Living in the Land of Jesus, Guns, and Republicans: I Went Shopping at Meijer Today

meijer-covid-19

This post contains cursing. If you are easily offended by such language, I suggest you read something else.

Earlier today, we drove to nearby Defiance, Ohio to do some shopping at Meijer. I wondered exactly how locals would be acting now that Governor Mike DeWine has loosened or removed many of the restrictions that keep Ohioans sequestered at home. I say “wondered,” when, in fact, I knew exactly what I would see.

I live in the land of Jesus, Guns, and Republicans. And not just any Jesus. Sure, there are liberal and progressive Christians around here, but, for the most part, those who worship the dead Son of God are Evangelicals. Even those who attend mainline churches tend to skew to the right religiously. Atheists? Why, we are so rare that locals don’t even think we exist.

There are hundreds of churches in the quad-county area. I live in a community of 356 or so people. Within a few miles of my home there are three Church of God congregations, a Catholic church, a Methodist church, and two non-denominational churches. That’s why locals who haven’t read my writing assume I am a worshiper of Jesus. Several years ago, a woman engaged my daughter Bethany — who has Down syndrome — in a discussion about music at a high school basketball game. The woman asked, “so what kind of music do you like?” Bethany quickly gave her top five list of country bands. Then the woman said, “you like Christian music too, right?” Bethany said nothing. Much like her mother, she hates Christian music. I looked at the woman, gave her my fake smile, and said, “oh, we listen to all sorts of music.” And without missing a beat, I said, “should be a good game tonight.”

This woman, a devout follower of the Evangelical Jesus, had no place in her worldview for people who didn’t listen to Christian music. Imagine what her response might have been had I said, “We are atheists. We don’t listen to shitty Christian music.” Of course, I am too polite to do so.

I assume that local Christians have at least have been taught what is commonly called the TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS:

  • Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thy heart, soul, and might (mind)
  • Thou shalt love your neighbor as thyself

I say “assume,” because, based on what I saw while shopping today, it is evident that local Christians have forgotten about loving their neighbors. I personally know several local progressive/liberal pastors. I know these men of God take seriously the Coronavirus pandemic and what can be done to lessen the spread of COVID-19. I do wonder, however, what local right-wing pastors are conveying to their congregants about the current pandemic. I suspect, not much.

I am sure someone is going to ask, “what does Evangelical Christianity have to do with what you experienced today?” Everything. You see, Evangelical theology breeds right-wing Republican/Libertarian political beliefs. All those old people who watch Faux News every night? They live here in Defiance, Williams, Henry, and Fulton counties. They have birthed children and have grandchildren who, having experienced little else but the white Evangelical monoculture of rural northwest Ohio, walk in their right-wing parents’/grandparents’ shoes. Want to know who to blame for the presidency of Donald Trump? Look no farther than rural northwest Ohio. Almost seven out of ten voting locals voted for Trump. Beliefs have consequences. Not only do Republicans control EVERY local/state/federal office, but their Jesus-infused political beliefs also infect every aspect of local life. And local Republicans are not the centrist Republicans I remember from back in the days when Jim Rhodes was governor and Howard Metzenbaum, John Glenn, and George Voinovich represented Ohio in the U.S. Senate. Thanks to the racist Tea Party rebellion against “Kenyan-born” Barack Obama, local Republicans have moved to the right, embracing immoral Libertarian politics. Many of these same people are militia-friendly gun owners who supported the recent armed takeover of the Michigan state house.

I can’t help but notice their memes and posts on social media decrying liberals, atheists, and virtually every action taken by the government to keep them safe during this pandemic. No conspiracy is too extreme for them. Bill Gates, as a modern-day Josef Mengele? The Chinese government behind the Wuhan virus? 5G causes COVID-19? Vaccines, the mark of the beast? I have seen every one of these crazy conspiracies touted on local Facebook pages. Good Christian people want the country opened up NOW! If doing so kills the neighbors they are supposed to love, so be it. All that matters to them is their “rights.” Ironically, most of the locals demanding freedom to do whatever they want, are anti-abortion, opposed to same-sex marriage, and oppose teaching evolution in public school science classes. Evidently, “freedom” only applies when their way of life is interrupted or impeded. I so wanted to ask these Libertarian dick-waggers, “do you mind if I strip off my clothes and stand on the sidewalk in front of your house while your children play in the yard?” Freedom, baby! It’s tyranny to restrict me in any way! Don’t like it? Stay in your house. Such is the absurdity of immoral, anarchist Libertarianism.

