Saturday, October 24, 2020

Each One of Us Has a Duty

"When I say to the wicked, 'You wicked, you must die,' and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. If, however, you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, but they do not, then they shall die in their sins, but you shall save your life." -Ezekiel 33:8-9

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Many of us are considering the idea of "Civil Disobedience," and to what extent it applies to our current situation. In Thoreau's essay of this name, he argues that Right and Wrong, Good and Evil, are more important than Legal and Illegal, and that it can be our duty to break laws when they are unjust. Thoreau refused to support a government waging an unjust war, and was jailed. The Founding Fathers refused to pay taxes without representation, and this led to the Revolutionary War. The early Christians refused to sacrifice to Roman Gods, and many were tortured and killed as martyrs. The word "martyr" we should remember, means "witness to the truth."

We are all called to bear witness to the truth every day of our lives. Usually this happens in small ways. Do we let someone know they made a mistake, when they will be annoyed at us for it? Do we put on a false mask of agreement, when we know people are expressing false but popular opinions? These sorts of things happen all the time. Each time we bend the truth or smooth things over, it adds to the sum total of falsity. Just as we might do our small part for the environment by not littering, we all can do our small part for the integrity of our society by not supporting lies.

What if following the rules means bearing false witness? Some honestly believe that wearing a mask helps hinder disease; others believe that mask wearing is harmful and spreads disease. Studies have been published for both points of view. Let each of us follow our conscience. Having looked at the evidence myself, I can state with reasonable certainty that mask wearing is harmful to our physical health, to our psychological health, and to our spiritual health. So I am against wearing a mask. Shall I then follow any rules to the contrary, knowing it will both cause harm and show a complacency with a creeping totalitarianism, or do I bear witness to the truth, despite the possibility of reprimand?

You have stopped your car at a red light. A man, looking desperate, asks to borrow your cell phone. He then refuses to give it back. When you exit your car to chase him down, he quickly hijacks your car, taking your phone and your only means of calling 911. He then uses the gun you had concealed under your seat and robs a bank, stealing $5,000,000, wounding three security guards, and killing a bystander.

What should you be most angry about? The fact that he stole your cell phone so you couldn't call 911? The fact that he stole your uninsured car? The huge quantity of money he stole, though it wasn't yours and belonged to an FDIC-insured bank? The gun laws that allowed you to stow a weapon in your car?

No, you should be most angry about the man killing an innocent bystander. A life lost is worse than any amount of loss of property.

The man in this story represents the corrupt elite. The cell phone represents censorship and loss of freedom of speech. The car represents our personal financial losses and inconvenience due to quarantine. The $5,000,000 represents in fact trillions of dollars being lost by our governments due to lockdown, while Big Pharma and Big Tech reap enormous profits, and the elites tighten their totalitarian power. The wounded security guards represent loss of health due to unsanitary masks, weakened immune systems, and the psychological costs of loneliness. And the dead bystander represents the millions of lives lost in the third world due to famine and economic collapse from lockdowns, quarantine, and increased government corruption across the globe.

Again, what should we be most angry about? The loss of life due to quarantine. Even if the covid numbers given by the CDC were not misleading (and they are, extremely so) the loss of life due to unintended consequences of lockdown is far worse. The overall death rate in countries that did not lockdown, such as Sweden, is in fact lower that it has been for several bad flu seasons in the 30 years. So it is clear that loss of life from quarantine is unnecessary and in fact criminal.

But we are no longer talking about a one-time robbery here. We've got a hostage situation and the tragedy is looking to be perpetual. You still haven't gotten your cell phone back, though news is spreading by word of mouth, and while another bystander is letting you borrow their car now and then, the robber is still at large, shooting and looting, demanding more and more (read: the vaccine, tracking apps). The tragedy continues as we discuss what to do about it.

Here's the first thing to do: don't let fear silence you.

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It feels like conversation endlessly revolves around covid, whether it's really that bad, and how bad, and numbers for mortality, counting cases, the reliability of tests, the plausibility of a good vaccines, and so on. Not that it's bad to talk about any of this--in fact we need to figure it out. But it's a lie that's being used as a weapon, something like a gun filled with blanks, fired repeatedly, making a smoke screen so that we miss the real damage being done. Let's not get too distracted by the smoke itself.

Is the smoke itself poisonous? No. So let's not wear a mask. Wearing a mask is bearing false witness. It is cowardice. Don't wear one and spread truth, not illusion.

