Remember the last seven months? Remember the half-life we all lived? The glazed-eye binges of streamed television, the distracted book-reading, the Zoom calls that we didn’t want but had to have just to stay sane? Remember when we were locked out of every place that gave life meaning: friends’ homes, schools, churches?
Well, it wasn’t worth it.
Turns out we didn’t need to go through all of that — the World Health Organization (WHO) has backpedaled big-time on its stringent demand for lockdowns. In fact, it turns out that we did the worst thing we could have, and now our worldwide economy is unfathomably shaken, poor people are even poorer, people died horrible deaths all alone, and we’re all conditioned to be nervous in public places and around other human beings.
Of course, our policymakers never really thought the lockdowns were worth it, as evidenced by their befuddling lack of worry over the glut of people allowed to march through the streets all summer. I guess COVID-19, as a disease is wont to do, will pass over you if you’re a faithful leftist willing to scream for police abolition. But, for everyone else, we are expected to heel when they say to. They’ll try it again this winter.
Here’s the thing: We shouldn’t care. Presumed winter lockdown be damned — let’s keep going to church.
We spent far, far too long away from these places already. Take me, for instance. In February, I’d finally rounded third in my years-long odyssey to the Roman church, and was set to become Catholic at Easter Vigil. But that was postponed. So was Mass — indefinitely. Every Catholic stopped going and no one was the better for it; we all felt a potent malaise at the loss. It ate at our souls.
This wasn’t the fault of our bishops or our pope. Like the rest of us, they’d been told by the health authorities that to let us gather, to get close enough to receive communion or to be in pews, could spell the death of entire congregations-worth of people. No wonder they were scared. No wonder we settled for awkward, quiet webcam Masses and twiddled our thumbs, wishing we hadn’t taken all those unfettered Sunday mornings for granted.
Even now, during in-person (50% capacity) Mass, we’re separated from our pewmates by six feet of tangled painter’s tape, reminding us not to get too close. I’ll give a fellow parishioner a sheepish wave as a meager sign of peace, nervous to look her in the eyes too long. We’re trained well by months of lockdown to be scared of others — while desperately needing them.
There are other, much better ways to decrease transmission than putting the boot on worshippers who are willing to take the risk of practicing their faith in person. Like Lyman Stone noted in The Washington Post, contact isolation would help. Curtailing air and intra-city travel could work, too. But emptying out our parishes because they’re expendable to power-drunk politicians isn’t the answer.
Christians certainly aren’t the only ones being stomped on. Indeed, New York’s megamind of a mayor spent the entire pandemic screaming at Jews for trying to attend funerals, citing science and fear for human lives. Meanwhile, he’s giving the thumbs-up to the jammed crowd of 10,000 marching across Brooklyn Bridge — not because they were outdoors, but because he approved of the movement.
D.C.’s Mayor Muriel Bowser has been pulling the same sort of inauthentic codswallop against churches, threatening to level massive fines on places of worship that allowed more than 100 people in attendance, indoors or out. She was happy to welcome with open arms the recent women’s march on Washington against Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination — one that numbered in the thousands. Of course, Govs. Gavin Newsom and Gretchen Whitmer got in on the religious bigotry, too. The list of hypocrites with power goes on.
Thank God some churches are finally putting their foot down: Capitol Hill Baptist sued Miss Bowser last month for her asinine ruling, and now they can meet in groups of more than 100 outdoors. The rest of us should have similar gumption.
The Haredi Jews have always had it, to their immense credit. Liel Leibovitz pointed out in Tablet Magazine that they did what the rest of us should have in retrospect: They said no. It certainly made New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo mad — which is funny, given that those two, as Janice Dean wrote, have managed to kill a whole lot of people without any help from those troublemaker Jews.
It’s enough. We’ve had enough. The chicanery is clear, and we can all see through it, whether we’ll admit it or not. This rubbish security theater is just that — theater, and there’s no reason to continue playing the game when the rules are set up so that you may only lose. Call it anarchy, call it recklessness, call it selfishness, call it whatever you like. It’s time to ring the bells.
Come on, guys. Let’s just go to church.
• Emma Ayers is the managing editor of Young Voices.