This must have been what it was like during the early years of anno Domini. The Savior is murdered, then risen. His disciples are fanning out, preaching the new faith, teaching holy practices. A sensus fidelium is taking hold; a catechism is catching on.
Then, as in now, a new magisterium was arising, dedicated to mankind’s salvation. After Golgotha, the immanentized dispensation was focused on man’s immaterial soul. Today, after the Wuhan wet market (or the Institute of Virology, if you’re a metal-headplated crank), the awakening is more corporeal, and more clothed. The cross has fallen away for the sacred symbol of the disposable hygienist mask.
The Biden Administration’s checking off its deadline of all adults being eligible for the coronavirus vaccines sends a happy signal: the pandemic is on the wane. Over half the U.S. adult population has been stuck by the COVID inoculum. Some states have binned ‘rona restrictions. And despite the Administration’s tumbling off the PR balance beam by trying to project pandemic-slaying confidence with contradictory issuances of caution, there’s a general feeling—a sweeping Gemeingeist—that disease-siege life is receding.
But not for everyone. A not-insignificant subset of Americans, mostly residing in major metro areas with “In This House We Believe” signs in their front yards or garçonnière windows, is none too pleased over the fin de la pandémie. Some are afflicted by what Dr. Walker Percy diagnosed as a secret love of catastrophe born of ennui; others are simple-minded gluttons for government diktats. But some have discovered a new way of life in the mandated masks. And they’ll be damned—literally damned in their new theology—if they’re going to doff them.
The reader can no doubt picture the kind of acolyte of whom I’m referring. Perhaps you’re acquainted with one or two of these tub-thumping types yourself. Maybe you’ve been harangued by face-cover converts for not masking your maw while alone on a sidewalk. You’ve certainly seen them on their rare trips out and about, stertorously yet gleefully huffing through a three-layer mouth veil, which never leaves their face. Not in the car. Not on a solitary constitutional. Not in their driveway. Not in their home. Not in the shower. Probably not even in the throes of venereal passion.
Contra conspiracy mongers, mass masking was not totally unreasonable at the pandemic’s outset. Asymptomatic spread can occur. But the recommended strictures surrounding the spittle filters were hardly clear, and never consistent. The six-foot-distance rule was speculative bosh. That proximate guideline was supposed to inform mouth-cover usage. Instead, it created a cultish obsession over what was an obviously capricious standard. Believers were called to the Great Commission of making disciples of all unmasked nations. And anyone who dared to notice that respiratory droplets weren’t being exchanged by joggers en passant was labeled a heretic.
The high priest of mad masking, Keith Olbermann, expressed this superordinate contempt when journalist Robby Soave pointed out the uselessness of being vaccinated and donning a face covering outdoors: “You do realize, Mr Dipsh*t, that we still haven’t confirmed that the vaccinated can’t carry the disease asymptomatically,” Olbermann contended.
The assertion is pure ordure from Mr. Cacamouth, as the CDC has all but confirmed that the vaccinated don’t spread COVID. But why let reason interfere with revelation? Echoes of Peter protesting the Sanhedrin can be heard in Olbermann’s opprobrium.
Olbermann’s salvific superiority differs little from the fundamentalists of the big three monotheisms. The anger and injunctions have taken on a ritualistic quality. Same with the affected sodality associated with mask-wear. “If you are vaccinated, still wear a mask in some situations—even though, yes, the medical benefits are tiny. It contributes to a culture of safety and is a sign of solidarity with the unvaccinated, who remain a majority of Americans,” tweeted New York Times reporter David Leonhardt. President Biden—who was no doubt one of the first Americans to be inoculated—insists on sporting a presidential-sealed covering on the fairway in order to, per his parroty press mouthpiece, “model public health guidelines.”
It’s all a passion play without the Passion—just smugness masked (pun intended) as charity.
America has had its fair share of outré faith communities. Some like the Shakers hive off to form their own communes; some walk among us, like Moonies. The masque cultus is unlikely to break off to its own isolated sect. Some of its most ardent members are even starting to become disenchanted with their facial burdens. The lefty online magazine Slate has nailed a thesis to the new church’s door, titled, “It’s About Time for Us to Stop Wearing Masks Outside.” As vaccinations increase at a steady clip, and as pandemic fatigue gives way to relaxed guards, we may see 94 more such polemics.
But no amount of objective, scientifically reasoned arguments will convince some converts of their debunked faith. The maskers will remain with us, forever hiding their moues behind “believe science” cloth coverings mass-produced in Chinese sweatshops. They’ll be mocked in private conversation. South Park will make a side-splitting spoof of their unshakeable devotion. But they will not yield.
The only remaining question is: when will the IRS grant the Church of the Mask its tax exempt status? Surely there are crates of N-95 respirator masks—the holiest of sacraments—waiting to be purchased with the savings.