“”Why does someone need an assault rifle for protection but refuses to wear a mask for protection?” It is a common meme for some liberals of the United States’ variety. “Aha! I just defeated your logic,” is the claim. The problem is that there is no logic involved. Openly carrying a rifle while not wearing a mask during this pandemic is about ego. How do I want to see myself? How do I want others to perceive who I am? The operative word in each question is “I.” It is the word we use to translate the Greek word ego in the New Testament.
The Devil’s Ego
“And is Man any less destroying himself for all this boasted brain of his…I have examined Man’s wonderful inventions. And I tell you that in the arts of life man invents nothing, but in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself…when he goes out to slay, he carries a marvel of mechanism that lets loose at the touch of his finger all the hidden molecular energies, and leaves the javelin, the arrow, the blowpipe of his fathers far behind…his hear is in his weapons…”
And then the devil goes from personal to embrace all. “The people run about the streets yelling with delight, and egg their Governments onto spend hundreds of millions of money in the slaughter…the power that governs the earth is not the power of Life but of Death…above all justice, duty, patriotism and all the other isms by which even those who are clever enough to be humanely disposed are persuaded to become the most destructive of all the destroyers.”
The devil lays these charges at the feet of humanity in Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw. The devil is a cynic it appears. And cynical people often seek to contrast their own self image with those of the mob, the sheep, or whatever group of people they believe themselves better than.
Don Juan’s Response
The devil though has an adversary who won’t have any of it. “Nothing would flatter (Man) more than your opinion of him. He loves to think of himself as bold and bad. He is neither one nor the other; (Man) is only a coward…call him a coward; and he will go mad with rage: he will face death to outface that stinging truth…There are limits to what a mule or ass will stand; but Man will suffer himself to be degraded until his vileness is so loathsome to his oppressors that they themselves are forced to reform it.”
The Ego Causes Suffering
Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell understands what the devil doesn’t. The people who scream about needing their weapons of war and scream about their rights against wearing masks are delightful to the cynic. They are foolish and inferior to that person. Don Juan though says that all including the cynical devil are cowards. And do their very best to hide the fact. They hide their cowardice in their own egos.
Egotists cause suffering in themselves and others. We refuse to find courage. Instead we display bravado. We want to think of ourselves as “real badasses” until dinner time when we complain the steak is too tough. Then we are offended or outraged. We want our friends to know how stupid and incompetent the cook is. We know how to do it better. But insist that someone else do it for us. It’s a minor example. But it illustrates a major problem.
Mask Wearing As Fear
Are you afraid of contracting a deadly disease and dying from it? If you are that does not make you a coward. Are you afraid you will be considered weak and fearful by avoiding the virus? If you are that makes you a coward. No amount of logical argument will persuade you otherwise.
That is how cowardice works. It responds to itself. The self, the ego, is what cowardice seeks to protect at all costs. No reasoned argument can change the coward’s mind. It is not rational. It will seek to justify itself later. Many arguments against wearing a mask are just self-justification. They are not valid.
Stop Arguing With Cowards
Churches are filled with egotists. Why not? Everywhere else is too. Some people want to be flattered. Others want only to hear agreement. Some want to attack and destroy because they prefer hiding form a challenge. These are not people with whom we can reason. They prefer an ego mask.
Years ago, I asked a mentor why so many of our churches refused to have a woman as pastor. He said it was not about what was said in the Bible. It was about what their neighbors thought. They wished to be accepted and conformed to the image that the community expected. I have had the same experience in the area of infant baptism. The question is not about what is the teaching of scripture. It is about how we want to be perceived by our extended family. Ultimately, it is a matter of ego. Nothing changes until the person wants to do something better.
Recovering alcoholics lose their drinking buddies because they are pursuing something that saves their lives. When the ego wants to end its own suffering, the person changes. Don’t persuade. Don’t argue. And please don’t ridicule. It won’t help. All we can do is love through the suffering.