(To the reader: Mobley is not a fictional person. I wish he were. But this is the world we live in, and these are the words I want to say. Feel free to share this with the Mobleys you know.)
I’ve been meaning to write you for a while, but ever since I saw you throw up that meme in support of “freedom” and all that this word now entails, I knew I needed to be quicker about it than I have been.
As everyone has tried to convince you using logic and rational arguments– and you’ve dug in and responded with Bible verses and personal convictions– I’m not going to try to start any of that with you. It’s true that you and I have come to different conclusions about a lot of things like masks and vaccines, but I think the first thing you need to know about why I’m writing you now is that I love you. For real. I care about your well-being and about the well-being of everyone around you. And though my love for you is imperfect and probably not to the point or scale that you deserve, I wanted to say this first because as I’ve sat here and wondered what to say, I knew this was what I needed to say first. This, so that you remember that this is coming from someone who doesn’t harbour ill will against you but is, as far as he is able, trying to prefer your good above my own.
Mobley, you are so much more beloved than you can feel or understand. Same goes for me, for all of us.
I admit that I’ve gone the way of the masses. I am triple-vaccinated and I wear masks in public. But I also admit that I haven’t read a single scientific paper regarding the efficacy and safety of the vaccines, and that I am taking the word of people who know better than I. It’s also true that I haven’t seen the mRNA degrade in the cytoplasm of my body’s cells as the scientists have told me it does. And even more, it’s true that I don’t know for certain that there isn’t some global conspiracy among the elites that is culminating in some gigantic hoax designed to keep you and I under their thumb and their evil unchecked. I confess that I’m at the relative mercy of news outlets and public health officials relaying information to me. Maybe I did just join the new world order in ignorance of the spirit of Jesus. Maybe I did just get the “mark of the beast” to allow me to go shopping and eat at restaurants.
But in the balance of things, I think it’s unlikely.
I know that you know that I’m overeducated, and from someone who tries to look at things from a non-majority perspective, I guess my undergrad in microbiology, my master’s in theology, and my doctorate in clinical psychology might mean to you that I’m brainwashed and indoctrinated by the system. Maybe to you, I’m just another one of “them.” But more than anything, I have to say that all of this education across a broad range of subjects actually has taken root in me as the beginnings of what I’m told is intellectual humility. Frankly, I’ve never felt more ignorant than I do now, after all these degrees that have only increased my sense that I don’t actually know a lot about very much. But the nice thing about a doctorate is that I have external validation that implies that someone, somewhere thinks I know something about some things. So now, I get to ask stupid questions without fear of looking stupid because I can’t actually prove myself any more than I already have.
So in my ignorance, I confess again that I haven’t done all my research in vaccines and masks. I’ve relied heavily on the word of the overwhelming majority of people who have doctorates in their fields. And yes, all of us are maybe part of that “system of elites”, but having done a doctorate, I can tell you that academics– especially tenured ones– love nothing more than to call bullshit on each other’s work. It’s really part of the reason I’m in private practice now. When you get down to it, I’m kind of a thin-skinned chicken.
But if my education and experience means anything, maybe it means that I’m also qualified to tell you what I understand about the stuff we disagree on.
The first is that maybe vaccines are a mode of control by governments that are established and controlled by elites, some (most?) of whom are child-trafficking pedophiles. Along with this are concerns about bodily sovereignty and not having to put stuff in it that others say is good or will protect us (and others.) And here, let me say again that I don’t know much about the mRNA vaccines, except to say that the other day, it occurred to me that it’s either incredibly ingenious and a medical miracle, or we’ll exponentially explode our incidence rates for cancer because the mRNA actually has stuck around and is causing mutations in our DNA.
Sometimes, when I’m still, I wonder if I’ve been deceived. I mean, I thought Bill Cosby was a good guy. But using Occam’s (Ockham’s) Razor, the most likely explanation is the simplest one. And that is, the vaccines and masks work far better than doing without. Given the enormous amount of effort and coordination it would take to pull a conspiracy against us across nations and governments, it just seems more realistic that the information is as right as we can get it so far. And yes, I’ve been slightly irritated by the changes in governmental mandates and advice– but I’m willing to grant that this is how science actually works. As far as I understand it, science is the process of verifying hypotheses based on data, and when you disconfirm your initial hypothesis (also called confirming your “null hypothesis”), you’re supposed to change your questions and forge on with more research to get closer to a better understanding of what is going on.
The second is that I sometimes worry about whether I’ve gone the way of those people who got marked on the hand or forehead by the Mark of the Beast from Revelation 13. I hope you can stand a story here, but I think it’s helpful. My earliest memory of encountering this verse was actually from the church I attended when I was a kid. In the foyer, there were a bunch of little black and white comics by a guy named Jack Chick, some of which impressed on a very young mind stuff like Dungeons and Dragons was a tool of the devil, or that the Mark of the Beast was a very real and literal thing that I should refuse, lest I be unfaithful to Jesus. And I’ll tell you, I sort of carried that fear in me even until the whole Left Behind series of books came out and reintroduced that thought to a new generation of Christians looking for clear teaching– despite the fact that Left Behind is a work of fiction. It was as an adult that I realized that part of what made Jack Chick and Left Behind kinds of things so popular is that they were emotional appeals that drew on a child’s lack of understanding and propensity for fear, and offered solutions that masqueraded as rock-solid clarity.
