Standing Firm Under Fire: Part 3
Big Tech and Christian Persecution in America
Part three of a series about how one church’s court case offers an eye-opening view of Big Tech, government overreach, the End Times, and Christian persecution in America
Story by Christmas Beeler
Photos by Josh Larson
The Bible instructs believers to fight the right enemy with the right weapon: to battle the spiritual forces of evil through the weapons of the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit, and prayer. The lengthy legal battle that one Calvary Chapel in northern California has been fighting simply to keep their doors open continues. In fact, a closer look at the case reveals that their suit is likely part of an even longer, larger, invisible battle—the battle for human hearts and souls.
Attendees at Calvary Christian Fellowship (CCF) in San Jose, CA, flock to speak to the pastors after Sunday services. Here, a woman encourages Senior Pastor Mike McClure, who has led the church through a difficult—but fruitful—year and a half fighting to freely worship. Mike is grateful for the prayer support that has sustained his fellowship. He acknowledged that the way to fight the real battle, a spiritual one, is through the power of prayer.
A Spiritual Battle
Calvary Christian Fellowship (CCF) in San Jose, CA, sees no end in sight of their long-fought legal battle to continue meeting and ministering, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled specifically that their county may not prohibit churches from meeting. The church has added some county officials’ names to the defendant list in an effort to find some answers.
Though he is a veteran in First Amendment cases, Advocates for Faith and Freedom (AFF) attorney Bob Tyler has nonetheless been surprised by Santa Clara County’s and lower courts’ treatment of the Calvary Chapel in San Jose. Not only did county officials fine the church millions, but they also called the church’s bank to urge a lien against CCF and sent county workers to interrupt prayer meetings, count heads, and issue fines. In one hearing, Bob found himself having to defend the church’s right to baptize new believers. Earlier this year, Bob commented: “I never thought I’d see a time when a church could be fined [over] $1 million for meeting indoors. … I told the court that I could not believe we live in an era where my clients are being demonized for baptizing in a church. This is unfathomable.”
Asked why a county would pursue a church with such prolonged intensity, Bob surmised, “This is Silicon Valley, the belly of the beast. These technology companies have so much global control and influence—Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, etc.—it’s no secret they are opposed to a Christian worldview. … Here they are [CCF San Jose], in the belly of the beast, doing ministry. I really believe we are dealing with the principalities and powers of darkness, both seen and unseen, that Scripture speaks of.”
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
Pastor Mike teaches on a recent Sunday morning. He and his church have faced strong legal pressure and threats from Santa Clara County for defying orders to either close its doors or impose strict COVID-19 social distancing requirements for the past 20 months. Facing $2.8 million in legal fines for meeting during the pandemic, the church has been represented by Advocates for Faith and Freedom.
Pastor Mike is well aware of the spiritual oppression coming against him and his flock—and he predicts that the battlefield will expand across the country, whether he wins his current court case or not. “I’m in their backyard,” he said, referring to the technology giants of Silicon Valley like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. “Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) basically said a few years back that the Church is unnecessary, and [that] Facebook has taken the place of the Church. That’s their mentality. As pastors and Christians in this country, we need to understand what we’re up against because it is coming to a town near you. This philosophy is being bred in our children, in the next generation,” Mike warned.
As the CCF family continues to meet despite opposition and intimidation, it has grown in numbers and personal faith. Mike believes the spiritual oppression coming against him and his flock will expand across the country. He warned, “As pastors and Christians in this country, we need to understand what we’re up against because it’s coming to a town near you.”
Big Tech as “Community”
Pastor Mike may not be far off the mark. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg went on a 30-state campaign in 2017 touting the benefits of the “global community” on Facebook to meet the needs of those who have left traditional communities like “churches, sports teams, or neighborhood groups” which helped “people feel part of something bigger, that we are not alone.” In his speech at Harvard in May 2017, he concluded, “That’s a lot of people who now need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else.” That year, he announced, “[Connecting people] is so important that we’re going to change Facebook’s whole mission to take this on.” Success came swiftly. Within a year of his campaign, Facebook’s “community groups” users increased from 100 million to 1 billion-plus users—about half their total users, reported Forbes in October of 2018.
Pastor Mike dedicates a baby during a service. Individuals and families were drawn to CCF because it remained open during the pandemic when other churches closed their doors. Each week at CCF, many accept Jesus Christ’s offer of salvation and eternal life.
