When BC premier Gordon Campbell was campaigning for re-election in 2009, the issue of a harmonized sales tax seemed to be a vibrant topic for people in the province. Regardless of its merit or lack thereof, the HST was not favoured by the voting public and thus, neither by Mr. Campbell.

However, after being elected premier, he soon introduced the province’s intentions to join the federal Goods and Services Tax with BC’s own sales tax in what had been and was always known as the HST. Democracies worldwide have always had shady representation, and voters expect their politicians to lie. In fact, we almost always forgive them when they do. But for Premier Campbell, not this time. With relentless media coverage and an unforgiving electorate, Campbell resigned a year later.

Obviously, his administration had been in discussions with the feds for some time, and the merits of combining the two taxes simply hadn’t been messaged well. Campbell had experience with poor popularity before, like advocating for a massive pay raise immediately after he was elected for his second term. And he was sure he could weather this storm. People forget the crimes you commit right after an election as long as you sweeten the pot before the next one. However, the HST showed some cagey manoeuvring by the Harper government, which managed to avoid a single body blow during the melee while Campbell absorbed every punch.

Which makes me wonder what might be happening behind the scenes in Canada today. Does the Trudeau government have some carrot dangling in front of our unpopular premiers, encouraging them to increase COVID protocols? I ask because I’m suspicious of what almost seems like coordination of harsher restrictions from one coast to the other. And while our American neighbours demonstrate the many benefits of easing COVID mandates, our provinces have ramped up measures dramatically across the country to the expected devastating results.

When Manitoba instituted its latest rounds of brutal lockdowns on May 9th, I would argue they probably knew they would rise to the country’s COVID hot spot almost immediately. They did.

British Columbia banned travel within the province, diverting police resources to ensure compliance. As well, indoor dining was forbidden and daily lectures to the province’s residents about their non-compliance were ensured for their own good.

And Alberta stepped up its COVID response by arresting pastors, business owners, and essentially making any form of public protest illegal.

But Western Canada isn’t alone.

In Ontario, the government has made shaking hands against the law, with severe punishment.

Quebec instituted a nightly COVID curfew in early January which has lasted for months.

With 89 active COVID cases and four hospitalizations, Newfoundland tightened its own measures by closing restaurants, bars, gyms, pools and arenas. Seriously.

Of course, liquor stores, pot shops and Costco stores housing hundreds of people shoulder to shoulder is cool. Weddings, funerals, grads and anybody who dies of something other than COVID are thrown in the country’s wastebasket of irrelevance. Our government leaders don’t care when our media keeps putting them on a pedestal for their own sense of virtue signalling.

But the theme consistent throughout Canada from the beginning is the closure of our churches. And all without much of a fight.

We have a handful of churches who have faced massive fines for holding services across the nation, and we all know the abhorrent arrests of Alberta pastors James Coates and Artur Pawlowski. But more cowardly is the whimper from our pastoral leaders who bow to the 90-foot gold statue of Nebuchadnezzar on the CBC or displayed prominently on the podiums of their provincial leaders. Or the Christians celebrating the mistreatment of Coates and the Pawlowski brothers after their incarceration. And for what?

Each denomination has its own make-up which differentiates it from the other. But we are all one body working together to represent God. In fact, 1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” Well, perhaps we’ve outgrown that part of the Bible? Clearly, some argue yes.

Now we’re at odds within the church, and with each other, angry because of masks or our belief about in-person worship. For those who still tune in to online services, how much are we learning about today’s spiritual fight or the hypocrisy among our leaders? After all, Jesus confronted it constantly in his messaging, demonstrating the precious need to educate his listeners to the many crises at hand.

Yet, this weekend we’re continuing our series in the book of James or whatever irrelevant message we’ll preach as most of our pastors pretend everything is normal when everything absolutely isn’t.

And why wouldn’t they? Many churches have applied for the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy, the Canada Emergency Business Account, or the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy. All three programs are designed to assist non-profits during the COVID lockdowns.

And when the government is giving you money to pay your rent and your salary, how eager are you to criticize the hand which feeds you?

But as more Christians continue to grow apathetic toward their faith because worship and fellowship with other believers have been denied, this serves our government better. The more you remove God from the hearts of the voter, the more the gap is filled with a need for the government instead.

Hebrews 10:25: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”

1 Timothy 2:8: “Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.”

The Bible commands us to gather, sing and pray together. The media has succeeded in convincing many of us this is not true, and we make excuses to ignore God now. And we actually believe we’re doing the right thing while praising our governments for keeping churches closed and leaving the unsaved alone and in exile. That’s on us. And we should be ashamed.

I had the privilege to attend a church in person recently and heard the testimony from a man who was baptized the week before. His emotional story included not only finding this church, which had and continues to have the courage to remain open despite what BC’s God-hating, elected leaders demand. But also through this church, he found salvation in Christ and gave a public declaration of his faith and commitment to Jesus. Incredibly inspiring!

GraceLife Church in Edmonton, despite receiving condemnation from Christian leaders throughout Canada, has influenced dozens from different faith backgrounds, those who abandoned Christianity, and those who were atheists to accept Christ as saviour during the past year. Praise God!

For more than a year now, I put church elders and pastors on the spot and ask: “Since churches were closed last March, how many people have found salvation in Christ through your church? Is it plus or minus zero?” The answer is always zero, although nobody takes into account those who could care less about God anymore and have fallen away, which technically falls into the minus category. Another victory for the government, and a hard-hitting question for pastors when they’re on the judgment seat.

My salary does not depend on the freewill giving of a congregation, so I don’t know the pressure a pastor feels when balancing more than just the Sunday sermon. But I think I finally understand Revelation 21:8, formerly a baffling verse but in context to today’s gutlessness, is now clear: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.”

Have the federal Liberals encouraged the provinces to tighten up and enforce more restrictions, and continue to punish churches and those who turn to God? I don’t know, but my previous post highlights the significant efforts the Trudeau administration has made to single Christians out, vilify and criminalize our beliefs.

And that leaves our pastors and clergymen to advocate for us, counsel us and teach us. But you aren’t. So, for the love of Jesus, pastors, please lead your sheep.