Kirk Pulls Publicity Stunt. Social Media Falls For It: No Religious Liberties Were Harmed During The Filming Of This Commercial

There are places where religious liberties are being trampled, where Christians (and members of other religions) are not free to gather and to worship God according to Scripture or conscience. In such places people face arrest or worse simply for gathering to worship. According to the United States State Department, the worst places in the world for religious liberty are: Comoros, Russia, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Sudan. They also “designated al-Nusra Front, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qa’ida, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Khorasan, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern.” Further, though they are not named in this report, it is certain that China is engaged in mass suppression of religious liberties (including the forced imprisonment of 1,000,000 Uighur Muslims). Saudi Arabia has long been a source of concern for its ruthless oppression of Christianity. In the USA, on an entirely different scale, Christians have legitimate concerns about the degree to which the state of California is willing to disregard the first-amendment rights of religious congregations in their fight against Covid-19. Moscow, ID is not on anyone’s list of places about which to be concerned about religious liberty. It is home, however, to a large and aggressive socio-political and religious movement led by a colorful personality. It is known locally, in Moscow as “The Kirk,” after its original and somewhat pretentious name. The congregation is now known as Christ Church. The leader of this movement is a theonomist, who believes that the state should enforced the Mosaic judicial laws of the Old Testament, Christian Reconstructionist, who looks forward to a coming social collapse out of which will arise phoenix-like a “reconstructed” Christian society which enforces those judicial laws. These convicted are undergirded by a their postmillennial eschatology, which anticipates the future Christianization of much of the world. Their leader is also leader in the self-described “Federal Vision” theology, which confesses that every baptized person receives all the benefits of Christ (e.g., election, justification, union with Christ, adoption) provisionally and retains for final justification by sufficient cooperation with grace. He also been the focus of criticism from without and from his his own denomination for a series of pastoral scandals among which involved a pedophile and a rapist. In one episode, he conducted the wedding of a pedophile to a young woman of the congregation. That union produced a child to which the pedophile has confessed, to the court, a sexual attraction. The rape victim, Natalie Greenfield, was 13 when she was victimized by a student in one of the movement’s schools, in Moscow. She tells her story here. Conservative columnist Rod Dreher criticized the leader of the Kirk for his handling of these episodes.

Gabe Rench is a deacon at Christ Church and the owner and co-host of a controversial media company in Moscow—this is the outfit that produced a video trailer in which an orthodox Baptist lawyer and laywoman, Rachael Denhollander, was presented in silhouette, in B-roll footage, while a voice over warns of “demons.” He is also a candidate for political office in Moscow. According to the local paper, the city has an ordinance requiring people to keep social distance when outside and, if that is not possible, to wear a mask. Yesterday, the leader of the movement along with Rench and others staged a publicity stunt in which they defied the order to keep social distance or wear a mask. This was an intentional move on their part designed to push the police to arrest them. Had their intent been to gather to sing Psalms, keeping social distance, they could have done so. They chose not to do so. No civil authority prevented the members and leadership of the Kirk from singing the psalms and praying. The Kirk has been met unhindered for Lord’s Day worship.

Why were a few of the 200 detained or arrested? According to the local reporter,

Rench, a Moscow Republican running against incumbent Moscow Democrat Tom Lamar in November’s election, was one of five people cited by Moscow police for suspicion of being in violation of Moscow’s mask/social distancing order, according to Moscow Police Chief James Fry. Of the five cited, two also were arrested for suspicion of resisting or obstructing an officer. The fifth, Rench, was arrested but not charged with allegedly refusing to identify himself to police, according to Fry. Fry said the officer who arrested Rench knew who he was but that Rench refused to provide his identification after the officer requested it. Fry said none of the five cited were wearing masks or social distancing.

This is civil disobedience not religious persecution. They could have sung six feet apart and all would have been fine. They chose to defy the order to make a point. That is their right as Americans and part of a hallowed tradition in this country. Civil disobedience also comes at a cost to which anyone who participated in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s can attest. The two arrests were for resisting an officer. That is ungodly, criminal behavior which is condemned in God’s Word.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience (Rom 13:1–5, ESV).

The police officers of Moscow, ID are charged by law and duty with keeping the peace. Members of the movement chose to protest a law they find unjust, which is their right as Americans, but there is no right to resist or obstruct officers. Were it BLM or Antifa members doing the same one may be sure that there would have been no little tut-tutting in Bucer’s Coffee House Pub, the local Kirk hangout. Nothing about refusing to produce identification, for which Rench was arrested, accords with Romans 13. When Polycarp (c. AD 160) was arrested as an old man (86 years old), purely for the sake of his Christian profession, he cooperated with the cops. He was so godly that they were ashamed that their captain had ordered them to arrest him. When they came, he asked for time to pray and then he fed them. He prayed for them. He went along peacefully and did not resist in the slightest, even though he was on his way to his martyrdom.

