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Pastor Tony Spell: Why I Love Him

fire spreading rapidly

Getty Images/Yuriy Bashkirev

“He knows God wouldn’t let the good folks at Life Tabernacle Church die when their only sin is their desire to demonstrate their love of God. God doesn’t act this way, does He?”

I’ve written about Pastor Tony Spell in a prior post, but I love this guy and his Life Tabernacle Church so much that I wanted to celebrate him again. He deserves this for one simple reason: he talks the talk and walks the walk no matter the cost to his parishioners.  

He has been regularly bringing 1,000 people to worship with him in Baton Rouge despite Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ barring of gatherings of over 50 people.

“If they close every door in this city, then I will close my doors,” CNN quotes pastor Spell as saying, “But you can’t say the retailers are essential, but the church is not. That is a persecution of the faith.”

I’m not sure about this being a persecution of Christianity, but he does have a point: if gun stores are considered essential businesses (and gun sales are surging almost as fast as the virus), why not churches? If it is okay to exempt gun stores that cater to people’s fears, why is it not okay to exempt religious institutions that cater to people’s hopes? Yes, of course I know that cramming 1,000 people together under a tent, working them into a religious frenzy, and engaging in the laying on of hands is just begging the virus to spread, but the question about why gun shops and not churches is still valid.

Here is my guess: when push comes to shove, fear trumps faith, and guns trump God. Which is again why I love Pastor Tony. His faith is in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. He knows God wouldn’t let the good folks at Life Tabernacle Church die when their only sin is their desire to demonstrate their love of God. God doesn’t act this way, does He? Well, maybe you should read your Bible: 

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to His command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord (Leviticus 10: 1-2).

The “sin” of Nadab and Abihu was they loved God too much. Moved by that love, they went to honor God outside the prescribed times of worship. And God murdered them. God can be a stickler for rules, and if the rule is to stay home and self-isolate, then maybe going to church isn’t a good idea.

Pastor Spell doesn’t worry about this, because he doesn’t see coronavirus as a religious issue. In fact he has said publicly that the virus is “politically motivated.” Again, thank you for speaking your truth, Pastor.

But what does this mean? Does he think Democrats created the virus to lessen the number of Republican voters in November, knowing that they would be less inclined to stay at home and hence more likely to get sick during the pandemic than Democratic voters? Does he think the virus was designed to skip over Democrats and strike only Republicans the way the Angel of Death passed over the houses of Jews in the Exodus story? Or does he think that governments are going to use the virus to weaken churches in their effort to establish a faith-free secular humanism?

I don’t know. What I do know is that there are millions of Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hindus around the world who are placing their trust in Allah, Adonai, Christ, and Krishna rather than the false gods of science and reason.

God bless them. I hope they are right. I suspect they are doomed.    

Fan of Rabbi Rami? Check out our podcast, Essential Conversations, hosted by Rabbi Rami himself. 


Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. In the print version of our magazine, he has an advice column, “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,” addressing reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more. His latest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art. Rabbi Rami hosts our podcast, “Essential Conversations.”

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