It usually happens by various means and in many ways, and under the wisdom of providence, the assignment of symbols and their meanings is a complex mystery. How does “naming” work exactly? We are not precisely sure, but we can be pretty certain when it has happened. A symbol that once held much of civilized Europe under its sway, and that within living memory, is now a symbol that is universally loathed. What took great courage for Captain Von Trapp to do then is almost an empty gesture now. Well, duh. Nazi flags are Nazi flags.
In our new pandemic situation, the naming of the flag is well under way and almost complete. Not wearing a mask, or even not wanting to, is a flag that indicates you are numbered among the restive deplorables. Wearing a mask, conscientiously and without chafing, is a sign that you are numbered among the compliant. You are a good citizen. You are being kind to your neighbor. You are a team player. In the same way that sodomy has become love— by authoritative definition by the powers that be—so also kindness is defined as wearing a mask at the post office.
And this new flag waves over multiple issues—beliefs about lock downs, beliefs about mask studies, having severe doubts about this latest and very rushed vaccine, but also extending to beliefs about whether this last election was fraudulent, and whether or not we should audit the Federal Reserve. Flags, in other words, cover a lot of territory. On a related matter, so will this blog post.
The Nuances of December
I should also say, right at the front end, that it is in the nature of flags to have quirks and exceptions and oddball outliers. This is “a sign that” is not the same thing as being an “infallible sign that.” Perhaps no one can fully explain why American flags were flown by Hong Kong protesters, and why somebody with a Free Tibet bumper sticker is driving his Prius to a protest where an American flag will be indignantly burned. We are people after all, and not mechanical calculators. That means tensions, inconsistencies, and contradictions.
So I am writing in generalities here, because that is how flags work. Every actual flag in the real world waves over a bunch of anomalies. Don’t bustle up to me with an exception you may have noticed because that does not touch the thesis. I have my own list of exceptions. For example, the Warhorn guys have no problem with wearing the masks, and yet are certainly to be numbered among the ruling elite’s deplorables, and they will be trundled off to the Happy Acres Reeducation Camps every bit as vigorously as we, the unmasked, will be. We can all agree that the masks don’t protect you from the people demanding that you wear them.
Nevertheless, from where I sit, this does seem like a bunch of Vermont farmers who suddenly took to putting Confederate battle flags in the back windows of their pick-up trucks. But life is funny sometimes. You just roll with it, and remember who your real friends are. We are dealing with people, and not with theorems in geometry, where triangles never fail to have three sides.
A Needed Distinction
To review: the mask covers the face, the principal place where we reflect the image of God. Requiring an entire population to wear a mask in all their interactions with others will therefore have a huge impact on that society. It is a big deal. It cannot fail to utterly transform that society. But those demanding this of us do not believe that we bear, or reflect, or carry the image of God. Our highest value is reflecting the glory of God, and their highest value is survival of the species. Different worldviews result in different responses to a crisis.
Now if this irrational panic that has seized us had taken a different route, and the mandates that came down required us all to wear surgical gloves whenever we went out in public, that would have been every bit as much of a specimen of unconstitutional overreach as the masks have been. Such a requirement would also have been unscientific, unnecessary, irrational, illegal, unconstitutional, and all the rest of it.
But it would not have been as demeaning. When everyone covers their faces in a situation like this, it is a sign of submission. When a populace covers its collective face like this, it is a flag that is flying over a conquered country. And when church leadership requires believers to worship God while masked like this, it has the effect of bringing the flag of that conquest into the sanctuary. Because flags affect how people think, it is going to have that effect whether or not the elders insisting on it agree with the effect at all. Some may even be at war with such a consequence . . . but sadly, most are not.
The elites believe you to be a deplorable, and so they want you to act like a deplorable. They want you to hide your miserable face. And when you do what they require, the way they require it, you are sending a very clear signal. That signal says that you are willing to do what you are told. But they don’t want you to just do what you are told. They want much more than that. They want you to do what you are told because you have believed what you were told. A message that would be incongruent with everything else that is going on would be to have a mask that said something like “Question Authority” on it.
As in all such public spasms like this, the policing is frequently done by random volunteers from the general public. I was called out in the post office just the other day, by a gent in line two ahead of me. “Sir, sir! You need to wear a mask!” I shook my head as much as to indicate that no, I didn’t. “It’s the law!” he said. “No, it isn’t,” I replied. I indicated that we were all standing six feet apart. He said something about us being indoors, which made no sense, because the markers on the floor telling us where to stand, like so many compliant and obedient moo cows, were themselves indoors. He fortunately dropped the subject, but the nature of the peer pressure being attempted was clearly a desire for signs of universal submission. Everyone in that post office line must wear a mask, and if someone doesn’t, that might mean that people have to think about it.
