Friday, 25 September 2020

Name Calling and Wardrobe Malfunctions.

I've noticed something terribly devious during the pandemic recently. And no, this will not be a post about the plausibility of the virus, nor its effects and those affected. I won't show you a chart or a bell curve or even tell you how you are or aren't "loving thy neighbor" by what you did or didn't do so far.

I am going to write down two questions. One for you and one for likely only one of your friends, you remember friends, don't you? Those the people outside your cohort. We used to have lots of them but now it's only the people we can safely be around. 

The first question is  "Have you had your choice of face-covering mocked?"

It's a simple but blunt statement that is sure to get you thinking. And given the myriad of options available during this pandemic, I'm sure the answers will vary. As a clarifyer, I'm not saying your use of a face covering. I'm saying the object itself. Likely if you are pro mask you have been attacked to some degree via macro or microaggression on your use of them, in the same way, people who fly the anti-mask flag are micro and macro agress'ing against their use. 

But I'm talking about the object itself. 

You there, Man. Has your contoured single-colored D-cup covering your face been attributed to a bra found in your wife's chest of drawers.

You there, Child. Has the hello kitty swaddling cloth with elastic band ear loops been mocked for its cuteness, in abject disdain for the sewing skills that wrought it into existence by your loving mother.

From the plain to the patterned, the colorful options that have been available for COVID masks are welcomed by those who use them if only they don't fog up our glasses or clash with our outfits. This is as practical as it gets I fear. 

If you have had your choice of mask made light of, I would love to hear from you but I'm guessing after a bit of research myself that you would be an anomaly. Their use might be debatable but their disdain isn't something to joke about in popular discourse. 

But now it's time for Question two:

"Have any of your friends who have chosen bandanas for their face covering, had their bandanas mocked?"

If they're game to talk, and have a sharp enough memory to catch these things, you'll be surprised to know that a very light and slippery thing is going on with these types of face coverings. They are being mocked. Maybe mocked is too strong a word but the names are being called out and noticed by those with ears to hear. I purposely wear one and I've been called a bandito, a cowboy, (might be because of the plaid I wear), I've been asked when is the next train robbery and outright had them (the bandanas) called silly. 

There is likely no actual reason why, but I did notice that out of all the options these are the least popular. It's not that they aren't available but they are about 1 in every 100 face coverings you'll see out in the wild. So why the rarity and why the name-calling. Aren't we all in this together?

I think this may be a matter of a simple wardrobe malfunction. 

You see the bandana and its sporty cousin the buff, are in fact articles of clothing. They are worn for purposes and have a history. Hense the old-time name-calling that a bandana can receive that a homemade or amazon bought face-covering avoids by being as novel as the coronavirus they combat. 

Those purposes are exactly what makes them useful and as effective as a homemade mask. They stop some if not all particulate in the air from being breathed in and conversely out. But effectiveness aside, they are an article of clothing and must be treated as such. 

Masks, on the other hand, aren't an article of clothing but for the life of all of us are trying to be. That's why there are fashionable and available in accordance with our fashion sense. Bright colors for bright personalities, black for the more subdued. Protective equipment that masquerades as fashion is the epitome of a religious totem. A talisman of safety, as effective as blatantly using something not effective in its place. which is what bandanas are, by the way. A homemade mask with two layers of fabric is no different than a folded bandana, but one will get you a nickname like "Pardner" and the other would never get you one line "Nursey".

No one would, however, enter into an operating room to get a hernia worked on if the doctor casually let them know, that in lieu of the surgical mask he normally used, he would be wearing a cotton bandana he found in the tack house. Why? Because it would be using an article of clothing however valid or not, for something it was not designed for. Used in place of the PPE intended for such a procedure. 

But that is wholesale what is being done with homemade masks as if they protect for and from anything. And what illustrates this is the same two-layer minimum of fabric clung to by a wearer of a homemade mask, present in a folded bandana as a face covering. One is something pretending to be something it's not and the other is something adjusting its use as asked. Both are as effective at stopping the spread of viruses both ways. in and out.

The reason, I think, one gets mocked and the other doesn't is the stakes that are involved if either is wrong. If a bandana is wrong about its ability to protect both ways. No amount of fabric is going to change the (how) of homemade mask safety. Simply because it is held to the face via elastics. But the minimum of technicalities will suffice for a bandana. 

We need a more fishy example.

If you and twenty of your friends all decided that the water was good enough to swim in. would you question the one kid who fishes, saying there are leeches in there. Now he knows that there are leeches in the pond because he uses them for bait sometimes. He might look like a party pooper with a rod and reel but no amount of fun and bright colored bathing suits would convince him to swim where swimming is questionably done. Only if you saw a leech and could verify it, right? The kids in the pond won't flee the water until they see the black slippery parasites clinging to every nook fold and cranny of their bodies. 

Well, masks never try to verify their claims of protection. Because they can be clearly defeated by scrutiny. A bandana never tries to verify claims of protection and in turn, tries to verify the minimum standard. Because of this inherent ability to play by the rules but to effectively stay on the bench, bandanas get jeers and jokes because they aren't where the fun is happening. 

