Over on Sanityville, there have been several threads containing quite a high level of discussion of data concerning COVID-19. Those discussions have been good and I’ve commended them to several friends.

It’s been a disappointment, though, that there’s been little parallel discussion of the nature and limitations and challenges of leadership. Much of the data discussion has lacked consideration of the human context for the decisions made by our civil authorities.

But to take one example of the leadership issues, the wisdom of face masks has long been obvious, and so much so that I ordered a bunch in the first days of this crisis and have given them out to others. Some time ago, I put up a link on various methods of making them, noting how helpful this fabric was as opposed to that fabric. Mary Lee made some a couple weeks ago which we’ve been using, and it was pretty simple.

So why did our civil authorities discourage them for so long?

Every pastor and elder should know why. Sheep are stupid and need to be led in the conglomerate, and without finesse.

But that’s precisely what smart Reformed men like us are impatient with and rant against. We demand to be in on the decision-making process. We demand to have access to all the data. We demand to know who knew what—and when—all to the end that we may use our large brains to judge our civil authorities. Not that we want to be rebellious—we just want to be independent from other stupid sheep gathered and milling about in the flock waiting to be told what to do. Impatient with such sheepness, we call it “statism” or an “idol for destruction.”

Talking with an elder who’s a physician about facemasks the past couple weeks, I remembered a time some years ago when I set out to find out what the difference is between risk from chew and risk from smoking. After some reading of journals and studies, I found the risks are categorically different. That is, if the category actually is risk. Chew is much less dangerous.

But what if the public health officers are trying to stop smoking and don’t trust the sheep’s ability to distinguish between one uber-harmful use of tobacco and another much less harmful use of tobacco?

Well, then the category switches from risk to tobacco. And why?

Because public health has to be a blunt work. This is the reason MLB has outlawed chew and many places of business have signs out front banning all “tobacco.”

Our civil authorities can’t limit themselves to leading smart Reformed men. They must lead herds of sheep. For several weeks, now, it’s been my conviction they are downplaying the helpfulness of facemasks at least partly to keep face masks readily available for healthcare workers. Other reasons, yes; but I’m guessing that was the main one.

Is that wrong?

In the final analysis, I think not.

Would others answer “yes” and marshall arguments in support of their position?

Sure, but let me register here my own wish as a pastor of a Reformed congregation that all of us would please be less judgmental and censorious and angry at the civil authorities right now. From the Church especially, it strikes me as unseemly.

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