Is This the Sifting of the Church? :: By Jennifer Laufenberg

Government Inquiry and the Auspices of Safety

Several weeks ago, I was surprised to learn that if a person could qualify under both a medical and religious exemption, a religious exemption was the better choice. A lawyer working on behalf of an organization reasoned that promoters of the Covid injection could argue that taking the jab would make one medically “safer” than forgoing it. Hence, medical exemptions would become more difficult to get. Therefore, if a person’s religious beliefs forbade him or her from taking the injection, well, then a religious exemption was the way to go.

I took comfort in that but wondered how long before a company or organization said to the religious—Prove it.

And that has already begun.

At Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, a healthcare worker was recently denied a religious exemption. In denying the request, the hospital cited a failure to determine whether or not the exemption was “based upon a sincerely held religious belief” or “whether there exists an actual conflict between [the worker’s] religious beliefs and NCH’s vaccine policy.” In filing for the religious exemption at this hospital, the worker was required to disclose the following: the length of time the person had held the stated religious beliefs, reasons why the religious beliefs prevented the person from taking the injection, and finally, whether or not that person had taken previous vaccines. As the writer, Andrea Widburg, noted in her article, this was “a religious values inquisition.”

In our home Bible study, my husband has begun teaching Matthew 24, perhaps the most famous prophetic passage and, interestingly, Jesus’ longest answer to any question that He was asked. Since Covid-19 began, my husband has consistently said, “This is not going to end. We’re not going back to normal.” His intention was never to frighten but to help people discern the times, “the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). These sorrows Jesus warned about are birth pangs, and as my husband pointed out, understanding this is key to reading the times. We’re not going back no matter how much the government promises or what incentives they offer for a return to normality.

Once birth pangs begin, they don’t end until a woman gives birth. Jesus followed his warning about “the beginning of sorrows” with this: “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted” (verse 9). Strong’s defines afflicted as “pressure” and Thayer’s as “a pressing; pressing together; pressure.” I’ve heard many people say that Americans could never come under persecution like believers in other parts of the world, but I’ve never believed it. The Bible doesn’t offer special protection to Americans, for there is no partiality with God (Deuteronomy 10:17).

Certainly, those of us who are unvaccinated are feeling the pressure. (As of this writing, just over half the American population are fully vaccinated.) Even if we don’t work or are not the breadwinner, we may be wondering how the Lord is going to provide. Though Biden’s new plan will likely come under innumerable lawsuits, that doesn’t mean we are left penalty-free from an impending employer mandate. Job loss is not the only consequence.

United Airlines announced that beginning October 2, employees with religious exemptions will be placed on temporary unpaid leave until “specific safety measures for unvaccinated employees are instituted.” Starting November 1, unvaccinated Delta Airlines employees will get charged $200 a month simply because forgoing the injection presents a “financial risk” to the company. Workers in other organizations may face similar financial penalties, whether that be paying for mandated testing, loss of sick days, or increasing health insurance costs.

Likewise, the pressure is mounting on the younger generation, as sporting events and high school dances are canceled or limited to those who are vaccinated or show proof of a negative test. Shockingly, even religious schools are not immune to inquiring about one’s injection status, with one religious university in our state going so far as to purge students from campus for failure to provide documentation of either a granted exemption or proof of the injection.

In the mid-summer of 2020, the “pandemic” had slowed enough where my husband was pastoring that the government had permitted churches to begin opening, barring they abided by the state-mandated rules. This was no small list, but a pdf file several pages in length that included mandating masks, forbidding food and drink, even forbidding hymnals for fear that they were a source of contamination. Paper printouts of songs were allowed, however, so long as they were disposed of after service.

“If we follow this, we won’t have church,” my husband told me, his consternation at the government’s muscle palpable across the phone. Months later, he was sent an email, this time from the federal government, encouraging him to report any suspicious activity or persons. In another time, this letter would appear strange and tyrannical. Isn’t there a separation of church and state? What about a pastor’s implicit promise of confidentiality? Yet here, the government dictates how a church should be run, and now the government wants pastoral assistance? Of course, all in the name of safety.

Indeed, it does appear problematic for the government that about half the population is resisting the injection. In “Survey: ‘Faith-Based Approaches’ Could Help Convince Millions of Americans to Get COVID-19 Vaccines,” Madeline Carlisle reported on a survey of over 5,600 American adults conducted this year between March 8-30. Of those who attend church and describe themselves as hesitant toward the injection, 44% said that a faith-based approach would positively influence their decision to take the jab. Another 14%, described as resistant, would likewise respond similarly to a faith-based approach.

Robert P. Jones, the CEO and founder of one of the survey groups, Public Religious Research Institute, was hopeful about the use of a faith-based approach in encouraging individuals to get the injection: “we’re going to need every tool in the toolbox…”

Even before Biden’s new OSHA requirement, of which there is no word on religious or medical exemptions, the combination of events, the speed and breadth at which they are happening, and the relative silence of the church brought me to this passage:

“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou are converted, strengthen they brethren. And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me” (Luke 22:31-34).

If Satan could ask to sift Peter, if Satan could influence David to take a census, if Satan can operate “churches” in communist societies where the state is god, what prevents today’s church from being sifted like wheat? Perhaps they already are.

As I was pondering all of these events, I thought about a movie that friends lent us several years ago, The Printing. While the main focus concerns the underground printing and distribution of Bibles in Communist Russia, the movie also tells a tale of two churches: the state-approved church that abides by the government dictates and the underground church.

I think back to that pdf file of government regulations for church openings and that email asking for my husband’s assistance, as though he would take on the role of community or church spy. How long before churches are encouraged to participate in the same act of bifurcation that is spreading through secular society? Maybe even coerced? Think it’s too much? Consider that for a virus with a 99% recovery rate for the vast majority of people, hospitals could apply to receive $50,000 per Covid patient admission. Of course, this second-round payment is $27,000 less than the first round. Consider as well that before the harsh dictates, there were state lotteries, free tuition, free doughnuts, and other incentives offered to get individuals to comply and get injected.

So, what will you say? Jesus said, “And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12).

Jesus stated in Matthew 24 that deception would be a major sign of the end times. Do not be deceived: researchers at the University of California found that boys between 12 and 15 who receive the Covid injection are six times more likely to experience heart complications as a result of the “vaccine” than being hospitalized from the actual virus. Know also that the CDC just changed its definition of a vaccine. As with all things, deception has a purpose.

In Proverbs, Solomon distinguishes between those who fear the Lord and the fools who reject the Lord, thus rejecting wisdom. Solomon then categorizes the latter into different groups: perverse (‘eviyl), foolish (kesiyl), and seducible or naive (pethiy). It is clear that the end of these people will be their own destruction: “Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them” (Proverbs 1:31-32).

As God’s children, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and our redemption is secure, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be enticed away from God’s ways (Proverbs 1:10). This is a time when there is every enticement to abide by the secular narrative in order to assuage uncertainty and fear. It is also a time when many need spiritual and physical healing. Here, too, we can turn to Proverbs: “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones” (Proverbs 3:7-8). Interestingly, this is the only occurrence here of the Hebrew word used for health (riph’uth), and it literally means “healing” to the entire body.

An inquisition doesn’t heal or prevent illness outside of church or inside of church. Rather it feeds on fear, separation, and degradation—the marks of the world. Thankfully, there’s no inquisition at the Father’s gate, no passport to show but a soul unblemished by the shed blood of Christ.