And it is fun. As much as you bemoan the masks, no one makes fashion choices in discomfort and disdain. They pick out little black dresses with thoughts of the romantic dinners it will service. Wedding dresses for weddings. Suits for promotions that need a sharp dressed man. And skinny jeans to fit in with the youngsters. 

This is why you'll hear the argument and comparison of "mask's as pants" from the pro mask side of this equation. (Which I am on by the way, though not as deeply in leech filled ponds as most without my waders.) Everyone by fiat of public opinion wears something from the navel down. why can't we wear a mask from the neck up, as if the fabric on our nose is somehow as necessary as the fabric covering our genitals? 

I'll tell you why. Because Christians have a theology of clothes. It may not be a popular topic from the pulpit and the iPad as how to live your best life or a 3-week study on marriage, but it is there. Way back in Genesis where the Lord killed animals in chapter 3 verse 21, to cover the nakedness and shame of our first parents. This act of shame covering was also likely the first sacrifice for sins. Made to show them the gospel-centered way from where they were in their sin, to a savior from their sin. 

Clothes can point us to Christ, even in the slightest. By need or by purpose clothes matter to the gospel. Every day we put them on in public reminds us practically that we are creatures of sin in need of a covering. Every time we take them off, a reminder of the intimacy (particularly us married folks) that God has with us, warts and all. 

Protective equipment doesn't ever point us to Christ, it only separates us from him. The death that was needed to account for sin, is what had our first parents taken from the Garden of Eden and God's presence Gen3:21. The face-covering over Moses' face was put there for Isreal comfort and shame after worship was lifted to a golden cow in the dust below Sinai. Exo 34:30 The veil in the Tabernacle and Temple kept a righteous and holy's God's presence from the sinful people who would die in it. Lev 16:1-28.

PPE keeps us from God because PPE keeps us from death. And that of all the uncomfortable things might be what we are actually dealing with these days. not just foggy glasses and nicknames.

But clothes point us to Christ, and as fancy as we make them these masks aren't clothes. At best they are PPE. This is why Paul can say things like Philippians 1:21, and why people mock articles of clothing that point to Christ, from behind the "fig leaves" of homemade masks.  

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

The Need of Theology in the Fog.


One of my favourite writers often says that for most writers themselves, it's not a matter of being able to write but rather having something to say. 

As a Christian author, I've struggled around this problem for a couple years now. Not in the way you would struggle against an opponent or a physical circumstance. Like a mountain or dense forest. But like one struggles in a fog. Able to run full tilt in any direction, but foolish to do so. 

That same author is doing something profound through his platform these days, he's bringing an ancient philosophy school to the modern light and really hitting it out of the park with it too. Peoples lives are being changed and for the better. All from him having a thing to write about. And what I have noticed is that I too have an ancient way of thinking that verifiably could help people like the other author does, but seems to flounder in the marketplaces and popular discourse. There is something odd about Christian books and how we have segregated them away to places only Christians would find them. 

With rare exception, the world of Christian books seems to be few and far between unless surrounded by Christians or directed to Christians. We do not have an apologetic voice loud enough for the market that isn't already coloured with the assumptions of a Christian audience after the book release.

What would a Christian book about sex look like if not meant for the saint but rather the sinner? Not just an extra thick copy of the KJV lobbed at our view of their perversion, but a book that starts with gospel aimed at truth with "compromise" being it's the only victim. Christians seem to be really good at writing book for Christians by Christians but I'm not so sure about writing books about Christianity for Non-Christians. Gospel centred prose and research on everything from the bedroom to the boardroom.  

We believe we have the distilled truth of an almighty God when it comes to everything that claims the New York Times bestsellers title every day the list is refreshed. Business, sex, management, and money all owned by the same God who gave us the gospel. In the fog of Literature, where opinions are as dense as anything we might find in the wild, there is a light that has existed for centuries. Ancient wisdom, hope, and joy to break like the dawn over a misty valley where everything is cool and in need of said warmth. As we watch the world change and struggle in its own fog, of political turmoil and cultural decay, we have that same light to shed on others. perhaps we just need saints to start turning that light on when and where it's needed. 

What would it look like to write books for the world, from our response to the gospel, with the truth of the scriptures, for the world? In but not of as the gospel of John reads. 

John 17:14-19

English Standard Version

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

I for one plan to find out.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

A mask by any other name would still be just as sweet.

Or maybe the word is sentimental.

Not in the darling way that an heirloom or talisman might suggest but in that it displays a sentiment even as it protects or doesn't.

Masks do prevent unbridled moist speaking from leaving the mouth of an individual. They may not be best at it but they do prevent some. And masks on everyone would prevent more moist speaking from becoming unbridled than masks on no one. They also can protect, given the right construction from things so small you would think they were harmless but big enough to harm plenty in their wake.

There are honest and honorable questions as to the effectiveness of masks in either direction. As a person who has had to take hazardous material training along with respirator fit testing, I've seen the gamut on what mask can and can't do, and frankly, a discussion on these will have disagreeing experts on every side taken and every direction ventured.

