A Careening Introduction
To mask or not to mask. That is the question.
C’mon people, it’s just a mask. Christians in other countries are being gunned down for gathering for worship. Can’t you “suffer” a little for the sake of the weak?
The problem is we are being played. We are being gamed. Remember, the same people who breathlessly proclaimed that up to 2 million Americans could die from the “pandemic” with extreme measures taken, and we had to shut everything down this minute, are now the same ones telling us that wearing a sock around your face could save one life.
Look, um, we’re not very impressed with your track record.
We listened to data models that were wildly – cosmically off base. We should have known. We listened to data models that make their living scamming the populace into enviro-frenzies. The same geniuses that say that the world is cooling, I mean warming, I mean shut up. It’s just bad and you have to stop driving cars, running air conditioners, and flushing your toilets and you have to use these reusable shopping bags that are infested with germs. Except not now. Stop using those bags. Those same geniuses are the ones we based these shut downs on. And they’re the same ones running the panic hysteria mobs demanding more rules.
And remember: we didn’t just shut down nursing homes, isolating the sick and the vulnerable. No, we shut everything down. Everything “non-essential.” What does that mean? It meant everything except liquor stores. And abortion clinics. Because if we’re all going to die, we definitely want to die drunk and killing our babies.
Some states were so fascist, they roped off sections of grocery stores to make sure no one bought something “non-essential” like seeds for growing vegetables because then someone might get the idea that they don’t need the government for everything.
Walmarts and Costcos continued functioning at full capacity while churches were ordered closed. Pizza Hut could deliver to your doorstep, but technically, pastors were not allowed to visit parishioners, and certainly not celebrate small communion services with the faithful. That’s not essential, people. Remember, it was the US Surgeon General who told everyone back in February that there was no need for face masks, that they do not help much with Covid-19, and to leave them for health care professionals. And now you’re a heartless idiot if you don’t wear one.
And The Numbers
But the numbers continue pouring in. The numbers are admittedly squishy, untrustworthy, and haphazard, but given the narrative being shoved down our throats, we can assume they are the worst numbers they can come up with. And what do we see? The numbers of new cases spiking and the numbers of new deaths plummeting. What does that mean? It means this disease is definitely not as deadly or lethal as many feared. It means we are building up a herd immunity, and the virus is losing its potency, like most coronaviruses do. Turns out the epidemiologists at Stanford and Johns Hopkins and Oxford have been right all along. But their research and papers were largely ignored by the media because non-sensational science doesn’t scare up the populace, and it isn’t as useful for tinpot dictators to use on their credulous citizenry.
So who are the weak in this scenario exactly? The numbers tell us that people over 65 or 70 are the most vulnerable and those with other pre-existing conditions. They should be free to take extra precautions as they wish. But the most helpful way to protect the most vulnerable is for 10-20% or more of the young, healthy populace to just get this disease and move on. Upwards of 50% of healthy folks will barely notice they have it. This is part of what’s happening with the spike in new cases. A bunch of people are getting tested, a number of them are testing positive, and the hospitals are not being flooded. How could that be? It’s because COVID-19 isn’t a deadly killer for most healthy people. Herd immunity is what will protect our elderly and most vulnerable.
Who Are the Weak?
But in actual fact, the largest group of weak people in this nation at this moment are those who want to preserve their freedom in Christ. And when we ask whether Christians should wear a mask or not, we must recognize that we are dealing with an area that theologians routinely refer to as “Christian liberty.” We’re talking about Christian freedom. The Bible does not require or prohibit face masks per se, and therefore, God requires Christians to use their freedom for good and for edification – for building up the saints, not as an occasion for the flesh. The real tricky thing is that the flesh comes at us in every direction. It comes through fear of death, fear of accusation, lust for approval, lust for peace, outrage over abuses, outrage over folly (or perceived folly), and the list keeps going. When we define good and edification, we need to define those terms biblically and not let the same Wahoo’s who told us that 2 million Americans would be dead if we took extreme action immediately – we shouldn’t let those same exegetes give us a Sunday School lesson on loving our neighbors or submission to authority.
So a quick review: we live in a constitutional republic, not an empire, not a monarchy. Romans 13 means that the highest authorities in our land are constitutions – both at the federal and state levels. We have elected servants who take oaths to uphold those constitutions. And our constitutions were (and remain down to this day) self-consciously limitations to our civil magistrates. They are, for the theologians in our midst, regulative principle documents. They gave specific powers to government officials and apart from those specified powers, all other matters of power and freedom were retained by the people.
All of this means that mayors and governors and congresses and supreme court justices are not allowed to just make up new laws that seem good to them. They may act to protect citizens in moments of true emergency. They are free to quarantine the actual sick and infected. But they are not free to make up emergencies, they are not free to treat the healthy as if they are sick and infected, and they are not free to make up stupid solutions for make believe problems. There is no pandemic emergency for young and healthy Americans. And random pieces of fabric do absolutely nothing to prevent the spread of viruses. Regular fabric is to a virus what volley ball nets are to mosquitoes. And that means everybody is going around wearing something because it makes people feel better and does not a lick of good. Chances are also decent that these pieces of cloth actually encourage the spread of a lot more sickness and bacteria. Just watch everyone touching their masks everywhere they go. Think of that as a little Petri dish growing exotic colored mold fuzz. Now breathe deeply. Mmmmm.
