Federal judge strikes down public transport mask warrant
“With man it is impossible, but with God everything is possible” (Matthew 19:26).
The national mask mandate covering planes and other public transportation was due to expire yesterday, but the CDC has extended it until May 3, saying it needs more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant now. responsible for the vast majority of cases in the United States. Airlines have countered that modern aircraft air filters make transmission of the virus during flight highly unlikely. Critics also pointed to the fact that states rolled back rules requiring masks in restaurants, stores and other indoor settings, but COVID-19 cases have fallen sharply since mid-January.
Yesterday, a federal judge in Florida sided with the CDC, overturning the national mask mandate. His decision allowed airlines, airports and transit systems to make their own decisions about mask requirements.
What do you think of his decision?
Your answer probably depends at least in part on how much trust you place in the CDC. At the start of the pandemic, 69% of Americans believed what they heard from the agency; earlier this year, the number had fallen to 44 percent.
This fits into a larger narrative:
- Only 40% of Americans say they trust the federal government to do the right thing.
- Only 38% consider its impact on the United States to be positive.
- Only 23% think it is transparent.
- And only 27% say they listen to the public.
The reasons for this are vital not only to our government, but to the very future of our democracy.
“The shattering of everything that had seemed solid”
Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist and bestselling author. In brilliant news Atlantic article, he explains the social changes we are witnessing more holistically than anyone I have seen. I will briefly summarize his article, and then we will respond biblically.
Haidt evokes “the breaking up of everything that seemed solid, the scattering of people who had been a community” and “what is happening not only Between Red and blue [states]but within the left and within the right, as well as within universities, corporations, professional associations, museums, and even families” (emphasis added).
He reports that “social scientists have identified at least three major forces that collectively bind successful democracies: social capital (extensive social networks with high levels of trust), strong institutions, and shared histories.” However, over the past ten years, all three of social media have weakened.
Haidt points to “the intensification of viral dynamics” from 2009 whereby Facebook users can publicly “like” posts with a single click and Twitter users can “retweet” and thereby publicly endorse a post while sharing it with all their followers. Facebook quickly copied this innovation with its own “share” button; The “Like” and “Share” buttons quickly became standard features on most other platforms.
Facebook then developed algorithms to make each user’s content more likely to generate a “like” or a “share”. Research later showed that posts that trigger emotions, especially anger toward others, are the most likely to be shared.
“When citizens lose confidence in elected officials”
By 2013, social media had become a “new game” in which creating “viral” or demeaning content that we disagree with became the norm. Users were guided by reward and punishment dynamics that were “almost perfectly designed to bring out our most moralistic, least thoughtful selves.” Haidt notes that “the volume of outrage was shocking”.
This phenomenon is particularly dangerous for democracy.
The framers of the U.S. Constitution knew that democracy had an Achilles’ heel: it depended on the collective judgment of the people, but communities are subject “to the turbulence and weakness of unruly passions”, as noted by James Madison. . The Founders created an enduring republic in response to mechanisms that demanded compromise and insulated the rulers from the mania of the moment while periodically holding them accountable to the people through elections.
But social media is destroying what the founders intended. Haidt writes that “a democracy depends on the largely internalized acceptance of the legitimacy of rules, norms and institutions. . . . When citizens lose faith in elected leaders, health authorities, courts, police, universities, and the integrity of elections, then every decision becomes contested; every election becomes a life-and-death struggle to save the country from the other side.
How to experience divine omnipotence
We’ll explore Haidt’s article in more detail tomorrow. For today, let’s focus on two answers: think biblically and act in a redemptive way.
Paul’s objective should be ours: “We destroy arguments and every high opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought into captivity to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). We do this by measuring each assertion of truth against the unchanging truth of Scripture (Hebrews 4:12). Then we can fulfill the apostle’s mandate: “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is beautiful, whatever is praiseworthy, there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think of these things” (Philippians 4:8).
As we think biblically, we should then act in a redemptive way.
In Acts 19, the “city clerk” of Ephesus (the head of the city administration) said of the Christians in their city, “these men. . . are neither sacrileges nor blasphemers of our goddess” (v. 37). Like them, we should make “speaking the truth in love” our constant goal (Ephesians 4:15). In response to the vitriol and divisions of our time, God needs us to be not so much cultural warriors as cultural missionaries.
You might think it’s too late for followers of Christ to make a meaningful difference in a culture as broken as ours. But it is always too early to renounce an almighty God. Anne Graham Lotz was right: “If our lives are easy, and if all we try for God is what we know we can handle, how will we ever experience His omnipotence in our lives?
Will you experience his omnipotence today?