Those who follow the local scene know that this is just one of a series of episodes (e.g., this protest) part civil disobedience, part political theater, involving Rench and other members of the Kirk. The stunt was intended to fit a narrative and to generate outrage via social media. Todd Starnes, formerly a Fox News personality, took the bait and tweeted his outrage about religious persecution in Moscow, not Russia but Idaho, in America. That was quickly followed by more outrage, drawing more eyeballs and generating more revenue for Twitter and BigSocMedia. We may suppose that Rench will now get facetime, as they say in TV, in conservative social and mass media to fuel the outrage machine.

You, Dear Reader, now know better. Keep calm and carry on.

(HT: Jules Diner)


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  1. Gabe just announced that he’s booked a slot on one of the Fox talking-head shows tonight. And there it is. He got what he wanted and the outrage machine got what it wanted.

  2. Clearly Doug blew it big time. Forget City Hall and the posture of a pious hymn sing. If he had his minions demonstrate in favor of Black Lies Matter Burn, Loot, Murder and the fascist Antifa and burn a few overturned patrol cars in the parking lot, if not the Moscow Police Station itself, all would have been fine. Portland would have been calling, Kamala would approve and the NYTimes would have done a feature story, if not interview. White supremacy/racism IS the social disease of our day and needs to be exterminated ruthlessly, even in Idaho. (OK, OK they’re getting a little carried away in S. Africa with all the ‘Kill the white man/Boer/farmer’ jazz, but you can’t make an omelet without cracking a few heads.)

    But this is the New AbNormal; the mask hysteria about anti-social distancing is the “scientific” gospel. (Sturgis S.D. verboten, Geo. Floyd funeral essential.) You’re guilty until proven innocent, infectious until tested positive, umm . . . we’re not sure yet. More Bill Gates funded tests needed.

    Long story short. A pox on both sides. Doug is doing what he does best, grandstanding and likewise the magistrate. Yet the horse has done left the barn and the virus has peaked. People need to go back to work and the kids to school. Those who don’t want to go back to church, work or school, are free to stay home.

    IOW maybe let freedom ring instead of all self righteous posturing and authoritarian over reactions and panics. There is nothing new under the sun and that includes election year viruses.

  3. Wow Dr. Clark. I don’t know how you do it. I posted a response and people are coming out of the woodwork telling me I’m a leftist and that Wilson and co. are 100% justified and standing up for righteousness! Crazy times! Thanks for this post.

  4. thank you for this summary. I was having a hard time putting all my thoughts to page and did not have the time to chase other rabbits. One thing I would have added – the berating of the police; the shaming of them – was cowardly, hurtful (they have jobs to perform and incomes to maintain), and counterintuitive – if you support police don’t waste their time by getting arrested on purpose imo.

  5. I second Rev. Crawford’s comments (above) in appreciation of this article, as well as his comments regarding the Kirk’s behavior toward law enforcement. I continue to be amazed by the quiet composure of many LEOs in the face of all sorts of berating, including the twisting of Scriptures in their faces.

    I’ve seen your article shared quite a bit the past 24hrs. Some of us are sharing outside of social media (by email/text) as well. Ignoring the Kirk fans, the overwhelming response that I’ve heard from Christians was that they’d seen the initial news stories and felt that something was “off”, but they couldn’t quite put their finger on it until reading this explanation on the Heidelblog. In some cases this article has opened the door to discussing the spiritual abuses and false teachings of the denomination that was involved in this stunt.

    Now, the popular response from Kirk fans to any criticism of the flash Psalm sing is, “What would Daniel do?” (referring to the “Daniel moment” that Mr. Rench was “offering” the officers during his arrest). Dr. Clark, I’d love to hear your response to the “what would Daniel do”, because I suspect it would be far more to-the-point than my own gentle reply. I’m personally just appalled that anyone would compare a mask mandate to what Daniel and his friends faced.

    • Hi Becky,

      Thanks for this.

      The Daniel question assumes what it has to prove (begging the question, which seems to be a popular fallacy among the Kirkers, which suggests that their classical ed program may not be all it’s cracked up to be), namely that they are, in this case, Daniels.

      They aren’t.

      They are not being called to disobey God. They are being called, by God’s civil minister, to show some consideration for their neighbors. This seems to be a challenge.

      Are the Kirkers being asked to violate God’s moral law? No. In fact, Daniel cooperated with and served a pagan king (without demanding that he implement the Mosaic judicial laws, which means that he wasn’t a theonomist). D. G. Hart has fairly appealed to Daniel as a good example of what it means to live as an exile, in 2 kingdoms. When conscience, formed by the Word, demands us to disobey (Acts 5:29), then disobey we must but does conscience, formed by the Word, demand that we refuse to keep social distance and/or wear a mask while singing in public? I think not.

  6. Dr. Clark, thank you. I just listened to a podcast from a well-known Baptist and came away with the understanding that the police are what is wrong for their obeying human orders instead of God’s. (I was confused to say the least.) As usual, asking the question, “How did the reformed answer this issue from Scripture?” helped immensely in keeping me from falling into the outrage trap. I sincerely thank you for your help.

    • I am not sure I would call it a stunt. The term “stunt” seems to be a preplanned manipulations of events. Listening to the podcast the Apologia radio it seems like Gabe organized the “sing in” as an in your face moment against the mayor’s orders. There may be a different reaction from Christians. That tends to fall under civil disobedience more than a stunt. WWJD?

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