Miss Church today? How about a few comforting words of wisdom from Rev. John Pavlovitz-- about masks? Last week, he noted on his blog that If You Won’t Wear A Mask, You May Not Be a Good Person. It was addressed towards people who imagine they are
The folks he was addressing attend church and adorn their social media profile with scripture passages about the love of God and they proudly affix Jesus to their sleeve and bumpers. These folks prominently display the Stars and Stripes, cry during the Anthem and condemn socialism. They speak eloquently about the 'sanctity of life,' lament the 'killing of babies.' They're not ogres; they sponsor children in Africa and tape the picture taped on their refrigerator doors next to restaurant takeout menus. And Pavlovitz knows they think they're one of the good guys making the world a better place.
He's not so sure: "Your face tells a difference story. Your naked, uncovered, face declares who you truly are: your arrogance, your selfishness, your recklessness, your disregard for the health and well-being of other people. Your mask-less face eloquently testifies to your hidden heart in ways your words never could. The fact that in this moment when death is rising exponentially around you and ICUs are overrun, when healthcare workers are pushed beyond exhaustion, when people are dying alone and terrified and unable to touch their loved ones-- you will not simply place a piece of cloth over your nose and mouth for the ten minutes you’re at the grocery store-- tells the truth about you:
You are not emulating Jesus.
You are not honoring God.
You are not making America great.
You are not protecting life.
You are not interested in loving your neighbor as yourself.
Pavlovitz understands they've tragically internalized the politicization of the pandemic. "That the simplest and least invasive gesture to ensure other people will not get sick and die, has become for you a source of perceived oppression and a spot to loudly declare your defiance-- should be an alarm to you that the narrative that plays in your head about your motives and your virtue, is at least partly fiction. I know that is difficult information to process. We all have a story we tell ourselves about who we are, about what matters to us, about our presence in the world. We’ve all spent our entire lives crafting and redacting and defending that story because it shapes our identity, defines our prejudices, and justifies the things we do. We all cling to that story as we teach our children and pray our prayers and do our work and look in the mirror. And when we experience a painful truth that rattles that story we will respond violently to it, which is why you are so angry and defiant about a tiny piece of cloth, why you dig in your heels and flip-off strangers and feel so self-righteous.
When you look around you today at the store or in a parking lot and nearly every other human being is wearing a mask, ask yourself the questions:
Why do I think I’m better than all of these people?
What am I trying to prove right now?
How exactly am I winning and who exactly do I think I’m defeating?
What am I teaching my children in this moment?
How precisely is this loving in any way?
"You may not be able to answer yourself honestly, which I suppose is part of the problem. You’re so convinced of your own goodness right now, that you can’t even see when someone is making a strong case against you-- even when it’s you. As someone who sees you clearly right now, I need you to know that I don’t think you’re Christian or pro-life or patriotic or even very good.
"It’s as plain as the uncovered nose on your face."
A few days later, Pavlovitz, reminded his virtual flock that "It’s no mystery how we got here: a nonexistent Federal response headed by an unprepared, ignorant sociopathic president who had neither the capacity nor the inclination to prevent loss of life. But these massive liabilities alone wouldn’t have been enough for the virus to defeat us so fully. It needed a boost. It needed an accomplice. It needed one more fierce ally in its brutal assault on America: it needed Americans. It needed the flag-waving, chest-beating, star-spangled, bottle-rocket, Don’t Tread On Me, MAGA bluster of hundreds of millions of people raised to believe personal freedom trumps everything: Science, facts, humanity-- even life itself. And so, when the warnings came they cried “conspiracy!” When the restrictions arrived they marched like star-spangled martyrs on Governor’s mansions with guns waving. When healthcare workers pleaded with them for restraint, they tore off their masks; imagining themselves some heroic modern Tea Party patriots defending liberty against manufactured tyranny. When the case and death numbers climbed, they attacked the 'Deep State' and doubled down on the well-curated myth of their oppression. When the second wave began, after a first wave that never ended-- they complained about restrictions not working the first time, never mentioning the fact that they didn’t abide by them to begin with."
Thursday America has another 3,098 COVID-deaths, worst on the planet. After that came Italy (887), Mexico (781), Brazil (769) and Russia (562). Friday, the U.S. had another 3,042 and yesterday another 2,309. So far 305,082 Americans have died because Trump refused to take it seriously. Brazil and India have had the second and third biggest death tolls, respectively 181,143 and 142,994. And the rate of daily new cases is unfathomable in the U.S.-- 227,649 new cases Thursday, 247,737 new cases Friday, 220,298 new cases yesterday-- now a total of 16,549,366 cases-- rapidly closing in on 50,000 cases per million Americans. So far two states, North and South Dakota, each has over 100,000 cases per million residents, with Iowa and Nebraska poised to cross that mark as well-- 4 states that authored their own demise and then overwhelmingly voted for Trump again last month.
"And now here," continued Pavlovitz, "in complete and utter devastation they refuse to admit that America got its collective behind handed to it, because they had to 'live free or die-- or at least, they had to live free and kill lots of strangers. They are so intoxicated with the drug of American greatness, that they can’t admit that in the face of this virus we have been brought to our knees because we insisted on it.
The hard truth America is going to have to reckon with: our ceremonial, showy, hollow “liberty” has cost us actual freedom:
to do the work we enjoy,
to make a living,
to see the people we love,
to make plans,
to be spontaneous,
and to fully enjoy these days.
We have lost an entire year of our individual and collective lives, because nearly half our country has ignored restrictions, flouted safeguards, refused medical expertise, and given a strident middle finger to the efforts of intelligent people prepared for exactly this kind of disaster-- all because they wanted to protect a red, white, and blue facade of American exceptionalism by owning the Libs, even if it killed them. In their lust for personal liberty they abandoned the responsibilities of living in community with other human beings with whom they are interdependent.
In the coming year, these myopic, short-sighted practitioners of a religion of nationalism will try to rewrite history. They will spin the numbers and deny the crisis and blame the incoming Administration, but they will not be able to change what happened or why it happened and they will not be able to redact the real story:
The virus defeated America because their phony patriotism and cheap liberty was the greatest friend it could have ever had.
They were exactly what it needed to win.
God bless America.