Equality Health Politics Scotland the Church

Should Churches Become Nightclubs? – CT

This weeks article in Christian Today 

Why is the Scottish government telling people to wear masks in churches but not nightclubs?

(Photo: Unsplash/Waldemar Brandt)

The Covid-19 crisis is a life-changing event. Those of us who live through it will look back with I suspect a degree of dread and a sense of wonder as to how things got so crazy. One tiny virus managed to disrupt the whole world and cause economies to shrink, families to change and even governments to decree what we can and cannot do in worship.

Many of us have learned a whole new vocabulary – ‘social distancing’, ‘masked up’, ‘let’s do Zoom’. Would that we had also learned the language of humility and repentance.

Governments have had a difficult time, and you cannot but empathise with the almost impossible task they have been faced with. But sometimes they don’t make it easy for themselves. Some of their decisions are hard to understand and respect. And when we lose respect we often lose the incentive to follow their rules – especially when the rules just seem arbitrary and nothing to do with ‘the science’.

Take, for example, the Scottish government’s recent decision to move ‘beyond level zero’ last week. Level zero does not apparently mean zero restrictions. Even moving into negative territory does not mean that. Because we have been told that although most restrictions will go, it is still necessary for masks to be worn in shops and churches. However not in clubs.

Apparently the science tells us that 500 young people (who are the least likely to be vaccinated) dancing, singing, shouting in a sweaty mass in a night club are less likely to get Covid than a couple of dozen mostly vaccinated older people sitting in the wide spaces of their half empty church! Who knew that Covid was so discriminating!

Likewise we hear that Rangers and Celtic will be able to play in front of capacity crowds of 50,000 people packed together – but churches are dangerous places. Of course this has nothing to do with ‘the science’ and everything to do with what the government thinks it can get away with. There is almost no chance of being able to enforce a mask mandate in a club, and every chance that church leaders will mildly acquiesce in whatever the government decrees.

Anyway, why does it matter? I have seen church leaders who just simply say that the government knows best and are just following the science. Others make the more valid point that there are those in their congregations who have got so used to seeing the mask as a protection, that they are frightened of being with people who are not wearing them. And still others say it’s such a small thing, what does it matter?

To which the answer is simple – if it is such a small thing, then why does the government make it such a big thing? The answer is largely psychological. They want us to be afraid – so that we will be both cautious and compliant.

And masks do matter in public gatherings. Our faces are a primary part of our communication. There is a world of difference between preaching to the unmasked and preaching to those whose faces are covered. Singing is much more difficult with covered faces – as is social interaction.

But the main issue here is simply one of consistency and freedom. When the government tells clubbers they don’t need to mask up, but churchgoers do, then they are discriminating. All are not being treated equally. The government has already lost a court case to Scottish church leaders when a judge ruled that it was unconstitutional for the government to make in-person services a criminal offence.

Perhaps the Scottish churches need to revisit the courts to ensure that they, and they alone, determine what they will do in churches – and to prevent churches being ordered by the State to live by a different standard to others.

It is clear that once governments get a taste of being able to order churches on how to behave and what to do – it’s a taste which will quickly become an appetite. What is next? Vaccine passports? Will churches be required to exclude people from public services if they have not been vaccinated? Some churches may want to do that – although the idea that Jesus wants a church where no lepers are welcome is a strange one.

But to be told by the government who may, and who may not, attend the church crosses way over the line. And why stop there? Why not tell us what we should believe? Tell us, for example, that the Christian teaching on marriage is ‘hate speech’ and that we need to change our teaching to suit the doctrines of the State?

The Scottish Church of course has had to deal with the encroachments of the State several times before – the Covenanters in the 17th Century, the patronage crisis that led to the Disruption in 1843. My favourite example is of Andrew Meville standing before King James and telling him: “And now, Sire, I must tell you that there are two kingdoms—the kingdom of Christ, which is the church, whose subject King James VI is, and of whose kingdom he is not a head, nor a lord, but a member; and they whom Christ hath called, and commanded to watch over his church, and govern his spiritual kingdom, have sufficient power and authority from him so to do, which no Christian king nor prince should control or discharge, but assist and support, otherwise they are not faithful subjects to Christ.”

Can we envision church leaders today saying the same to Boris Johnson or Nicola Sturgeon?! Do today’s church leaders have the stomach or strength to stand up to the State – or will they just be its willing instruments?