Yesterday, I heard a newscaster say that sixty-eight percent of people wear masks to protect themselves and others from exposure to the Coronavirus. I said to the TV — a common thing for me to do these days — where? Austin? Seattle? Not here, that’s for sure. Since March 7, I have gone to the store (hardware and grocery) six or so times. I have done my best to avoid mouth breathers, ordering online from Walmart, Amazon, Target, Chief Supermarket, Menards, Wayfair, CVS, New Egg, B&H, and several small companies when I can instead of going to brick-and-mortar stores. (You should see the mountain of cardboard we’ve accumulated in our garage.) Today’s trip was unavoidable. I know that every time we go to the store we risk infection, but it’s impossible for us to become hermits — even though such a life is appealing. All we know to do is limit exposure as much as we can, hoping the COVID-19 virus doesn’t track us down and kill us.

Today, roughly thirty percent or so of shoppers were wearing face masks. At Meijer, employees are required to wear masks, and every worker kept the letter of the law. I saw numerous employees, including one manager, with their masks pulled below their noses. I wanted to say, “you do know you breathe in and out of your nose, expelling whatever into the air?” I get it, wearing masks is uncomfortable and restricts breathing. To that I say, “tough shit.” Life is hard, period, right now, and we all have to adapt. Stop your whining.

As far as my fellow citizens were concerned, most of them were not wearing masks, and neither were they the least bit concerned about social distancing. (And to those who were wearing masks and trying to stay the fuck away from each other? Thank you, for loving your neighbor as yourself.) I saw numerous groups of mainly older people closely huddled together shooting the breeze. I wanted to go up to them and say, “are you guys idiots? You do know that you are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and dying, right?” Something tells me that doing so would have been a waste of time. Trump, Hannity, Ingraham, and their favorite TV preachers told them all the need to know about the Wuhan virus, end of discussion. Got any hydroxychloroquine or bleach?

What made things worse is that Meijer management decided to have its workers stock shelves on a Friday at 4:00 PM. Managers get from employees what they demand, so it seemed clear to me that managers were not that interested in making sure workers properly wear masks and practice social distancing. It’s impossible to stay six feet away from people if there are stockers and carts in the middle of aisles. The dairy aisle was the worst. Two women were stocking the coolers. They had THREE stock carts, plus a cardboard cart in the middle of the aisle, blocking traffic from both directions. I wanted to scream. Yes, I am angry, pissed off, and irritated. I am oh-so-tired of such carelessness and indifference.

Two things stood out during our shopping foray at Meijer. First, there were two morbidly obese seniors driving motorized carts through the store. They were together. Neither of them was wearing masks. One woman had a tank of oxygen perched on her basket in case she needed it. I thought, “talk about clueless. Death on wheels coming my way!” Second, there was a man in his early thirties with his significant other and several children. No mask, no surprise. He was a burly manly man. Real men don’t wear sissy masks. As I watched from a distance, the man sneezed, with gusto, not once, not twice, but three times. Three massive bursts of particles into the air. He made no effort to hold his sneeze or direct it into his arm or a cloth. Nope, this man just expelled his sneezes into the air. I am at a place in life where I consider such behavior criminal, no different than an HIV positive man having unprotected sex with someone. This man could have COVID-19 and not know it. Sure, he’s young, but young people DO die from this virus, and at the very least he could be an asymptomatic carrier. Whatever he was, he most certainly was an inconsiderate asshole.

I could write a lot more about our trip to Meijer today, but I will leave my raging storytelling here. I know that someone is sure to say, “Bruce, you should stay home! Sick? Aged? Not my problem. You need to quarantine, not me.” Fine. Are you going to make sure we have sufficient income to live? Are you going to make sure we have access to food, safely delivered to our home? Are you going to make sure we have medical care, including the delivery of our medications? “Of course not, Bruce! Freedom, baby! I get to live, and you, well sorry, but you don’t. Can’t worry about a ‘few’ old people dying.”

And come Sunday, these people who raised holy hell over supposed “death panels” a few years ago, will go to church, professing their love for Jesus and their fellow man. Disconnected from their words will be the reality of their behavior. Don’t tell me how much you love Jesus and your neighbor, show me. People who really love their neighbors will do everything they can to make sure the sick, elderly, and vulnerable are protected and cared for. That you refuse to wear a mask tells me that the only person you care about is self. I thought Jesus told his followers to deny themselves, to put God and others first? All I saw today was unmitigated selfishness.

