Sunday, May 17, 2020

Reverting to Type

Dear readers,

Long time, no long it took me a while to remember how to post a blog.

I last wrote on October 14, 2018, an article about my pastor’s resignation due to committing, “sexual harassment.”  I speculated at that time that he must have harassed a man and probably a priest for such rapid decisive action.  Sorry for the delayed update, but I did talk to the parish administrator shortly after writing that article and he confirmed I was correct on both accounts: the pastor sexually harassed a priest and in the Roman Catholic tradition, that means he harassed a man.  I wish the church hierarchy was not so predictable when it comes to sexism.  But, there it is.

Since my last blog, I’ve had two kids get married, one parent decline into dementia and die, a traumatic brain injury and a few other things that occupied my time.  And now there is the matter of this pandemic.

There is a saying that during a crisis, people “revert to type.”  During more normal times a person might work to overcome certain characteristics but when the crisis happens, the mask comes off.  This raw character exposure is called “reverting to type.”

So what are we seeing amongst our hierarchy, our fellow believers and ourselves?  Are we living our stated value of protecting the vulnerable?

I think my local bishop is sincerely trying to do what is best, given that every day brings new insights about this virus.  Before government officials issued a stay-at-home order, he suspended liturgies.  Though religious organizations were granted an exemption during the stay-at-home order, he continued suspending Masses.  This Monday, weekday Masses will resume, permitting only 5% building capacity in attendance.  This will gradually increase over the coming months to higher percentage capacity attendance and more liturgies.  The diocesan staff has written extensive and well thought out guidelines aligned with the best medical guidance available, and update policies based upon new scientific findings.  At the same time, the diocese is focused on providing assistance to those suffering financially. When my bishop reverted to type during this crisis, he exposed the depth of his care for his flock.  Kudos on that. 

So, did I pull my laptop out of storage after about a year and a half hiatus just to praise my bishop?  No.  Though I support his pandemic-related actions, I am finding much fodder elsewhere for reflection as I observe behaviors. 

If you say you are “pro-life” yet don’t observe social distancing, don’t wear a mask to protect others, and rationalize that “old people die anyway so open up this economy,” please realize you are a fraud.  When you reverted to type, you demonstrated that you are all about caring for the vulnerable as long as the people expected to sacrifice to do so don’t include you.  Your first love is what is in your wallet.   When that appeared threatened, you caved and threw grandma and grandpa under the bus along with any other vulnerable person.  You scoff at women who cite financial distress as reason for seeking an abortion, labeling them as selfish monsters who are willing to sacrifice a vulnerable life for their financial security.  However, when it is your financial security that is threatened, you think it makes perfect sense to sacrifice the vulnerable with a callous, “they were gonna’ die anyway…”.  You’re a fraud.  Admit it and own it.  And expect to be challenged when next you try to assume moral high ground with your pretentious condemnations of others at the next elections.  You cashed in your credibility.

Similarly, if you call yourself pro-life and are supporting businesses and business owners that flaunt public health directives, you too are a fraud.  Though my bishop does not fall into this category, I do know of other Roman and Orthodox Catholic clergy who do.  They especially are frauds.  Why is it that you are at peace sacrificing the vulnerable when their protection interferes with your or your buddy’s freedom and autonomy to get a haircut or open a barber shop but you are completely intolerant of a woman saying she should have freedom and autonomy regarding her body?  Your philosophy,  is it that you think it is just the natural order of the world that some vulnerable people must die in order for the sanctified vanity of haircuts to continue but no vulnerable lives should ever die for trivial things like women’s health?  Yeah, you’re a fraud too.  Admit it and own it.  And pray do not try assuming any moral high ground come election time.  You cashed in your credibility for something like a haircut.

If you are suddenly super worried about the poor starving people in third world countries or even here in the US because you think stay-at-home orders which happen to inconvenience you are somehow putting these folks in greater vulnerability, please ask yourself: a) how much did you worry about the poor before these stay-at-home orders were issued, b) how aware are you of the impact your lifestyle and voting choices have in creating or sustaining poverty, c) what have you actually done to help address economic vulnerability amongst the poor pre-pandemic.  I know some folks sincerely not only worried about but acted to alleviate poverty before the pandemic.  However, if your concern for the poor suddenly emerged because you can use them as a poorly equipped phalanx to protect your financial self-interests, then you too are a fraud, especially if once the pandemic subsides, you resume your lifestyle and voting choices that disregard the poor’s needs.

 I might add that demographically, the working poor, often uninsured, are over-represented in occupying higher risk, lower protection, front-line jobs during this pandemic.  In the US, African Americans represent a much higher percentage of pandemic casualties due to co-morbidity factors often associated with poverty.  I do so hope that your concern for the poor includes addressing these issues versus feigning care for the poor whilst actually sacrificing their health for the health of your retirement account.  In that case, you would be reverting to type of using the poor and vulnerable for your own gain.

If anywhere in your possessions or social media bylines you have something that says, “What would Jesus do,” please be aware that Jesus was all about curing and healing not rationalizing death so he could gad about more freely and continue accruing wealth.  He said something like, “go sell everything, give it to the poor, and follow me,” not, “go sacrifice the poor so you can accumulate more shit and do whatever the hell pleases you.”  That latter message is more aligned with something one might hear on Fox News, which is an entirely different religion apart from and often conflicting with as well as perverting Christianity.

Amidst all this, a former religious education student of mine offered some of the wisest counsel.  He said, “We need to be empathetic.”  Yes, he is spot on.  We need to have empathy for the financially vulnerable, even the ones who were vulnerable before the pandemic and will continue to be after the pandemic.  We need to be empathetic towards the physically vulnerable, especially during the pandemic but afterwards too. 

An empathetic person dons a mask as a way of protecting another person versus deriding health experts for recommending their use, or deriding those who do don them.  If your medical credentials come from the University of Google, the University of Facebook or the University of Memes, please just stop trying to pass yourself off as an expert.

It is also lacking in empathy to deride people for listening to experts or the experts themselves by labeling them as fearful or fearmongers.  Those folks shouting for things to resume to pre-pandemic status must acknowledge that they fear too.  It is just that their fears fall into different categories.  Some fear financial impact.  Some fear loss of autonomy.  It is still fear.  It is ok and healthy to admit you fear the economic impact.   However, it is an unhealthy bullying practice to accuse others of fear without acknowledging yours.  Such tactics try to humiliate others into bowing to address your fears by diminishing their concerns all whilst saving face for your ego through presenting a false bravado.

This pandemic presents two problems: a global public health crisis and a global economic crisis.  We, as one Body in Christ must acknowledge the two crises and work together to address both.  That will involve sacrificing autonomy and financially in some instances.  Let us pull together, doing what Jesus would do, by being empathetic and caring for each other.  This pandemic crisis is exposing you as a Christian.  Are you reverting to type of graciously bowing to other’s needs in imitation of Christ or are you reverting to type of using Christianity as a front for your selfishness and hypocritically expecting others to sacrifice but not you.

Be safe and be well.  Hopefully I won't wait another 19 months to write again.