly infectious disease (Lev 13-14); specifically the government should quarantine the sick (symptomatic), not the healthy (asymptomatic). Scripture is very careful to protect both the rights of the sick person, and those of the healthy, so that things like economic collapse, spikes in rape and suicide etc. don’t overtake society.
In abusing the legislative authority that has been given to him, the governor has disobeyed biblical law and constitutional law to produce his own executive orders. Whether his orders are good ideas or bad ideas, both scripture and the constitution countermand his most significant legislation, so they are void and of no force. It is therefore up to the personal preferences of individuals, and individual businesses and churches to decide how to respond to COVID-19.
Concerning the first issue of the severity of the disease, I am among the people who believe that it is similar in prevalence and severity to the common flu. Further information can be found in the following articles I wrote on my personal website.
My Platform: REPENT
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (Jhn 3:16-19)
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~ Nate Schmolze