So let's look at what masks actually do and leave the debatable's up for debate. 

Seeing a mask conveys fear, plain and simple. Personal protective equipment implies a risk and danger, people generally are afraid of danger and should be. 

But they also simultaneously convey concern. A blue surgical mask lets me know that the person wearing it wants to take measures as to prevent their moist speaking from accidentally contacting me. Even if their mask won't do that 100% of the time, the concern is noted and I would be foolish to mistake it for anything else. 

Yet if this issue were as simply binary it would not be as problematic as it is. There is a third dimension to this cube to be drawn out in lockstep with the other two axis.

Mask's convey a virtue signal like any other mandatory piece of wardrobe. They may not be universally mandated by the government that declared this crisis and lockdowns accordingly, but they are becoming the kind of socially mandated item that few would want to argue against. And speaking of wardrobes, you do wear them remember. And you would be hard-pressed to tell me the kaleidoscope of colorful homemade masks didn't in some way portray fashion. Or that the stylish sleek black models weren't purchased and worn with a hint of vanity in their weave.

Beauty and death are only ever found in lockstep in one individual I've read about. He is cunning and slippery like the hand sanitizer we douse our selves with to make ourselves clean. 

So to illuminate this troubling virtue of mask-wearing I propose a simple addition to the equation that should sus out the real meaning behind them. If executed properly it will also make sure that no slippery serpent-like motives make it past the greeters at your church door when you reopen as well.

If you're a Christian, print the name of your church on the bottom edge of your masks in a contrasting color and the name Jesus on the top.

Will you wear that same signal of virtue when it's ascribed to a savior of the highest order of virtue and his institution of virtuous salvation. Did the thought of marking the sterile object make you wince? Or the idea of wearing such vandalized medical devices to your Costco?

People have always been hesitant when it came to evangelizing for a savior from their sins because it inherently admits, that at least at one point, we were infected with that sin and were in fact dirty sinners like the rest of the world. 

All it took to take away that infectious stigma was to remove Jesus from the equation and let everyone know in clashing, sterile, hospital-blue masks, that we were dirty, even infected, but Jesus wasn't involved anymore. 

So here's my recommendation to thwart all concern and argument to the matter at hand. Every Christian that can, should have their faces covered for the glory of God in Christ, especially when outdoors. With the gospel being declared by their actions and the words, sharpie'd boldly on their face coverings.

While attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, this quote has as much internet credibility as most of the info you'll find on masks these days. Its truth is still surpassing.

"Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words."

COVID-19, 2020

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Any church making detrimental decisions during the Covid-19 pandemic, leverages the risk of hosting an exclusively online gathering, against the capability of their congregation to disagree with them and choose to leave. These can be public decisions that are meant to be public or private decisions that weren't meant to get out, it won't necessarily matter. The least amount of effort is now needed to go to another church in protest of a leadership decision you disagree with. Disgruntled parishioners might not book a time with their pastor to tell them how they feel about a corporate decision. But they can find another church posting their services online and try them out. Risk-free and absent from interaction with that new church's people. From the comfort of their living room and in their pajamas. They will not be noticed as missing from their home church's online pew. They will not be noticed church shopping from the back row of a new virtual service elsewhere. Because online, you are just a viewer until you comment and interact. But their place in a volunteer position and tithe will go missing real fast. With nearly all large church services online now by necessity, a Christian can now shop for their online experience like they would on and swipe left on ones that have shown poorly like Tinder.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Contact, Bones and Dirts.

Spit in hand and mud in eye.
Wiped with hands the tears we'd cry.
Ate with sinners, walked with crooks.
Center of our holy books.

Had the dirt washed from his feet,
by woman, sinner, made to weep
Had the crown placed on his head.
Had the spear wound, prove He's dead.

Wrapped in cotton, double layer.
Guarded, armed, buried, savior.
Rolled back stone and running girls,
Rabbi lives, go tell the world.

Won't believe you, could be lies.
Touch his hands, his head, his side.
Touch the broken Son of Man.
Touched the Godhead, now we can.

Made a faith of smell and sound, 
Wrapped in contact, love was found.
Love to reach the souls of men.
Hope to bring them home again.

Kisses, handshakes, smiles, and hugs.
Marriage beds and coffee mugs.
Faith is more than songs and words.
Skin and marrow, bones and dirts.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Do not fear, the angle said.

Shelter first in place from friends.
That's the fastest way to end
limits made, restrictions led.
"Do not fear." The angel said.

Urged to listen, then comply.
Fines and jail time by and by.
Solitude in comfy bed.
"Do not fear." The angel said.

Touch the leper, feed the poor.
That is what the church is for.
Least of these my brother find.
By all means, I will not mind.

Twist and shimmy, bend and shake.
Pray the Lord thy soul to take.
Listen to the daily news.
Prioritize the King of Jews.

Took your worship, then your pew
did it all and in plain view.
Made you bow to rule of law.
Never seen what we have saw.

Faith is tested in the trail.
Walk the soldier's extra mile.
Yet by scriptures be thee led.
"Do not fear." The angel said.