I am an atheist, yet I live according to the grand truth that I should love my neighbor as myself. It matters to me if my neighbors, along with their families, get sick or die. The least I can do for them is wear a mask, wash my hands, and stay six-feet away. And to locals who only value their personal freedom and scream TYRANNY when asked to wear a mask? I say, “fuck you.”

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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13 Comments

  1. kittybrat

    Bruce,
    Your observations are much like life right here in my corner of NE Ohio. WTF is it with our fellow human beings? You stated the reasons perfectly, and it makes me sick. Cannot avoid it. I have to get cat food today and some grocery supplies. Put it off as long as possible, because I know that there will be no more than 30% of the customers wearing masks and social distancing is difficult to maintain from asshats.
    HUGS (but not physical ones) to you and Polly. No Jesus music today, either! LOL!

    Reply
  2. Brian Vanderlip

    Desiring catastrophic harm to come to the world and all living beings is a long-standing practice of evangelicalism. It is really is a another form of the Crusade call, “Kill them all! God will know his own!”
    The great hope of the return of the magic man comes hand in hand with global harm to all of us who so deserve punishment, abandonment… While professing love, this religion teaches hatred from the get-go. It’s a barbaric tool wielded by people who cannot for the life of them figure out how to actually care for themselves or others and so come to Jesus to use him as a hammer every day.
    I visualized the President of the United States as an ape wielding a hammer and then shunned the image in my head because it is such an insult to apes.
    I am wearing a mask now whenever I cannot be sure of social distancing (stores, work at the Red Cross, required office visits) and I try not to think too much about others’ choices. Our Doctor Bonnie Henry in B.C. says, almost every day, “Be kind, be calm, be safe,” and I try to say that to myself as a mantra. There will always be idiot dickheads whose lives are so harmed their scriptures are altered to bring misery instead of peace. There will always be the complete shitehead dominating here and there but I find the vast majority of peole are really trying to help themselves and one another nowadays, keeping a distance and wearing masks appropriately. I am so very sorry that you in the USA have such a bully dud as an example to all. It is so hard to expect decency from a family whose father-figure is a complete and utterly brutal fool of a man. Thank-you, Christianity, for bringing this upon us, for continuing to stupidly support the harm being done to all. Wow, this Jesus fella really knows how to pick’em…

    Reply
  3. Diane

    I agree with you Bruce. I agree.

    Reply
  4. ObstacleChick

    Amen, Bruce. In NJ it is mandated that we wear a mask when going into stores, and there is still a capacity restriction. But even here, people get too close to me in the supermarket – at least they are masked.

    In NJ there’s a dickhead gym owner who went on Faux News declaring he was going to open up his gym against governor’s orders because “my rights”. Dickhead opened up, and though he did require masks and limited capacity, there were supporting protestors there cheering him on. He got called out for using a megaphone that “someone handed him” that had a sticker of a white supremacist group. Geez, I can’t imagine what connection there would be between a white supremacist group, Trump supporters, and those advocating for their selfish rights.

    Reply
  5. Appalachian Agnostic

    That is not surprising. It is similar here in northeastern Kentucky, though more people are wearing masks and keeping six feet away. However, last week as I was approaching the local Food Fair, an unmasked man came out of the store and spit a big glob of who-knows-what on the pavement right in front of the door. I was glad I saw him do it so I knew to step around that area. It is hard to tell if people who do things like this are incredibly stupid or incredibly selfish or both.
    I have been impressed with the governors of both Kentucky and Ohio who have stepped into the leadership void left by the president to craft coherent plans to deal with the pandemic.

    Reply
  6. Bob Felton

    It’s much the same here in North Carolina. The irony, of course, is that these fools who are so proud of their defiance have no idea — don’t appear, in fact, to have the mental capacity to understand — how much they are relying upon others to do the right thing.

    Reply
  7. Charles S. Oaxpatu

    Hi Bruce. Thanks for bringing this COVID-19 safety message to the public via your bad Meijer experience. I have also taken note of President Trump’s attempts to open up all churches across the nation in defiance of good common sense and the recommendations of public health experts.

    Mainline Christians like me are staying at home—locked down. If the Christian Fundamentalists and Conservative Evangelicals want to attend these open churches, I hope they will understand that they are signing their own death warrants for themselves and their family members. In addition, I hope that will further understand that they are signing the death warrants for many other men, women, and children who do not attend their churches—people they do not even know.

