Just before Christmas, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey Zients spoke in dark terms, telling the unvaccinated that they would be looking at a “winter of severe illness and death.” Meanwhile, he reassured the vaccinated that “they’ve done the right thing.”
Sermonizing and shaming segments of our society rarely works. All you must do is look back on the vain efforts to change habits surrounding sex, smoking, drinking and drugs by society, government, and the church — to no avail.
Not so long ago, we all were hoping for a more civil society with less rancor, more cooperation, and understanding. We longed for a place where differences in opinion would be tolerated, even embraced.
But now we have societal finger-wagging, a guilty hierarchy of those who believe they are enlightened shaming the rubes who just refuse to embrace the truth. The fact that the pandemic continues is somehow placed at the feet of those who don’t follow the rules rather than questioning the efficacy of the rules themselves.
This unearned moral superiority does not play out in the ever-changing nature of a previously unknown virus that science can only chase and never leapfrog. To claim truth and wave it as a moral good feeds the rush of self-adulation, of being on the right side.
The New Abolitionists vs. the New Outlaws
Two new religions have been borne out of this pandemic. Those who worship at the feet of technocrats who try to tame a pandemic through rules and mandates. Armed with the latest scientific study and health agency recommendations, they wave the rulebook like abolitionists of old, shaming the weak and lawless alike.
The other religion has been a new self-oriented actualization, sticking it to the man and a distrust of authority. With every rule change or fluid fact, these adherents dig in deeper. Some fall victims to the virus, a cruel irony that ends the disbelief. Some rise above the infection, allowng them to mount the high horse of independence.
Two extremes. And somewhere, the rest of us are in the middle.
But here’s the bottom line, regardless of which side you are on. We will all eventually get COVID in one form or another. When that happens, who will you blame? Who will you shame?
It’s time to stop pointing fingers.
It’s coming as a shock to those who have worn the mask, scrubbed their hands with gallons of sanitizer, maintained distances, isolated themselves in their homes for nearly two years, and are triple vaccinated that even they can catch the virus.
While a vaccine will give me less of a chance of contracting the virus and an even better chance of staying out of the hospital, it doesn’t make me a better person. It’s not a shield. It’s not a barrier. It’s not a force field. It’s like a latch on a gate that slows down trespassers but certainly doesn’t stop them.
Nearly two-thirds of Antarctica station researchers get COVID despite being fully vaccinated, passing multiple tests, quarantining, and living miles from civilization.
States like Massachusetts are reporting that vaccinated people are contracting the variant in large numbers.
Look at cities like New York, where both mask mandates and vaccine passports are required, the latest variant is running wild. Los Angeles has had severe restrictions for nearly two years, and they are no better than nearby mask and vaccine mandate free Orange County.
From a faith perspective, we have a duty to protect the most vulnerable among us. Encouraging a 25-year-old to stay home and draw unemployment versus protecting an 80-year in a nursing home are entirely different playbooks. It’s okay to make that distinction.
Beyond Puritan Guilt
For years Christians have been called puritans, the proud keepers of the law and dispensers of shame on the sinner. Some have perpetuated that perception with hearty blame cast on those who have seemingly created their own circumstance.
Most of us grew out of that, finding a better path. Grace.
Grace is the true greater moral good, giving us the ability to show compassion, to lead with kindness, and to seek to understand those around us.
Is it asking to much for both extremes to lay down their collective arms and embrace a better path? There is no perfect solution to our circumstances. Not in freedom from rules nor can it be found in the rules. In fact, the way out may not be found in a cure of the body, but we can find peace in the refreshing candor of graceful living.