Robert Kirby: COVID-19 and the blame game

Robert Kirby

I haven’t set foot in my Latter-day Saint ward since March, when the pandemic caused the church to suspend in-person congregational worship.

Not going to church was novel at first, but I missed my friends and neighbors. So I started attending home services with the Clegg family across the street. We did our best to socially distance. None of us got sick. So far.

Although restrictions began to ease in the summer, a roaring resurgence in the number of COVID-19 cases has once again caused church leaders to temporarily tighten up on gatherings.

Regular church services have been thinned out. Attendance at baptisms, funerals and weddings should include only family members and those officiating. Hand sanitizer, social distancing, on and on.

Not everyone is happy with the turnabout. Wearing masks to meetings is currently required by many Latter-day Saint wards, and is voluntary in others. It has resulted in odd pronouncements as to the celestial nature of COVID.

In a story last week by Salt Lake Tribune writer Peggy Fletcher Stack, several churchgoers had differing (but oddly similar) responses to mask-wearing.

Pro-masker • “I believe that we are a church of prophecy and, as such, we can see the writing on the wall that the pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better.”

Anti-masker • “I have a deep spiritual conviction that wearing a mask is a satanic societal ritual meant to initiate us into a ‘new’ normal, or a new world order. … It is, in part, the mark of the beast spoken of in the Book of Revelation.”

Hmm. Sounds a lot like damned if we do and infected if we don’t. Either way, it’s automatically viewed as something God has a hand in and unless we snap to his will, it’s going to get worse.

I’m the least cooperative person I know. I’ll argue with myself just for the sake of something to do.

Despite this contrariness, it never occurred to me to disagree with leaders setting guidelines regarding safety in attending church. And I don’t have to see divine inspiration there when they do.

It’s probably because I never really looked at the pandemic from the aspect of it having a divine origin, that God once again had to set fire to the earth to get our attention about. …Hell, I don’t know. Pick something.

I’m OK with COVID-19 being entirely our fault for not taking common sense health precautions when we should have.

But that’s just me. From what little scripture study I’ve done, I’ve always concluded that being stupid gets people killed faster than being evil.

So, me staying home wasn’t done out of fear that God might punish me for not following a church directive, but rather because it just seemed like a good (and completely sectarian) idea not to rub shoulders with potentially infected people.

Why can’t common sense be enough? Why does every horrible thing have to be the result of divine judgment, witchcraft, errant politics, or failure to be sufficiently righteous?

Sometimes #$*! just happens, and it’s up to us to figure out how to fix it without making it worse by dragging God into it.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.