FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
By Akin Ojumu
Grace Productions, a ministry of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California, where Dr John MacArthur serves as the Pastor, has released a new documentary. Titled, “The Essential Church,” the film tells the story of how three pastors, one of whom was Pastor MacArthur, resisted the public health measures instituted to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The film, they claim, “exposes the gross hypocrisy of state and local officials who had ordered houses of worship to shut their doors while permitting deadly, destructive riots to sweep through major cities unchecked.” In their view, resisting the COVID restrictions was a courageous defense of the faith.
A little bit of a disclaimer here. I consider Pastor John MacArthur one of God’s gifts to the present-day Church. His teachings and sermons have contributed to my spiritual growth tremendously. He is one Christian leader for whom I have utmost respect and admiration. That said, as a medical professional involved in COVID-19 therapeutic and vaccine research, I disagree with his stance on the COVID restrictions.
Not only did Pastor MacArthur defy the lockdown, but he also encouraged his Church members not to wear facemasks or practice social distancing during Church gatherings. In addition, he promoted the scientifically debunked idea that the body’s natural immune mechanisms offer greater protections against COVID than the vaccines and treatments.
On August 29, 2021, Pastor MacArthur admitted, for the very first time, that himself and his wife, Patricia, as well as members of Grace Community Church contracted COVID during the Church’s defiance against public health measures instituted to stop the spread of the deadly virus. In his remarks, Pastor MacArthur acknowledged that he and his wife got sick for a couple of weeks but eventually got better.
Curiously, this admission came after Grace Community Church had already reached a settlement agreement with the State of California and LA County in their lawsuit from which the Church was paid a combined total of $800,000 by the two governmental authorities.
Although Pastor MacArthur claimed that there was no evidence of “outbreaks and deaths, and things like that” that can be traced back to Grace Community Church, it’s unclear how he arrived at that conclusion. Without a rigorous scientific enquiry, it’s impossible to determine how many lives were needlessly lost because of Pastor MacArthur-led rebellion against the COVID restrictions.
And even more so, just because Pastor MacArthur and his wife recovered – thankfully, I might add – from COVID after a couple of weeks, doesn’t mean other people were that lucky. Since 2020, COVID-19 has killed more than 7.3 million people worldwide, including more than one million people in the US. These figures do not include the over 6 million US hospitalizations, and the pain and anguish that those infected with the virus have suffered and continue to suffer from the effect of long COVID.
For Pastor MacArthur to then make a movie about how he led the resistance against scientifically valid and necessary public health measures instituted to save human lives is disappointing to me. The Essential Church movie diminishes the excruciating agony and sense of loss that many families, like mine, who lost loved ones to COVID-19 feel.
As a Christian who believes in the authority, inerrancy, and infallibility of Scripture, I totally agree with Pastor MacArthur that from now till the return of Christ, the Church will face fierce opposition from Satan acting through the agencies of secular authorities and people whose hearts are given over to lawlessness.
However, I disagree with him that COVID-19 lockdown was an attack specifically designed to target the Church. Certainly, there are legitimate battles that must, and will, be fought by the Church, the COVID-19 lockdown wasn’t one of them. The COVID restrictions saved lives. To deny that fact is to engage in obfuscation.
And to even feature characters such as Jeanna Ellis and Scott Atlas in the movie, two individuals who have been discredited and censured by their own professional colleagues, makes me question the real motive behind the movie. The message it sends is that The Essential Church is all about advancing a conspiratorial narrative and not necessarily about telling the truth or preparing the Church for the real battle ahead.
As far as I'm concerned, this movie does not advance the cause of Christ and it does not glorify God. It is an unfortunate distraction from the real battle against the kingdom of darkness.
Nonetheless, my respect and admiration for John MacArthur stand. He has been a blessing to my life, and I love him dearly.