Some churches are, I suppose, utterly worthy of the epithets "toxic" and even "cultic." Mind you, those terms should never be thrown around lightly, though they often are. But when something is deserved, it is deserved.
A church in the Northeast is making news of late, mostly because an internal memo was leaked online by former members. This church has always been a bit overbearing, but they have now clearly moved into cultic territory. The memo said, "It has come to our attention that some of you, our members, have been disseminating views that run contrary to what our prophets have spoken. This will not, under any circumstances, be allowed to continue. From this point forward, all spoken, written and especially online communications must be pre-approved by our newly established Prophetic Communication Board. Anything you communicate to others will be screened and, if necessary, corrected before it is allowed to go out. Any communication that in any way sidesteps the Prophetic Communication Board will result in discipline."
I hope that shocks and angers you. I hope it also makes you glad not to be a part of such a so-called "church."
The church at Corinth was probably the most disjointed church in the entire New Testament. The members were arguing, saying all kinds of different things, spouting various opinions. And look at how "overbearing" Paul was in dealing with it:
From 1 Corinthians 1:10: Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Paul said, "I beseech you." That basically means, "Please, I am asking you this very sweetly; please start getting on the same page in what you say." Paul was an apostle, the most authoritative office the church has ever known, and he had to resort to asking people nicely to please get on the same page. In other passages, he went so far as to instruct the church to reject heretics. But never, ever was there some shadowy board set up to monitor, correct and punish unapproved communications. The fact that some church is doing just this should scare people to death.
By the way, the "church" I am talking about is the United States of America, with its newly created Disinformation Governance Board, headed by the prophetess Nina Jankowicz.
For a very long time, thanks to a wonderful little thing called the First Amendment, our God-given right to free speech has never really been seriously challenged. But now, it seems that our current administration is much more apt to follow Orwell's "1984" as a guide than the Constitution and Bill of Rights. And as believers, who have enjoyed the benefits that liberty and freedom in America have given us, such as the ability to evangelize the lost and speak out against sin, that should trouble us greatly.
According to the New York Post, the DHS Secretary was asked in an interview on CNN if this new entity would monitor American citizens. Mayorkas responded, "No. The board does not have any operational authority or capability. What it will do is gather together best practices in addressing the threat of disinformation from foreign state adversaries from the cartels and disseminate those best practices to the operators that have been executing in addressing this threat for years."
Well now, that politispeak makes me feel better, how about you? It will just (wink, nod) be used on "foreign state adversaries and cartels." And since we don't have any entities already tasked to handle that, like, say, the CIA, NSA, FBI, etc., that makes good sense (Sarcasm).
Mayorkas went on to say that he believed prophetess Jankowicz is "utterly objective." To be blunt, she is not, and even if she were, it would make no difference at all. None of us should be willing to accept government oversight and correction and even discipline for speech that Big Brother (or, in this case, Big Sister) does not like. For a pretty large chunk of the last 2,000 years, believers in Christ have been persecuted and even put to death for "unapproved speech," and therefore, I am unwilling to cede so much as a centimeter of ground on this one. Today's supposedly narrow focus on foreign entities and cartels will be about as stationary and unmoving as the 1% income tax rate brought about by the Revenue Act of 1913.
It is probably no surprise to anyone who has read my writings that I am a conservative and generally, but not always, vote Republican. And looking ahead to the likely red tsunami coming in the next couple of election cycles, it would be easy for me to say, "Fine, set up that board; you won't like it so well when our side is in charge of it!" But I will never do that. I don't care which side holds the levers of power, this is a wicked, horrible, dystopian idea, and I will defend the left against its existence and use just as quickly as I will the right.
Or, as Glinda the Good Witch told the Wicked Witch of the West (Wing), "Be gone! You have no power here."
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at wordofhismouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.