Of course there is another route churches could go. Perhaps we should designate ourselves as nightclubs? Not being my scene I had to do a wee bit of research – but lo and behold, there is such a genre as Christian electric house music. I can imagine your local pastor shouting ‘God is in the House!’ The idea is ridiculous, but not quite as ridiculous as the government rules that drove us here! It’s time the church united and said ‘enough’.

David Robertson works as an evangelist with churches in Sydney, Australia. He blogs at The Wee Flea.

PS.  Just to make it clear.  I have been asked would you insist on people wearing masks in your congregation if you were back in Scotland.  The answer is an unequivocal no!   At what point do you make a stance?  When the government is being discriminatory and having a laugh – its time to make a stand.  If all were required I would reluctantly go along with it but when they are doing away with the most effective measure, social distancing, and allowing people in clubs to sing, dance, shout etc without masks – then that’s a step too far! I would wear a mask if people around me were uncomfortable with me not wearing..but not for the government.  Don’t encourage tyranny- even in the small things!

For an example of Christian nightclub music listen to this weeks Quantum – Quantum 158 – Its the End of the World as we Know it – including Belarus, Lockdowns, Auschwiz, Alison Krauss and much more.

Would Jesus Wear A Mask?  – CT

John Lennon’s hopeless humanist hymn, “Imagine”, is the wrong song for the Olympics


  1. We need to wake up, that’s for sure as masks are the tip of the iceberg. The church may be facing the prospect of checking peoples vaccination status before allowing them to enter the building. The UK government will probably be tempted to at least try this on, spurred on by just how compliant much of the church has been to date.

    However, in such a scenario, the church will cease to be the moment they ask.

    Instead let’s hope we do the right thing, whilst there is still time. People like Jamie Franklin have been a leading light on this issue, with the Vaccine Passport Open Letter. It needs church leaders to pull together in the same direction.

  2. There have been similar contradictory and illogical edicts by state governments in the USA.

    1. There have also been church leaders in the USA who have either denied the virus or preached that Christ would keep them safe. They are either dead, very sick or shown to be rather foolish.

      1. WHat does that have to do with this article? Why such extremism? The choice is not between denying the virus exists or accepting every dictate the government makes.

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more, David. Enough is enough! I am already seeking legal advice about this issue and we need influential church leaders to come together and challenge this, as was done previously. I believe it is time we actively resisted these restrictions on our freedom to worship.

  4. How about Robert Bruce to James VI?

    The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is now roaring, in the voice of His Gospel, and it becomes all the petty kings of the earth to be silent!

    On the other hand, in England, Elizabeth I managed to keep the puritans of her day in check by getting them to expend their energies over the relatively minor matter of what they were to wear in the pulpit. Do not underestimate the sneakiness!

  5. In England, in the town where I live the government do not require people in churches to wear masks or social distance anymore. Unfortunately every church is self restricting themselves to the wearing of masks, social distancing and a lot of them even require you to give your details to ‘track and trace’ and to booking your place to go to a meeting. I am at a loss to understand why churches are still doing this. It’s as though they want to carry on with their ‘new normal’ or maybe it is fear of disease and dying. Now in England you are free to not wear masks anymore though loads do and Christians mask up in churches but when outside of the church they don’t wear them in general. Maybe I’m missing something here but it seems to me the church is fearful and it is not going into the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ but prefer to huddle together in their self imposed lockdown. No wonder hardly anyone comes to know Christ where I live with the spirit of fear they display. If there is a need for self imposed lock down and I don’t understand I would like to know.

  6. Well said David! We have just had to extract from an Evangelical Church attached to the FIEC (Federation of Independent Evangelical Churches) which have been going along with Government throughout this so called Pandemic, with absolutely no appeal to the Bible or central Christian teaching doctrine & practice. Sadly, this is just symptomatic of various other Doctrinal & Discernment questions which have bedevilled the movement.
    Martyn Lloyd-Jones & A.W. Tozer warned of the demise of the Evangelical movement about 50 years ago, and we are sadly seeing their warnings fulfilled in our days & times as this Movement follows the demise of all the other Christian Denominations.
    Jesus & the Bible clearly warns of this situation immediately preceding His glorious return. Only those with the courage & vision to see what is going on & resist the comfort complacency & compromise the church has fallen into will be able to survive & be found standing firm on The Rock when He returns.
    There is no sign of any willingness to repent of their errors, or of their flocks being misled. May our Lord remember mercy in the midst of judgement.

