As Covid 19 became a reality across the world, as cases spread and lockdowns tightened an interesting subgroup of Americans surfaced. These anti-maskers decided that being told to wear a mask violated their civil liberties. They called loudly for their personal freedoms even when faced with the high cost of the health of those around them. They said, ironically, hilariously, “my body, my choice.”
I can’t pretend to remember when I first saw the meme on social media that attributed a quote to Dr. Anthony Fauci. It said simply, “I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people.” I thought it was a beautiful sentiment. I thought it was damning, an indictment of who some of these people claimed to be and who they claimed to follow.
Dr. Fauci didn’t actually say this. A woman named Lauren Morrill tweeted this in 2017, as Donald Trump called for repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Morrill named what many of us felt in 2016 and 2017 and every minute since – we wondered how we can explain to you that you are supposed to care about other people. We wondered how this very basic gospel message got lost, how I became more important than we. We wondered how we’d missed what should have been a seismic, tsunami inducing shift in what we thought was our collective thinking.
In the United States we call this sort of thinking Rugged Individualism, a term coined by post World War I president Herbert Hoover. Hoover supposed that the adoption of all people by the government, which was necessary to support the effort of a world war, was an overstepping of who Americans really were. Hoover supposed that we were free to be rich or poor, and that the poor should take themselves to their nearest church or charity for remedy, but certainly not to those they’d elected to govern them.
What has happened in the intervening years is that, as Americans, we’ve taken this thinking so far that we’ve become insular, selfish, refusing to recognize even our own connections and dependencies on and to the socialistic tendencies we rail against.
We’ve become an us against them, when really we’re both us and them. We’ve held tighter and tighter to what we think we have, what we think we own and have earned. Mainline churches have also struggled to meet this, and many other, challenges since the time of Hoover’s administration. Churches with dwindling memberships and tithes have been left to struggle against a wall of human pain and need.
Today is not different, in fact, it is worse.
Today we’re faced with those people in our churches, the ones who want to know how deserving others are of their money. The ones who want to designate every gift, hold every string, the ones who could do with some real and serious training on what stewardship is.
Who are we, really? What is the point of us? Do we follow Jesus or a nation, if it’s Jesus who does Jesus call us to be?
We can look at Matthew 25:34 or Luke 14. We can seek to understand and interpret the parables of Jesus in which he undoes unjust systems. We can look to what we know of the early church, to the letters of Paul calling again and again for unity. Nowhere in scripture does Jesus condone or suggest that every man is an island, he never says that the needs of the poor need to be weighted against their poor decisions. He doesn’t turn people away from that loaves and fishes soup kitchen, he doesn’t take names or check ID.
Jesus speaks against the people who litmus test need. He overturns the tables of those who would suppose to turn a temple into a payday lending store. Ultimately he is killed for this, and much more, depending on where you fall theologically.
How do we turn their faces? How do we break their hearts? How do we shatter the mirror of apathy? The only idea I have left is that we do this through how we act. We model generous, unflinching love. We live extravagant grace. We refuse to throw anyone into the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth while somehow maintaining boundaries around acceptable behavior. We live out a faith that really believes that no one is beyond the love of God, one that believes that anyone can return, repent, and be forgiven.
It’s really hard to give up ideas, it is hard to change or to admit that we’re wrong. It’s incredible work to take apart the systems that made us into the people we are, but we are called to that work before we even think of touching the people in our care.
Perhaps a good jumping off point for this discussion is this true tale of a misplaced quote, more woman words attributed to a man of wealth and status – but words that are true anyway.
“I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people.”
And then tell your people again.
Alicia Hager resides in West Michigan and is a Postulant to the Sacred Order of Priests in the Episcopal Church. Alicia enjoys spending time with her daughters and her husband, is bonkers about her cats, and blogs at astrawberrypointe.wordpress.com.
RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back to the specific post. For permission to use written material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.