When you read that title, I’m guessing it raised your emotional level in one direction or another. Not entirely, but in many ways, most folks align to one of two sides in the Covid-19 Pandemic. If you’re one who is very concerned from the health standpoint, and possibly for good reason, that the Covid-19 disease is extremely dangerous and that we should be careful for our own sake and that of others, then you may have found the title offensive that you would be instructed to take off your mask (or that others might be told to do so). If you’re one who feels that the Covid-19 Pandemic has been way overblown, and possibly rightfully so, you may have felt more than a twinge of prideful spite. That’s why I’m not talking about the physical masks that many of us have been wearing. We should feel free to wear or not wear. That’s not the issue here.
I’m talking about the “masks” we wear to proclaim our “enoughness” around the pandemic. The term enoughness comes from David Zahl’s Seculosity, in which he points out the various ways we seek to justify ourselves, forming a frame through which we view the world, a method by which we can self-determine that we are “enough”. Enoughness, in this case around our view of how to live in the midst of this crisis, provides identity, community, meaning, and purpose, similar to how religion once did before the “nons” sought to destroy that. We need to admit that we can never really justify ourselves, as that would represent the ultimate game of postmodern relativity. Furthermore, our various masks only serve to hide our true identity, allowing us to feel a bit of reckless abandon as we hurl insults at the other side. We fail to treat each other as a real person with logical and real concerns, constructing a strawman with as much sense as the character from the Wizard of Oz.
I learned a new term the other day – Doomscrolling – trolling through blogs and newsfeeds for the latest bad news and dirty laundry. Both sides use doomscrolling to support their claims. Scroll through articles to find the enormous number of Covid cases, R factors greater than 1, and the flippant responses to reopening that will surely lead to a re-emergence of the trend in the number of cases. The non-lockdown side could use the articles on the economic disaster caused by overreaction, debt-inflicting stimulus packages, as well as the lack of compassion in shutting down 3rd World jobs and food chains.
How should we respond in the dialogue? Romans 14 describes the weak and the strong. Answering honestly, how many times have you read the passage, taking yourself as the “weaker brother”? It maps out statistically in similarity to Garrison Keillor’s description of Minnesota where the kids are all above average. We assume we are the strong one, the righteous, and that the weak who just doesn’t “get it” needs to follow cue and modify accordingly. And consider again, how many times have you been able to look back in hindsight and humbly had to consider that you were the weaker brother? Sadly, more than I would like to admit. Be humble enough to realize that maybe the case even now.
In application, let’s take the Apostle Paul’s position. “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some (1 Cor 9:22).” The point is to want the best for the other. The paradigm shifts from the goal of my being right. Instead, our goal is not to be right and justified in my enoughness around having figured everything out with what our government should do, our neighbors should do, and even what God should do about all of this mess just because “I’m so done with this.” It’s not within our power or IQ level to declare that we’re done. We need to be faithful in our calling to obey the secular authorities in alignment with the law of God, be humble and love our neighbor as ourselves. Let us have the humility to realize that even if we might be the stronger brother, then act like it by putting the weaker brother’s interests above our own (Phil 2:3). Let us love, support, encourage and give first place to our neighbor, setting aside our own rights rather than demanding them.