Of course, there are exceptions. On private property sometimes you have little choice but to comply. At church you must obey your ministers. Interestingly, even though Salt Lake City is generally strict, and almost everybody wears a mask everywhere (even, absurdly on their musical instruments playing outdoors--I've heard hilarious stories) some have said that they never wear a mask and haven't yet been called out anywhere. My wife and I usually go without, even when we're vastly outnumbered and it's posted "Required", and never yet has anyone made a problem for us.

Are we being inconsiderate? Are we being conspiracy theorists? Quite the contrary. We're just being honest. For us it is an act of compassion. When you are faithful to the truth it matters not what others think of you.

In ancient times, lepers were quarantined from the rest of society, forced live apart from the community. No one could touch them, and few dared to go near them. Disfigured by their wasting skin disease, losing fingers and toes and even noses and ears, they were shunned, feared, and even hated by most.

"Now there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where [Jesus] was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, 'Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.' Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, 'I do will it. Be made clean.'"

Jesus healed without fear, he touched the untouchable, and we should follow his example. Many have done so for thousands of years, empowered by this Gospel.

In the late 200's A.D., a plague spread through the Roman Empire, killing 5000 people a day in Rome. Christians were blamed for it, and it started the first empire-wide persecution of Christians. But unlike the Pagans, they did not flee the disease but stayed and cared for the sick, and by the end of the crisis, Christians had lost fewer lives than the Pagans and gained many converts. 

Close contact with Ebola victims is the main way it spreads. Humanitarians in Liberia during the outbreak would find bodies of children abandoned by their families. Missionaries have predominated in the battle against Ebola in Africa, their faith giving them strength to persevere and risk death to save the lives of others.

By giving in to the cowardly safetyism of lockdown, of a perpetual state of emergency that sacrifices life-giving services around the world merely to save a few lives and maintain political correctness, we betray our Christian heritage. If we have reacted to such a mild disease as covid in such a terrified and dishonest way, what will happen when a real plague hits? Will it be the end of the Constitution? The end of religious worship? The end of all faith? On the contrary, if and when this happens, we will find out who the true Citizens are, the true Christians.

So as we debate the severity of covid, we must be careful not to fall into the trap of arguing that it is "not bad enough" for us to sacrifice freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, informed consent for medical treatment, freedom of commerce, or freedom of worship. No plague is that bad. You must grow food even in the worst of plagues, if you are not to starve to death too. You must speak truth when times are bad, and be open to dialogue, because dialogue and togetherness will be needed more than ever. And you must worship, you must pray, especially at the worst of times--the times that try our souls.

Do not forsake your duty to vote your conscience, despite the temptation to vote out of fear. We elect our leaders for years at a time, not just to deal with the present crisis. And let's not forsake our duty to use our "vote" in the free market, boycotting any Big Tech or Big Pharma companies that abuse their power. We can cast such a vote by meeting face-to-face rather than by video chat, by pursuing natural remedies (which are more effective by the way) instead of drugs. Face-to-face meetings, self-reliance, this is how the Christian underground kept alive hope in the USSR under totalitarianism, and in Nazi occupied countries during WWII. It's no wonder corrupt leaders tend to ban religion and freedom of assembly.

Love and truth are our weapons against tyranny, whether that tyranny is creeping or outright. Prayer is a still more potent weapon. When people see you fearlessly face plagues, current and future, help others, and stand up without fear of punishment, how can they condemn this without condemning themselves? Truth is the only weapon that can destroy ignorance and hypocrisy. We must speak as much truth as possible; we must avoid the propagation of lies at all costs.

In the book Live Not by Lies, Rod Dreher relays a checklist for doing just this, originally gleaned from Solzhenitsyn, author of the Gulag Archipelago. It includes not writing anything that distorts the truth, not participating in any cause you don't truly believe in, not participating in any meeting where honesty is in any way limited, walking out of any event the moment a lie is spoken, not supporting journalism that distorts facts in any way. 

No matter how bad the plague, how bad the crisis, we must not waver in our devotion to our faith, to Christ's example, to truth and compassion, nor in our duty as citizens to uphold the the Constitution. 

If we waver in this, we continue on the path toward the brutal isolation imposed by a perpetual state of emergency, a cycle that is totalitarianism in its essence. Social distancing is deadly in itself. It is unconstitutional, and it is un-Christian in the extreme. It is, by definition, hate--the opposite of love.

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