Motovilov shut his eyes in terror because of what he saw. St. Seraphim said to him, “why are you shutting your eyes–why are you recoiling?” He said, “I cannot look at you–the shining of your face is such that I cannot endure it.” And St. Seraphim said to him, “you could not see my face as you do if your face was not shining with the same light.”
– Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
Smoke wafted over and shadows cast down on the few glasses of rosé scattered along the half-deserted street. “I'll tell you the truth: I am anti-pass, anti-vaxx, anti-everything they are doing”, said the local masseuse. The burger-flipper echoed her sentiment over the end of his cigarette: “it's impossible”. Waiting for our train, a sweaty old woman told me: “France has become a misery”. I asked the pharmacist, “will you demand the pass of shame?” She scoffed and said, “no one would come in if we did–maybe the big-box stores will”. The corner store guys abandoned the pretense of wearing a mask even over their chins. My wife said to me, “you know the media says it was fifty thousand, but I believe I saw at least one hundred and fifty thousand in the streets of Paris”. She learned how to read through official figures after decades of the Putin regime. Since Macron's proclamation of the “health pass”, or the pass of shame, I could not find a single person in our town who expressed the least respect for him.
It is a terrifying prospect: a digital passport that will separate the biopolitical sheep from the goats. Access to public facilities of every kind: transportation, commerce, etc. will be reserved for those good citizens who carry around their proof of pedigree. The regime of Emmanuel Macron has decided to treat all those within French territory like dogs: either we are well-heeled or face six months in prison and ten thousand euros in fines. Of course the most vaccinated are the white, native, rich, denizens of influential suburbs and glamorous districts of major metropolitan areas. And the least vaccinated are the non-white, migrant, poor, immiserated suburbs and working-class neighborhoods–not to mention the restive countryside. The pass of shame is the marker of a new medical caste, and the untouchables will be barred from public life as far as Macron's liberal-authoritarian governance can reach.
As an aspiring Christian, the high ethical standard of the Gospel–to love my neighbor as I love myself and God–is not always easy to apply. I often stumble and fall in seeking to live by those words. Yet when faced with the prospect of my neighbors turned away as if lepers, I must take a stand. My wife fears for our newborn son, taking every precaution so that he does not touch what is dirty or nibble on what is unwashed. How much more ought I ensure that my own hands are clean from this evil? What good is a father who speaks of Christ and his love for mankind but does not live accordingly? No, I must follow the words of the holy Apostle:
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
– 1 John 3:16-18
And so we'll wait outside. We will not go in for a coffee. We will not fly. We will not be good citizens. We will refuse the pass of shame, and we will suffer with those pushed to the margins. We must fight. Anything less would be a betrayal of the Gospel.
In this we do not fear, for our God gave us the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and every power of the enemy. If Christ is truly raised from the dead and reigns in glory at the right hand of the Father as we confess in our Symbol of Faith, whom shall we fear? All my life I have been able to get along just fine in the world. Perhaps now is the hour where we must make a more radical break, in fulfillment of what was written:
I have written to you, fathers,
Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I have written to you, young men,
Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you,
And you have overcome the wicked one.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.
1 John 2:14-16
And so we shall refuse to participate in the world that Macron and his ilk are making. We will, as Giorgio Agamben wrote, need to learn to reduce our dependence on supermarkets, need to learn and be content with where we are. Perhaps the pandemic has been an opportunity to learn as secular people what the monastics take up in St. Benedict's rule: the virtues of staying in a particular place. In any case, the present crisis will give us the opportunity to test the ancient words of our father David the Prophet and the King in his 37th psalm:
The Lord embraces the fate of the blameless,
And their estate shall be forever.
They shall not be shamed in an evil time
And in days of famine they shall eat their fill.
For the wicked shall perish, and the foes of the Lord,
like the meadow's green–gone, in smoke, gone.