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Tri-State Outfitters in Moscow, Idaho/Google Images

Anti-Maskers in Moscow Try to “Bless Business” by Not Wearing Masks. They Failed.

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Anti-Maskers in Moscow Try to “Bless Business” by Not Wearing Masks. They Failed.

By Andy Pope

At around 11 a.m. yesterday, numerous members of a right-wing group called “De-Mask Moscow” barged into the large TriState Outfitters sporting goods store in Moscow, Idaho, refusing to wear masks in compliance with store policy and the city-wide mandate. Also included in the barrage were members of Christ Church, a cultish megachurch here in town that gives a bad name to the Reformed Christian doctrine that I and others endeavor to embrace.

According to Doug Wilson, the pastor of the church, this stunt was carried out in order to “bless the business” that no doubt was “caught between the demands of the city government and the realities of keeping a business open.”

I have a few problems with this. Apparently, Joe Power, president of TriState Outfitters, did too.

“We were not asked,” wrote Power, “if we felt we were caught between the demands of the city government and the financial realities of keeping a business open.”

To the contrary, the employee-owned company had decided to put “health before wealth” this year. 

“The risk to our employees’ health this year is far more important than putting a few extra dollars in the registers,” said Power.

As the anti-maskers insisted on remaining maskless, TriState responded by closing the store and demanding they leave the premises. The police were called in case they did not comply. Mask-wearing customers were allowed to complete their purchases, and a half hour later, once the anti-maskers had dispersed, the store was reopened for business. However, doors were kept locked for several hours, and a number of employees stationed at the entrances made sure that no one could enter the premises without a mask. 

Apparently, this unfortunate event resulted from a memo that Wilson had sent first to his congregation and later forwarded to De-Mask Moscow.  “If you are out Christmas shopping today (without a mask),” wrote Wilson, “I would like to ask you to hit Tri-State between the hours of 11 a.m and 1 p.m.”  (Note usage of the word “hit.”  Italics mine.)

Fortunately, the event was aborted shortly after 11 a.m., before who knows how many unmasked citizens would have invaded the store property with a flagrant show of unwillingness to abide by the ordinance that Mayor Bill Lambert had established for the sake of the health of the community.

That this is microcosmic of a greater ill in our society is obvious. It is not Christian love to flaunt one’s affection for “freedom” in such a way that it infringes upon the free rights of others. Mask-wearing shoppers obeying store rules were inconvenienced, and the store itself probably lost thousands of dollars in the process.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear throughout his letters that we are to abide the laws of the land except in the event that these laws directly contradict the laws of God.

“Let every person be subject to the ruling authorities, for the powers that be are ordained by God,”  Romans 13:1

Now you tell me — does the simple act of wearing a mask violate a law of God? If so, I would certainly like to see that law.  And if Jesus Christ made the supreme sacrifice of his entire life during hours of grueling torture suffering on a Cross — that we might have everlasting life —  why can some Christians not see that the simple sacrifice of complying with a city ordinance is trivial in comparison?

For Doug Wilson and his congregation to regard the lawfully rendered mask mandate as “demands of the city government” is to ignore the fact that this ordinance is being followed by the vast majority of the Moscow community who do not regard it as a “demand.”

This present day issue dividing maskers from anti-maskers has nothing to do with “left-wing government oppression.” If you want to see government oppression coming from the Left, look at the likes of Joseph Stalin. That we in America should feel so inordinately entitled that the simple concession to wear a mask is seen as a restriction of our freedoms is frankly ludicrous.   Moreover, if people believe that we all should be perfectly free, then why are they going about obstructing the freedoms of others?

This is not Christianity. It is anarchy. And this act of reactionary pseudo-Christian impudence has nothing to do with Jesus Christ — with His Spirit, His ministry, His teachings, His life, or His love.

Do I need to put a “thus saith the Lord” after this one? Or is this message not obvious to anyone who truly endeavors to follow Christ?

About Andy Pope

Andy Pope is a freelance writer currently residing in Moscow, Idaho, where he is a member of Moscow First Presbyterian Church. His work on social justice has appeared in Classism Exposed in Boston, Berkeleyside in Berkeley, California, and also in the Bay Area newspaper Street Spirit, where his regular column, Homeless No More, has encouraged those making the transition from homelessness to housing. An accomplished pianist and lifelong musical theatre person, Andy is also the author of Eden in Babylon, a musical about youth homelessness in urban America.

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