The Elephant in The Pews

My wife and I (through our new church) have been taking a weekly Zoom class called “Be The Bridge,” which is an open forum for listening and sharing about the devastating effects of institutional racism, and how to be better equipped to have hard conversations about the topic with others.

It’s run by some great people, and aside from not having many personal anecdotes to share (as a white guy), overall it’s been pretty valuable, and the stories have been heartbreaking and powerful.

The problem, however, is with one of the core rules of the class: no politics allowed.

In a different era, this would have been completely reasonable, as politics should absolutely not have a place in the church. In 2021 though? It means that outreach attempts remain impotent as we dance around the gigantic elephant in the room:

Over the past several decades (with a massive acceleration over the past five years), the American evangelical church has tightly fused with the modern Republican party.

What effect does this have? It means that attempts to have good-faith conversations about any number of issues (institutional racism in this case) are met with closed ears and a dismissive “let’s not bring politics into it” stock answer. In other words, the message of the class sounds like foolishness for those unwilling to hear.

Am I saying that the church should try to convert people into Democrats? Of course not. Am I saying that the church should call out what modern Republicanism has become, by name, as racist, xenophobic and jingoistic? 100%.

Will membership go down? Almost certainly. Will this hurt financially as tithes stop coming in? Yeah, probably a great deal. But aside from being the right thing to do, it may (over time) even win back some of the younger people that have walked away, alienated by the church’s tacit embrace of Trumpism in recent years. Taking a strong moral stand is never easy, but it always pays off in the end.

Hesitant

Disclaimer: This post does not apply to any (currently ineligible) children under 12 or those with legitimate medical conditions who are unable to be vaccinated. They’re some of the people we’re trying to protect the most!

My wife and I have been warning about the dangers of the conservative misinformation ecosystem for a while now, and ever since the COVID vaccines became widely available I’ve been observing the ongoing antics of the anti-vax/anti-mask crowd with grim fascination.

Still, aside from posting snarky memes here and there, I hadn’t dedicated a post to my thoughts on the subject. Well, the past few weeks finally broke me. Specifically, seeing or hearing about:

  • A friend sharing a “vaccine hesitancy” video and information on trying to prevent mandates designed to stop the COVID spread (positioned as an issue of “personal choice”)

  • Stories like these

  • Deranged parents protesting classroom mask requirements (therefore going out of their way to place their own children in greater danger)

  • A local church setting up a separate viewing/listening area for those that are maskless (as if validating that as a reasonable option)

  • People taking horse de-worming medication rather than the vaccines

Enough.

I know that peer pressure can be strong, especially in conservative evangelical circles with extremely isolated media ecosystems that stir up strong “keep the government out” sentiments (except when it comes to reproductive rights, of course 💀).

Here’s the thing though: Beating COVID is going to take a united front. Contagious pandemics don’t care about your ill-informed “personal choice” arguments. People are getting sick and dying, and collective action is the only way out.

As a country, we used to be able to do this. Prior to the rise of always-on, instant misinformation sources, we banded together to defeat Polio and Smallpox. Measles, on the other hand, had a recent re-emergence due to, you guessed it, misinformation.

Even if you’re “hesistant” about getting the vaccine (there’s no reason to be) and slapping a mask on, putting your own reluctance or arguments about “personal freedom” above the lives of others is an inherently immoral act.

Just as free speech ends with your ability to yell “fire” in a crowded theater, the ability of the unvaccinated to participate in society (during a global pandemic!) should be dramatically restricted.

Shut up and wear the stupid mask. Get vaccinated to help do your part as a member of the human race. And please, please, please stop eating horse paste.

Lovely Lviv

Last week, I was fortunate enough to visit Lviv, Ukraine on a work trip, and even more fortunate that I was able to bring my wife with me.

What an amazing city!

I’ll let the pictures and videos do most of the talking, but here’s a short list of things I learned from our time there:

  • Like elsewhere in Europe, their “acceptable amount of ice in drinks” game is suspect
  • Same goes for the coldness of their fridges (prepare to embrace that lukewarm lifestyle)
  • You’re not getting a Diet Coke, friend
  • You’re also not getting any black coffee (Americano it is!)
  • Pedestrians are absolutely fearless
  • Smiling and nodding as you pass someone is not a thing
  • Borscht is everywhere, and I actually enjoyed it!
  • The Ukrainians I chatted with weren’t as interested in Chernobyl as tourists are (given that it is a dark time in their history)
  • You can tap to pay everywhere, and it’s glorious
  • It’s generally difficult to be a non-drinker on work trips, but it’s really hard in Ukraine (though I’m now an expert on the Lviv seltzer scene)