But I’ve come to see a more likely explanation using the data we do have (and yes, I’m again partly relying on the “expert opinion” of academic elites, because my Koine Greek isn’t great and I don’t have time or ability to comb through fragments of material on which John’s Apocalypse was written) is that John wasn’t writing about a literal “mark” that would somehow open me to tracking by the elites. If anything, the thousands of cookies in my phone and computer would predispose me to that before a vaccine would. Rather, John was likely pointing out that the number, “666”, was a triple-imperfection (“7” being “perfect/complete” in Hebrew gematria), and was an allusion to “falling short” of God’s perfection/completion. So again, as far as I understand it, it was meant to convey loyalty to the forces that seek to say that Jesus isn’t who he says he is– which sort of ignores that a lot of devout Christian scientists and doctors have put a lot of time in developing these vaccines as a matter of loving people they’ve never met by providing some protection from imminent harm.
Mobley, I hope what you’re seeing here is someone who is aware of the fear they have in messing things up. Sure, I do have a little tickle of fear that there is some sort of nanochip in the vaccine, but honestly, big tech already owns all my information anyway and already controls what I see and consume– as evidenced by constant ads for real estate and retirement (two things that I actually do not Google very often) and constant suggestions to watch more zombie movies based on my one-time viewing of Train to Busan. (Which, actually, has been rather helpful, though I do not care for the Walking Dead.)
Back to the point, and that is, all the ignorance I have sometimes makes me uncertain that the things I have done like getting vaccinated and being mindful about masking up are somehow because I’m just fearful or too dumb to do a deep dive on what information I can find on the internet. Yet even as much as some people are reluctant to trust the word of “experts”, if I used that same measure for people on the internet, I’m also not convinced that they know better. It’s tempting to believe that somehow I’ve got insights into reality that no one else does, but that’s less likely. A big part of the training and education that goes into a doctorate is that once you do get one, the cross-examination that constantly comes with bearing that title is supposed to make what you say more trustworthy, not less.
Mobley, I know that a lot of things don’t seem to be getting better for you or so many regular people who just want to be faithful followers of Christ. I’m really tired of the way things have gone over the last long while too. But I remind regularly remind myself not to be afraid, and to trust that somehow God is doing good in plain sight, even though I wouldn’t have done it this way or that. And I think that’s where you and I differ the most– it’s that it seems like you believe the world is going to hell (or that it needs to), but I think that God is doing something weird and against all expectations– just like he’s always done.
Does that make me afraid? I’ll admit, yes. I don’t always know if God is trustworthy or that he’s actually out for my good. Life hasn’t always gone the way I hoped it would– but many times, this actually has been for the better. Yet what are the other options other than to trust that God is actually doing work in the here and now? To arm myself for some revolution? Or to build relationships and communities and societies that are more loving, more kind, more just, and more merciful to all? I think the latter sounds more like Jesus overall, though I’m aware he told his disciples that we should “sell our cloaks and buy a sword”, and that “two swords are enough.” But as to the use of those swords, maybe he didn’t mean it for his particular kind of revolution. This, because you and I both believe that Jesus gave himself over to those who used the sword to execute him.
I did say I wouldn’t try to convince you with logic or other kinds of arguments. And so in this regard, I’ve likely failed, as there are all kinds of ways I guess you might respond with alternative statements that from your perspective, are facts. But I wanted to approach the way you sound like you’re interpreting things. And if I’ve gotten you wrong, then I apologize.
I want again to remind you that you’re deeply loved. I do actually care about you. I see you as a brother in the whole body of Christ, though we might complain about each other the way people complain about their love handles or bunions. And I’m reminding you of this love because I think all the changes our world has gone through– and all the ways that life has changed for you– have made us all feel more uncertain and more afraid. And the only way I know out of a response based in fear is to set my face towards responding in love.
So even though I don’t actually know what I’ve had injected in my body (just like I don’t precisely know what’s in the cookie I just ate), it was out of love not for myself but for others that I got vaccinated. I want the virus to have less of a reproductive pool, which would mean fewer variants, which would mean a quicker end to the pandemic. And when I wear a mask, I want others to be protected from my potentially being sick and not knowing it– the lowest bar for loving our neighbours that I can possibly imagine. So if I’m not going to do it because I’m not afraid of the virus, maybe I should do it because it might actually be deadly for others, and if I do manage to stay out of the hospital, that would be one more bed for someone who actually needs it. I pull over for emergency services for the same reason– it’s a simple thing we do to show care and consideration for others instead of giving in to selfishness and entitlement.
Mobley, let’s you and I be good lovers. I’m almost positive this is what Jesus meant when he said we should love one another, because that’s how others would know where our real allegiance lies.