Something similar happened out on the street, within just a few days of the post office incident. I was walking down the street, all by myself, without a mask, and I was six feet away from everybody else in the world. A stranger walking the other way snapped at me about my missing mask, and went grumpily on his grumpy way. The issue wasn’t contagion. There was no conceivable way that I was a threat to anybody. The issue wasn’t the law, because I was quite clearly at that moment complying with the law. And the issue wasn’t whether or not I had an exemption that the law allowed for, in case I came near to somebody, because he plainly and clearly had no idea whether or not I was, say, asthmatic. So what was the issue then? The issue was his version of patriotism. I wasn’t flying the flag, and this was a designated flag day. In fact, every day is now flag day.
Speaking of which, at some point in one of these public contretemps, I am going to ask everyone in the lobby of whatever establishment it is, after I have been invited to absent myself, something like this: “How many years are you people going to wear these useless things? It has already been going on one year. How many more?”
When Arrogant Ignorance is Culpable
There is a kind of ignorance that is natural and right and God-given. Your toddler is ignorant of calculus, or even the idea of calculus. And you don’t ask him to explain the difference between God’s works ad intra and ad extra. Or at least you don’t if you have any sense.
But when ignorance becomes proud and haughty, and refuses to learn, it comes under the condemnation of Scripture. There is a kind of ignorance that is the gift of God, one that enables us to experience the grace of learning. But there is another kind of ignorance, one that refuses this grace of learning, and would rather yell at strangers in grocery stores than learn anything.
“The simple believeth every word: But the prudent man looketh well to his going.”
Proverbs 14:15 (KJV)
But this point I have just made is a bit rich for some, because they want to maintain that I am the ignorant one. I am the science-denier. Don’t I believe that 300K have died from this already? Don’t I realize that I have a tenacious grip on my own opinions and theories and am consequently being very, very selfish? And when will I come to realize that Right. But if I were to ask why a third of these deaths occurred in just four states, ones with very strict lockdown and masking policies, would there be an answer?
I will tell you. Suppose I were to make a YouTube video that addressed this question, asking why the most approved-solution-compliant places were having the worst problems. Suppose I did that, and the video got some traction and a whole lotta views. Would the establishment, as full of scientific answers as they are, then step forward and explain the mistakes I had made. Or would they just censor the video? I will tell you.
Another tactic is to attack the character of critics. I was recently charged with having performed a significant volte-face on government authority and vaccines (which has actually not happened). I still believe that our civil authorities have a biblical and constitutional obligation to be guardians of public health. Not to put too fine a point on it, if there were a small town of 100 people, and there were an outbreak of the bubonic plague there, such that half their population died, and half the survivors were badly infected, I believe that the governor would have the right and the responsibility to cordon off the town, not allowing anyone out. It would not have any resemblance to tyranny, and I wouldn’t care what Alex Jones might say about it.
And I fully recognize that this yay-vaccines-in-principle position of mine makes me, on this issue, one of those Vermont farmers with the Stars and Bars. Yeah, I get it, and I practice what I preach.
But by the same token, if the governor and his wife watched a really scary movie about a contagious disease, and as a result cordoned off a perfectly healthy town, that would be tyranny. And at a certain point, once we have figured out what had happened, the people would have the responsibility to object to it.
But still, people persist in saying that my reasons for disregarding these “public health measures” are found in my personal likes and dislikes. I dislike masks, and I dislike the government, and so QED. Not quite. Although I have not changed on the principles involved at all, I have noticed that our public health establishment has disgraced itself in manifold ways. They have not rattled my confidence in the scientific method. They have rattled my confidence that they are following it. There is a difference between using scientific instruments and using scientific logic. We are living in an era when everything is political, including disease control. If you don’t recognize that, you are not paying close attention. “Doctor, when will the pandemic be over?” “I am afraid I don’t know. I don’t actually follow politics much.”
Remember fifteen days to flatten the curve? Good times, good times. And then we learned the distinction between dying with COVID and dying of COVID. And remember when they changed the definition of what constitutes a case? And you do know that I can fidget with my mask all morning, and touch door handles with those same fingers all afternoon, and absolutely nobody cares that I am spreading the virus like crazy, just so long as I am faithfully flying the flag that proclaims I am being a responsible citizen. Then I am good. I don’t have to be responsible, I just have to salute their version of what responsibility is supposed to look like. All I have to do is become a Health Hypocrite. All I have to do is lie to everybody.