In other words, our constitutional republic presupposes the fixed meaning of words. Lex is rex (“the law is king”) is the foundation of the Western Christian law tradition, and it means that particular words and what they mean is what Christians are committed to submitting to. We are committed to submitting to the written Word of God above all other words, and we are committed to submitting to the constitutions of our nation and states and cities, according to the meaning of the words written down. We are not committed to submitting to an infinite revisionism of definitions of words. Christians need not submit to some sophist who claims that freedom now means living in a refrigerator box or wearing gold stars pinned to your shirt. Likewise, words like “emergency” and “health crisis” cannot be bent around to apply to a fairly normal flu season or even a bad one. One mayor in Richmond, Virginia has ordered the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue for health and safety reasons. On that basis, mayors and governors might also remove churches and crosses and American flags because they cause psychological harm to the fragile egos of the rioters. Honoring our civil fathers means honoring what they set down, what they wrote, and what they meant by the words they wrote, which, incidentally, is why they need those statues down now.
Apart from legitimate science-based use of medical face masks in, you know, actual medical scenarios, the current random-piece-of-fabric-face-mask frenzy is nothing less than virtue signaling submission to the Statist gods. Matt Williams has called them Marxist Burqas, and that seems about right. They are symbols of submission to the high priests who just a few minutes ago were praising the looters burning down Target because of “systemic racism.” They were praising the antifa riots and protests mixing thousands of people in close quarters for their courage and virtue. By what standard? The standard is revolution and statism. The standard is shut up and submit. These are fickle and arbitrary gods. But make no mistake: the same dictates that arbitrarily consign some businesses as “essential” and others as “non-essential,” the same arbitrary dictates that praise the mobs pulling monuments down but condemn Christians for gathering for worship (and singing!) are the very same dictates currently ordering face burqas for the masses. This is not about science, it’s about solidarity. It’s about submission. It’s about keeping people in a tight, manipulatable mass.
Moscow’s mayor just ordered a seven day emergency mandatory servility badge here in our town. And chances are good the city council will extend his order. I have not worn one yet, and my goal is to avoid it as much as possible. My plan is to simply ignore the stupid decree, but if someone asks me to put one on, I plan to be cheerfully difficult. I will probably start with a simple “no thanks, I don’t believe in that,” but if they are somewhat insistent, I will let them know that I have a religious exemption. If they need to know more than that, I will explain that my Christian religion teaches me not to bow down to idols. If they still need more, the mayor’s order also made it clear that the masks are only required where social distancing is not possible. Of course I believe private businesses should be free to require certain things of customers. I want to love them toward resisting this tyrannical law, but if they are not interested in my encouragement, and they have something I need, I will happily comply. I’m free to wear a piece of useless fabric across my face, but I will do everything in my power to indicate that I don’t believe in that statist religion, nor am I afraid of COVID-19.
Conclusion: Challenges & Encouragement
All of this is a challenging moment to live in. The temptation for most Christians is to break in one of two directions simplistically: either toward revolutionary revolt or compliant apathy. But turns out faithful courage looks a lot more like being cheerfully difficult. The thing they are counting on is either belligerence or servility. But we need to be gracious and uncompliant. It’s certainly not necessarily a bad witness to get a citation and pay a fine, but I believe the tip of our spear, the point of our fiercest resistance is worship. If we are to practice straight forward civil disobedience it ought to be in obedience to God in worship. We have been patient with the virus scare and deferred to our magistrates for several months, but now that it is clear that the statists only approve of gatherings that are violent and anti-Christian, it is high time for Christians to gather peacefully for worship to protest the insanity. And if they try to interrupt us, or require us to put something over our mouths to muffle our praises, we should cheerfully refuse. And if you live in a state (ahem, California) that has explicitly prohibited singing in worship, you need to attend worship tomorrow and sing at the top of your lungs. If your church cancels worship or complies with that wicked decree, you need to find a new church. The state does not have the authority to make up fake emergencies to limit Christian worship.
But there is encouragement in this moment. These ridiculous edicts are targeting Christians and Christian worship and Christian freedom. In many places, this targeting is not conscious, but there are strong currents driving this cultural storm: Marxist currents, Darwinian currents, secular Statist currents and whether the captains on the various ships know what that means or not, we do. Those currents are driven by hatred of God, hatred of His Christ, hatred of His creation, and hatred of His people and His freedom. All of this goes together. There is no true freedom apart from Christ. We have enjoyed great freedom in this country for so long because Christ has been honored, though imperfectly, in this land. Next to honoring God in worship, the next greatest command is to love our neighbors, and the first way we do that is by honoring our fathers and mothers, acknowledging how God has piled up blessing for us down through the centuries. It is no accident that the same storm is currently tearing down the ancient landmarks of our land. If you don’t think they will come for churches soon, you haven’t been paying attention. And besides, mobs are not thoughtful creatures.
And here is the encouragement: we are nearly beyond all the B.S. The real conflict is nearly out in the open. And the real conflict is between Christ and every alternative. Will we worship Him and serve Him or will we keep dabbling with idols and false gods? It’s Christ or nothing. Christ or chaos. Do we want Christian freedom or statist solidarity? Only Christ died for our sins. Only Christ is risen from the dead to make all things new. The statist idols are all deaf, dumb, and blind. They have mandated worthless pieces of fabric be worn on your face. That is their current sacrament, but that feeling you’re getting isn’t Christian peace. It’s probably just a lack of oxygen and all those extra bacteria you’re sucking in. And you haven’t helped anyone really. But the water of baptism was given by God Himself. The bread and wine is the new covenant in the blood of Christ. The Spirit is real. The forgiveness of sins in Christ is real.
So Happy 4th of July. Happy Independence Day. Raise your glasses high, sing loudly, grill good meat, shoot off illegal fireworks, and with uncovered faces let us honor our fathers and feast our King.
And tomorrow we worship. Tomorrow we fight.