During the pandemic, Facebook began an aggressive campaign in 2020 to woo faith communities and churches to rely on their platform as part of their essential operations. Many large churches agreed to expand their reach and increase their financial donations by collecting tithes and posting services exclusively on Facebook. This past July, The New York Times reported, “The partnerships reveal how Big Tech and religion are converging. … Facebook is shaping the future of religious experience itself, as it has done for political and social life.”
Big tech wants even more. Now Facebook and other tech pioneers are working together to keep people online for hours in a virtual world resembling a science-fiction novel in order to replace their need for human interaction. As recently as this summer, Mark Zuckerberg announced that plans are in the works to create holographic, virtual- and augmented-reality experiences to give people “a sense of presence”—in essence, replacing the need to physically gather with other people. Part of that vision includes creating comfortable, smaller VR glasses that people can wear to stay connected online throughout the entire day.
Though these openly stated goals and campaigns may seem like paradise on earth to some, Mike is among several conservative and religious leaders who see warning flags.
Two girls play together after a service. Joy abounds at CCF despite persecution.
The Spirit of Antichrist
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. … [E]very spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. 1 John 4:1, 3
Mike is among many believers worldwide who see current events as pointing to End Times events, like the coming of the Antichrist. Mike believes the county’s relentless campaign to close the churches’ doors through heavy fines is a strategic move, part of the enemy’s plan as foretold in the Bible: “It’s a globalist strategy that Scripture tells us about, leading up to [the rule of] an antichrist,” Mike noted. “They want to shut down the Church so they can then be the savior.”
He sees a similar parallel with technology. Though joining a community group on Facebook may seem harmless, Pastor Mike perceives a danger in relying on a website for our God-given need for fellowship: “I think their goal is to take the place of the Church.” He cited Hebrews 10:25’s call to believers, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Mike explained, “We are not to forsake gathering to encourage each other, and going out to [share the Gospel] with the lost world outside … even if there is a [man-made] law or mandate that says you can’t meet. We need to exhort one other even more as we see the Day [of Christ’s return] approaching. I believe that was written for us today. We are seeing His Day approaching; we see the signs of His return.”
Families at CCF enjoy spending time with fellow believers. The church encourages believers of all ages to participate in outreaches like Operation Christmas Child with colorful boxes of gifts for children in need around the world, displayed on the table.
Several Calvary Chapel pastors—including Pastor Mike, Pastor Rob McCoy in Ventura County, CA; and Ken Graves of CC Bangor, ME; who are all involved in legal disputes over the freedom to worship freely within the walls of their churches—believe that God has provided protection for the Church through the U.S. Constitution. That document was penned by Christian pastors and men of faith precisely for the purpose of allowing religious freedom, Mike pointed out. “I’m thankful for our U.S. Constitution. As I said in my deposition, 27 of our founding fathers were men just like me, in the pulpit, and they knew they would have to defend [religious freedom] to keep our rights. They foresaw that we would face something like this [battle] with the county.”
Some opponents “have painted us as domestic terrorists,” observed Mike, “and I think that’s how the Church will be painted if you stand up for biblical values—that someone who believes in the Bible is actually dangerous. So our faith is now going to begin to cost us something.” He urges believers to stand strong and to do battle through spiritual means.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth … [taking] the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel. Ephesians 6: 14a, 17b-19
Fellowship after church services is thriving at CCF, which will be important as the world moves closer to the return of Christ. Mike is among many believers who see current events as pointing to End Times events.
Power of Prayer
Despite the opposition from many sides, Pastor Mike reminded the Church how to fight the real battle: through the power of prayer.
“I’m so thankful for all those who have been praying for us. We see that. I see it every week, how God is answering the prayers of those in our church,” he said. “We have prayer every morning and every night at the church. I would thank all of those people for praying.”
Asked how the CC family can pray for their brothers and sisters in San Jose, Mike answered, “Pray for boldness, that the people would be equipped to open their mouth with the Gospel. … That Christ would be magnified in our area. That people would know the truth and it would set them free. We just need boldness.” First responders and medical workers who don’t follow county mandates to get vaccinated face losing their jobs. “Pray that we can get the Gospel out. … Pray for boldness in these wild times.”
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. Brethren, pray for us. 1 Thessalonians 5: 23-25
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
© 2021 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.