Many pastors are being lionized in Christian circles for resisting ‘Draconian’ Covid-19 pandemic restrictions about crowds, masking and social distancing, heroically putting their congregations’ and neighbors’ health in danger regardless of the personal cost to themselves. But some faith heroes have gone unnoticed in the struggle against government tyranny. This is one man’s story.
The Wittenburg Church bus was stopped, just past the intersection of Main and Jackson streets. Patrolman Brent Jones exited his police car, lights still flashing, at 8:37 a.m. on a Sunday in April, and approached the vehicle.
Driver Vincent Guillar got up from his seat and pulled the lever to open the side door. “What can I do for you officer?” he asked, smiling.
Patrolman Jones looked at him, then at the six school-age kids in the seats behind him.
“You were going 45 in a 30-mile-per-hour zone. I’m afraid I’m gonna have to write you a ticket, sir.”
Driver Guillar scowled. “You say I was speeding? This is government overreach! A violation of my rights to freedom of worship, freedom of conscience and probably a bunch of other freedoms I can’t recall at the moment.”
“Well,” the officer said. “The sign says 30 miles per hour. You were tracked going 45.”
Fuming, Guillar grasped the cold metal handrail tightly.
“The city speed limit is a matter of dispute. I recall that at one council meeting concerning in-town speeds there was quite an argument over this. The sign only reflects the current state of affairs in a constantly changing reality. It’s just a slice of time, sir.”
Guillar waved his hand in the air as his speaking became more agitated, and a bit of spittle landed on officer Jones’ cheek.
“Five minutes from now, that sign could say 75, or there might not even be a sign. The ‘three doubts’ of Hillel show how existential questions can lead to doubt about the nature of reality. Doubt is inherent in the constitution of the human mind, sir. But I ‘doubt’ you understand this concept.”
Officer Jones, hesitated, quietly unsnapping his holster. “I see you are a trained five-point hueristic presuppositionalist, a theologian skilled in textual criticism,” he muttered.
The need to call for backup crossed his mind.
“What I see before me,” Guillar continued, “is a clear example of big government meddling in areas it has no right to! Religious freedom is under attack. We’re clearly being persecuted!”
“You see,” he said, “our freedom of worship extends to include even our busing outreach. We’re taking these children to our Buster Bunny Easter Egg Roll, a sacred liturgy in our Resurrection Sunday celebration. This ‘law’ you refer to can neither restrict nor limit our right – our God given right – to worship the Lord!”
This is getting weird, officer Jones thought.
“Sir, please step out of the bus and put your hands on the hood.”
“Officer, I respect your position, but as a Christian, I cannot comply with your request, as it would mean forfeiting our precious liberties. This is not Communist Russia, Venezuela or California.”
Oh, great, I’ve got a live one, the officer thought. Digging deep into his police training, he pulled out what he could remember about de-escalation.
“Let’s talk this through, sir. The speed limit concerns the safety of the whole community. It was set by representatives you and the rest of the town freely voted into office. When everyone obeys the speed limit, a greater degree of safety is guaranteed. When someone decides it doesn’t apply to them, people get hurt. I’ve seen terrible accidents caused that way. Think of the other drivers, or at least the danger to the children traveling with you.”
Driver Guillar took a step down, still holding the handrail, his knuckles turning white. He was not impressed by this argument. A vein was pulsing on the side of his flushed neck, Jones noticed.
“Yes, I was going 45 miles per hour in order to get these kids to the church on time. The very fact of my ‘speeding’ as you call it was tightly bound to the whole goal and purpose – the telos, if you will – of the trip, which was generated by a spiritual and liturgical authority concerning matters that you – as a state-appointed official wielding a worldly authority – cannot comprehend!”
Clearly agitated, Guillar gasped for the breath to continue. “The entire trip from start to finish is covered, clothed and you might say garmented in the First Amendment rights you are sworn to defend. We will render to Caesar what we must, but this crosses the line!”
He then began to chant: “Church rights now, church rights tomorrow, church rights forever!”
The children, by now, were aware something strange was going on. They retreated to the back of the bus and assumed the “duck and cover” position, the old atomic bomb attack defense posture, still taught to each child during the church’s Happy Homeland Security assemblies at Vacation Bible School.
Officer Jones had heard just about enough.
“And I suppose you’re the guy ‘standing in the church bus door’ to defend illegal speeding? Give me a break!”
So Jones quickly cuffed driver Guillar and placed him under arrest and into the back of his police car. The children’s parents were called. Worship at Wittenburg Church took place that day without incident. And the liberties of conscience, worship and preaching the gospel somehow continued unimpaired, although they did move down the street a bit more slowly.