In my journey through the Bible I’ve reached the First Book of Maccabees. This morning I read Chapter 4, which describes how Judas Maccabeus liberated Jerusalem from the occupying Macedonian forces. The invading government’s first move was to desecrate the temple and ban worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem. The first thing the children of Israel did upon retaking their city was to rededicate that temple. First Things First for the invaders was to destroy the temple, and First Things First for the Jews was to rededicate it. Without “cult” or right worship of God, without the cultivation of a higher purpose, the people had no “culture,” no communal identity or means of social cohesion.
The first task of an invading foreign power, or a revolutionary domestic power, is to cancel communal worship. The French Revolution replaced Christianity with the “Cult of Reason.” The Soviet Revolution dynamited churches and killed almost all Orthodox priests. The Nazis sent clergy to concentration camps. The Chinese Communist Party has rewritten Christian bibles and torn down crosses in any churches left standing. To replace the existing social order in America, a political movement must shut down worship services. It will allow some communal gatherings, which it will closely monitor, but it will say that, for our own safety, we cannot gather for worship. Religious leaders may object that religious services are safer than many other permitted gatherings, and that will work for a time. But if a totalitarian state is to reach its objective, it must sooner or later ban worship services. From the Assyrian invasion of Israel in 722 BC to the Chinese government today, that is the way it works.
Let us gather for Thanksgiving while the government still permits it, and let us celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas while it is still legal. Let us also pray and work to preserve freedom of worship in America. Take a cue from the Jewish people, who have been through so much over 3000 years. Light a candle in thanksgiving to God, and in supplication for His holy protection.