Pissed or Blissed?
It’s frustrating to see people disregard the health of their neighbors, but even as we get angry, are we as considerate as we imagine?
Austin Kleon quotes Bill O’Hanlon when he talks about the four energies for writing. The first two (the upper quadrants) being positive, the second two (the lower quadrants) are the negative energies.
I’d rather be writing from the upper two quadrants, but I have to admit to be expressing myself from the “pissed” category today.
Much has been written about how the call to get vaccinated against Covid-19, the urge (or mandate) to wear masks, etc. are for the benefit of others as much as ourselves. How do we respect the lives and health of others while living in community? Ed Yong recently canceled his birthday party in order to keep people safe, because his birthday falls so closely to Christmas.
If someone got sick, I know others could too. A week later, many of my friends will spend Christmas with their own families. At best, a cluster of infections at the birthday party would derail those plans, creating days of anxious quarantine or isolation, and forcing the people I love to spend time away from their loved ones. At worst, people might unknowingly carry the virus to their respective families, which might include elderly, immunocompromised, unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or otherwise vulnerable people. Being born eight days before Christmas creates almost the perfect conditions for one potential super-spreader event to set off many more.
Yong doesn’t worry so much about himself, but others whom he might not even know getting sick during the holidays. This is the kind of mentality that drives disease prevention. Yet, even as I praise Yong’s thinking, I think about welcoming my sister home from international living only a few days ago with a birthday party for her. She hadn’t been vaccinated. Though her vaccine status was not for lack of effort. Vaccines are harder to come by in Eastern Europe. We did what we could to mitigate the risk with vaccinations of those in the US, but ultimately deferred total caution for fellowship. In our defense, almost everyone present is planning to be together in that grouping throughout the holidays.
Almost everyone is navigating these tough decisions right now. However, it feels like those that aren’t getting vaccinated aren’t even trying to choose. At least in the US, they are simply giving up on doing what is easy and meeting that low bar to help ensure the continuing health of others. This became real for us this week when the unvaccinated coworker that is in closest proximity to my brother at the bank in which he works tested positive for Covid. We are now looking at the possible outcome of my brother not being able to attend the Christmas celebration with relatives that have come from the other side of the country and the world to be a part of. I’m not sure of why his coworker isn’t vaccinated, but I suspect the reason isn’t what most would think of as legitimate. Hopefully, testing will show my brother is negative.
For Christians, caring for others is a matter of faith and conscience. The particulars are summed up well in this relatively short piece from Catalyst magazine, in which Joel B. Green profiles the position of the eminent bioethicist D. Garett Jones.
Though he doesn’t draw attention to the absence from Scripture of the modern category of “human rights,” Jones does observe that “serving one another and laying down one’s life (rights) for others” is central to the Christian ethos. He draws the inescapable corollaries regarding caring for one’s neighbor, serving “the other,” for example, through donning face masks, practicing social distancing, and participating in efforts to vaccinate everyone, including oneself, who is eligible. “This is Christian social responsibility in practice.”
The piece goes on to explain Protestant Reformer Martin Luther’s stance on taking steps for disease prevention to ensure the health of self and neighbor. Similar statements have been echoed across other Christian traditions. It’s pretty clear where the faithful should stand on these issues.
My anger has to be tempered by humility, grace and an understanding of my own actions. If I’m honest though, I’m still pissed.