All of that is really bad. But as far as I am concerned the slam dunk argument in all of this is that our nanny state vastly prefers censorship to argument. They much prefer it. They don’t know how to argue, unless you count as an argument toggling between yelling SCIENCE! and shouting SHUT UP! We recorded a Man Rampant episode with Peter Hitchens on the coronavirus, which Amazon Prime straight up censored. Nope. Not allowed to see that.
This is not the behavior of an establishment with any kind of confidence in the truth of what they are claiming. When a mandate hardens into a rigid orthodoxy within a matter of weeks, you can tell that something dishonest is up.
There is a saying in Washington that you should never believe anything until it is officially denied. This is like that.
And then there are the Christians trying to shush me because I have apparently developed a bad testimony among the censors. Oh, well. There’s that.
You Do Know This Is All Tangled Up in Our Politics, Don’t You?
If you remember that flags fly over everything, this section will not look like a lurch, or a radical change of subject. But everything is connected. All of it goes together. The meaning of the flag is extensive.
With regard to the presidential election, we are not in the final seconds of a football game, where the only thing possible is a Hail Mary pass. Rather, we are in the final stages of a football game, where the pass has already been thrown, the play has not been whistled dead, and the marching band of the presumptive winner has flooded the field, while the fans of these ostensible winners are starting to tear down one of the goalposts, and the receiver is wending his way through the crowd, knocking down a tuba player, just to make this illustration more colorful, and I am providing color commentary from the sky box, trying to anticipate what might be coming next. This is difficult. It is hard because another tuba player got mad, and threw his tuba at the back of the receiver’s head. We shall see what happens. Will he make it?
If you are on the edge of your seat, not really wanting Joe Biden to tell you to wear a mask for 100 days, concerned as you are that it could easily turn into 100 years, there are two things to watch for. But they actually both come down to the same thing. The first is whether the president eventually receives that report his 2018 executive order required, and receives it soon. The deadline for that report being submitted to him was last Friday, and that didn’t happen. That was significant. And the second thing to watch for is when Congress meets in joint session on January 6 to certify the results of the Electoral College. If you want an objective rundown on that is all about, and how it all works, this should be really helpful. And there is actually a related third thing. There is apparently going to be a monster rally in DC on the 6th, which the president has said is going to be “wild,” is now beating the drum for. One suspects there will be peasants and some actual pitchforks.
But with either of these situations in mind, or both, and especially with the rally, President Trump needs to roll four aces, and pretty darn quick. And those aces will have to be the kind of hand that is persuasive to more Americans than those who are already persuaded that the election was fraudulent, like me. They would have to be four aces of the sort that make The Washington Post go, “Eerkkk.” You know, like a recording of Joe Biden saying something like, “So it’s a go then. Steal that election, boys! Bwah hah hah hah!” Or perhaps the president could roll out that server on little casters, the server that was captured by a special ops team in Germany, and he could pat the top of it and say, “This little baby is why the federal government is going to have to build a new penitentiary. To make room for everybody. ”
The election fraud means that a slow motion coup is in progress, and of course it is beyond worrisome. But a counter coup can be just as beyond worrisome. A counter coup can do one of two things. It could fight off the coup, defending the republic, or it can be a counter coup that destroys the republic from the right instead of from the left. A monster rally in Washington, on January 6 of all dates, is far more like to be the latter—unless the president rolls his aces. But to roll them he has to have them.
The Coming Break Point
Given how inflamed everything has gotten, I do not see a way out of our cultural impasse that is not tumultuous. And by tumultuous, I mean raucous. And in such tumultuous times, all of us as believers will need to have our priorities and allegiances straight.
This will require further development, which I will undertake in the weeks to come, but what it boils down to is the baptism flag. There is a flag that, for us, over arches every other. I am talking about the lordship of Jesus Christ. Not the lordship mouthed, or the use of any kind of Christian conference brochure-talk.
And so when the inevitable break point comes (and it is coming), you will know which way to turn, what direction to go, and what strategy to pursue.
If the lordship of Christ is our universal flag, this means that it flies over all the other possible flags. It teaches us how to understand them. It teaches us how to use (or not use) them. It separates us from the world. This is why faithful Christians cannot simply be categorized as right wing. It doesn’t matter that it is a bald eagle. Christ always claims the whole bird.