Story Submitted By Mark Oshinskie
Two Sundays ago, as I often do, I attended church. As is typical, most people sat toward the back. To me, this connotes disengagement.
I sit near the front. I figure that, if I go to church, I might as well be into it. For the same reason, if I go to a concert or a sports event, I move toward the performers. So there I was—unmasked—in the second row, alongside my mask-wearing wife, who is more deferential than I am. The front row was empty.
The service proceeded through the first ten minutes, including the Old and New Testament readings and the Gospel. Right after the Gospel, and before he began his sermon, the pastor paused and “reminded” the congregation that our (85% Democrat) town had a mask mandate in place and that the town was sending inspectors to churches and would fine our church if any congregant was seen maskless.
I’ve opposed the lockdowns, school and business closures, masks, asymptomatic testing and injections since the day each started. Nearly everyone to whom I expressed my opposition disagreed with me and supported the lockdowns.
The madness unfolded.
Two years later, it has persisted. Although the lockdowns have been incrementally lifted, the “vaxx” and mask crusades intensified in February 2022. This recent clampdown has been especially bizarre given that both the shots and masks have plainly failed. The political need to con gullible people into believing that the government saved us through their “public health” interventions remains paramount.
In reaction to the pastor’s message, I rose and walked along the left side aisle from the front to the back of the church and out the door to the avenue. On my way out, I saw no other unmasked congregant.
I didn’t think of it until later but as I was leaving, I should have thrown kisses to the masked worshipers. Some would have been angry at me for doing that. Many churchgoers seem to be fearful rule-followers more than they are celebrators of faith and redemption; they may have recoiled in horror as I cast microbes upon them in their imaginations. But a few might have found it funny and even agreed with my underlying sentiment, namely that I want to love you all, and hasn’t this whole charade already gone on way too long?
Aside from the unscientific absurdity and political theater of the mask mandates, I hated the idea of government inspectors/Party operatives raiding a house of worship—ostensibly a sanctuary—and cracking down on Coronamania dissidents, i.e., people who don’t cover their faces with government-mandated, ineffective burqas. Raiding churches is so Police State Soviet, Chinese, South Sudanese, Australian…Canadian!
But I should have expected the pastor to cooperate with the authorities. A few months prior, the church had sponsored a Vaccination Night. (Sorry I missed it, I had to fold some clothes). Various clergy, including Pope Francis, have attempted to coax people into vaxxing, calling it “a moral obligation” and “an act of love”. He’s on the same page as NY Governor Hochul who, while speaking at an evangelical church, took it one step beyond and proclaimed that those who don’t inject “aren’t doing what Jesus wants.”
That’s creepy enough as a stand-alone statement. It’s even creepier coming from an abortion supporter.
In response to all of the craziness, some might say:
“Forgive them, Father. For they know not what they do.”
But most politicians have known exactly what they’ve been doing from day 1: they have cynically perpetrated an epic lockdown/masking/testing/vaxx fraud on a naive public. The pols pursued social, political and economic control, not public health.
As usual, most clergies haven’t shown much spine during Coronamania. Instead of streaming “online services,” churches should have defied the secular authorities and remained open. Busting churchgoers is a bad look. Or at least it used to be.
In a sermon I heard twenty years ago, an East Village pastor rhetorically asked those of us there:
“Why do we go to Church? Is church attendance an insurance policy/ritual that protects us from Hell? Do we learn things by being in church that we can’t learn from reading the Bible ourselves or from the innumerable books— and now websites—interpreting Scripture or discussing spiritual or moral themes? Can’t we just pray alone: at home, in the park, while walking to work, or on a riverbank or mountaintop? Instead of going to church, why not just sleep late on Sunday?”
Ultimately, he concluded, attending church is about physically gathering with other believers. It’s an expression, affirmation and celebration of faith and community. Acts and Paul’s letters repeatedly exhort Christians to gather to support each other.
Covering people’s faces thwarts community. How connected can you feel to someone whose face you can’t see and whose voice is muffled? The online church works even less well than does online school. Even if they’re deprived of social connection, students might still learn at least some material from screens. At least in theory. If they log in.
Why are churchgoers afraid of COVID? To begin with, COVID should not scare even unbelievers who know the very high survival rates. When football stadiums host 90,000 cheek-to-jowl fans without causing outbreaks, going to church with 200 other spaced, unmasked people hardly seems like a rattlesnake-handling rite. Just two years ago, hundreds of people were willing to drink Communion wine from the same cup. Millions, like me, have done so countless times, without fear or hesitation. If you believe in resurrection, is God’s protection via an immune system such a stretch?
But above all, isn’t Christianity, like most/all faiths, built on an understanding that our earthly lives are limited, and on a belief in transcendence? Human finitude is repeatedly, expressly acknowledged in, and always between the lines of, the Bible. As Psalm 90:12 says:
“Teach us to number our days, Lord, so that we may have a heart of wisdom.”
In Matthew, Christ teaches that “You don’t know the day or the hour” and that “Two men will be standing in the field and one of them will be taken.” Per Ecclesiastes 3:2, there’s “a time to be born, a time to die.”
Anyone familiar with Sixties music, or basic Biology, should already know this. But somehow, most Boomers—and many Gen X-ers and Millennials—have forgotten that sometimes old, sick people die. Maybe the brains of those born post-World War II are damaged from having smoked too much herb, watching too many sitcoms or listening to too much NPR. Hearing my perspective on the human life span, some liberals might express outrage and cancel me for being a “deathist.”
Focusing on deaths of a small fraction of the old and unhealthy ignores the human costs of Coronamania to the vast majority. Those who claimed to be on God’s side by locking down, masking everyone, closing schools and businesses, urging or requiring that hundreds of billions be spent on testing and requiring all people to take injections that don’t work—and can cause great harm— have facilitated mass scale loneliness, despair and social and health damage, especially among our youth but also among the elderly. By buying into Coronamania, they have also passively allowed governments to profligately waste resources that could have been used to feed and provide water and shelter to the poor. That was neither smart nor compassionate; ultimately, it has been, and will lastingly be, very cruel; again, especially to our youth.
The media, the government—especially Democrats—colleges, schools and unions, and most celebrities and athletes—for better or worse, entertainers are big influencers—who could have spoken COVID truth, but didn’t, have all very much failed the public for two years. Add most churches to the list of institutions that have underserved or abandoned people at their time of greatest need for human connection. Church leaders caved to politicians and bureaucrats, large and small. Rendering to Caesar shouldn’t have meant surrendering to Caesar.Please consider supporting by sharing or making a donation.
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