A few years back, more than a few, actually, I was talking with my friend Rebecca about rampant stubbornness.
“I don’t get it,” I said. “I remember when people appreciated when you corrected them! Who wants to walk around sounding like a fool? And what kind of friend would let you go around being wrong?”
“Terry, my friend,” she said. “These are the days of the double-down. If you try to tell someone they are wrong, even if you have proof they are wrong, they just dig in deeper. … Some people will fight you to their last breath before they admit they are wrong.”
That made little sense to me then, but look at where we are now.
I could target supporters of the most recent former president. I won’t, though. Not directly. Every American has a right to choose and vote for the candidate who comes closest to sharing their values. But the overlap between his supporters and the people who are fighting mask mandates, resisting getting COVID vaccines, and opposing others’ compliance is hard to ignore.
More problematic for me as a believer is the overlap with people who call themselves Christians. I find little solidarity with these people who refuse to “render unto Caesar” when it comes to fighting the virus. What happened to loving thy neighbor as thyself?
“God gave us lungs to breathe!” “He gave us freedom to use those lungs!” “We have God-given rights!” By God, by God, by God.
God also gave us direction to protect ourselves from disease and to separate the sick from the healthy. In Leviticus 13 (not much ahead of those other verses many of you like to quote), it clearly states:
“Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.”
In this Biblical context, the “defiling disease” is leprosy, and Moses goes to great lengths to talk about what to look for, how to respond and what to do for those who are infected. The instructions are compassionate but firm. The tribe had to be preserved, even at the cost of the comforts and “rights” of the afflicted individuals.
It’s interesting what those good folks, in the days before “Christian” was even a term, were willing to do to protect their society from an airborne ailment that could be transmitted by coughs, sneezes and nasal fluids. Not now, though.
Now many Christians parse every statement from Anthony Fauci or the Centers for Disease Control to find reasons to settle deeper into their own obstinacy. “He said this in March, but now he’s saying something different.” “They told us masks didn’t work, but now they are trying to make us wear them.” “I put my faith in God, not in man.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said just last week that this faith is why many in his state and around the South are “less scared” of the coronavirus. It’s why they are more willing to ignore advice to mask up or get the vaccines.
“When you believe in eternal life — when you believe that living on this earth is but a blip on the screen, then you don’t have to be so scared of things,” he told a small gathering of Republicans. He admitted God does advise us to take “necessary precautions.”
How some reconcile this with taking animal medications is beyond my comprehension, but this is the solid rock upon which they stand. Until they get sick, that is.
The emergency room is where they are transformed, where they suddenly embrace the science they mocked and rejected. There, faced with the prospect of intubation, they cry out to be given a vaccine or anything else that will save them.
Sometimes I think the beleaguered and vilified healthcare professionals who have given their all to save the rest of us would be well within their rights to turn away these unvaccinated. Thank goodness they don’t.
If I double down on anything, it’ll be the hope that more Christians will see the light on vaccines before it’s too late. Before they stand at the pearly gates and risk hearing the fearful words, “I never knew you. Depart from me.”
Terry E. Manning lives and works in Savannah, Ga. He is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.