  7. At the Mass I go to on Sunday nobody wears a mask. Admittedly it’s a big church and a small congregation.

  8. Truly upside down thinking, perhaps you need to return to Scotland to challenge the madness that allows football matches and nightclubs to ignore the need for masks and distancing?

  9. Thanks for your article David – I agree entirely. Masks have never been mandatory at Knox Church Perth and we will not – ever – make a person’s vaccine/medical status a pre-requisite for attendance in the house of God. I personally believe (both from what I’ve read and from what I’ve experienced) that masks do more harm than good (both physically and psychologically). What’s more, they create a real sense of oppression in the very place where there ought to be visible expressions of rejoicing in our Risen and Victorious Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ! No need then for the church to become a nightclub. Just recognise that Christ alone is her King and Head, act like men and say no to continual government overreach and increasing totalitarianism.

  10. The lack of consistency with the UK Govt just does not cut it. The Animal (Sentience) Welfare Bill does not cut it. To consider the suffering of molluscs, but have no firm policy on analgesia for foetal pain during abortions, would shock earlier generations. Woke is at work visibly and invisibly, with the latter far more dangerous.

  11. I have refused to wear a mask for some months now. My reasons are threefold.

    First medical. There is little or no evidence that masks have any significant effect on the spread of respiratory masks. The virus has spread just as efficiently in countries with strict masking and lockdown mandates as in those with less strict or no mandates. True a well fitted high specification medical mask worn for three or so hours then disposed of will reduce droplet spread (which is why surgeons wear them). But viruses are spread by aerosol not droplets. A Covid 19 viral particle measures 1×10 to the minus 9 mm. You may as well wear goalpost netting over your face.

    Second psychological. It is now well recognised that in the UK the government, based on the advice of SAGE promoted fear as a means of coercing compliance, and the media, BBC, ITV and SKY were fully complicit in this. But once such a thing is started it becomes “run away” and is impossible to stop. Millions are terrified of catching and dying from Covid, even though 99.7% of those who actually catch it will recover. A leading London psychiatrist has estimated that 20% of the population have “Covid anxiety syndrome”. There have been huge mental health issues, including children who are presenting with depression and anxiety at an unparalleled level. The wearing of masks simply reinforces the fear factor. It is therefore not “kind” to carry on with something which is so deeply wrong (I would say evil). We will never recover if we persist in the wearing of masks. As Solzhenitsyn said, “Live not by lies”. And it is lies that we have been fed.

    Third spiritual. Scripture tells us that the only fear we should have is “the fear of The Lord”. St. Paul writes in 2Cor3 “And we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory are being changed into his likeness, from one degree of glory to another. ” God did not create us to hid our faces behind bits of paper cloth. It is deeply damaging spiritually and prevents proper face to face communication. Satan has used Covid and the fear generated by the government to try to break down and destroy churches. We must stand together against this by prayer and worship, and demonstrate that we are not fearfully cowering under our duvets.

    And please don’t say that Christians have a duty to obey the law. If it is contrary to the freedom we have in Christ, then it is not a legitimate law. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”.

    I will not return to any church which requires me to wear a mask.

    1. Well said, Tom. See my comments above on having to leave an Evangelical church for all the reasons you mention, plus quite a few others; NOT on “debatable matters”, BUT on central aspects of Christian Biblical teaching doctrine & practice. The obfuscation has been most disturbing. Every blessing, David.

  12. My understanding is that the Church of Scotland and the Free Church have raised this very issue with the Scottish Government.
    The interesting point is what the Government’s reaction will be. My expectation is that they will be politely told to get lost. At best, the Government will offer them a fig leaf of advice they will procure from one of their expert scientists. The influence the churches thought they had acquired, by previously colluding with the Government to declare church attendance illegal, will be shown to be a one way street. The Scottish Government will happily string them along as long as they are getting what they want.
    That would leave the question of how will the churches then react. I suspect the answer is that they wont. Other than to grasp the fig leaf and continue to court the favour of their political masters.

  13. Believers have missed a real opportunity to stand distinctively and show the reality of the gospel. Churches have been too willing to shut themselves down and deny our basic humanity, which God has created in His own image. We could have shown the true life of the body. What a testimony that would have been.
    And the wearing of masks simply feeds fear. It says, “Are you scared? I’m scared too.” We need to show the alternative, that it is possible to live as normal human beings, with normal social interaction, and that is by so many miles the better path. We have desperately needed leadership on this, from both a spiritual and a secular perspective, and it has been so sadly missing.

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