    I further hope they will understand that the incessantly angry and vengeful God they worship will hold them personally responsible for each COVID-19 death that results from their irresponsible behavior. They might be saved forever, according to their unique fundie theology, but also according to that same theology, God can deny them numerous rewards in Heaven as justice for all of the COVID-19 sickness and death to which they contributed. An Christian Fundamentalist’s or Conservative Evangelical’s heavenly mansion may be great like the Palace at Versailles this week. However, if his recklessness personal behavior with COVID-19 sickens with great misery, maims, and kills his neighbors, and he is responsible for it, that Palace at Versailles reward may be reduced down to a patch of sleeping straw on piss-dampened ground in some heavenly barn. If these fundies stay reckless, people get sick and die because of you, and then you die sometime next year, you may find yourself living for all eternity in that barn and sleeping on that patch of hay.

    As you fundies out there are so fond of saying, sin has consequences. That includes sins of both commission and omission—according to your own theology. This is what so many people do not understand about you. You preach this theology, but your personal behavior ignores its existence. Like Bruce said in his article, both items under The Golden Rule are squarely within your circle of belief, but you behave with COVID-19 as if they do not even exist and you have no personal responsibility to obey these commands of Jesus. What in the Klaus Fuchs is wrong with you people?

    Reply
  8. CarolK

    Bravo, Bruce! I don’t get why evangelicals don’t get the loving your neighbor as yourself aspect of mask-wearing and social distancing either. (Of course, if Paul didn’t say it, they may feel free to ignore it.) Unfortunately, my husband is one of these asshats who has never worn a mask and doesn’t believe in social distancing. He does believe in herd immunity, but doesn’t understand or frankly fucking care that herd immunity through massive numbers of people getting sick and dying is not the way to achieve herd immunity. It’s best achieved by vaccinating the vast majority of the populace.

    Three of my daughters are serious about social distancing and masks. One daughter was asked at work to look in on a guest who had a fever. Nope, not going to do that. I saw my middle daughter, her husband and my granddaughter on Mother’s Day. They were wearing masks and keeping their distance. The hugs will come -one of these days. My daughter also said that she’s not going to see her dad until he gets serious about social distancing. I told my husband what Theresa had said and he didn’t care. This person is not the man I married. I don’t know why he flipped, but he did.

    Reply
  9. BJW

    Yep, Bruce. I’m just weak enough that I couldn’t do all the shopping by myself, while Bob can. But we have used personal shoppers too which works ok. Still, Bob had had to run in Walmart to get an item or 2 anyway. He said some people wear masks.

    I do feel a bit annoyed, as apparently there are parts of the country where people are so much more compliant. I get tired of these narrow-minded people. Still, there are some of us here…and I’m still hopeful that sometime, you and Polly and me and Bob can go to Kora’s to drink coffee and craft beer! Have to hold onto one good thought, at least.

    Reply
  10. mary

    we have been staying in with trips out only a few times for essential foods, toiletries etc. saw the same behavior here. but we also live in the bible belt so no big surprise. they sure don’t read the bible they idolize. most of these people could not quote any scripture yet they are fighting for church like there’s no tomorrow. it is crazy. my grown kids work in a local restaurant, and business has been booming as they never closed down the drive thru. people here in the bible belt just don’t get it. i would move if my adult kids weren’t already established here.

    Reply
    1. Troy

      A lot of the religious right isn’t about what the Bible says, it is about political conservatism contorted and thrust upon Christianity. The Bible becomes a mere prop and the knowledge of people is superficial and is relegated to something like school colors. Similar to a high school sports rivals, you cheer on your home team because you’re a member and not for anything deeper than that. When Bruce says he hates Jesus, this is the specific Jesus he hates.

      Reply
  11. Caroline

    Most of the people where I live are being respectful by wearing masks and keeping their distance in stores and other public places. The governor has taken a lot of heat for not opening up the state quickly enough for some. We are a tourist destination, especially in summer, so that’s been hard for everyone. I’m a teacher in a military community, and I’m a little concerned about the attitude toward masks by some students when school starts again. I’m prepared to wear mine, but want a guarantee that the teenagers from some of the more conservative military families will do the same. There are a small minority who outwardly flaunt their Trump love in our otherwise very liberal region, and I worry that this might carry over to their parents not believing that their children should be respectful to the school community by wearing a mask and following the rules. It disturbs me that this whole mask-wearing thing has become so political. I saw somewhere a comparison about this situation with the British during the Blitz. The idea was that what if your neighbors one day decided that they didn’t like those ugly blackout shades anymore and just decided to take them off the windows therefore endangering the whole neighborhood. I thought it was a great comparison. How sad for you, Bruce, to see a place you love become politically and culturally unrecognizable.

    Reply
  12. Howl

    From a 71-year-old to someone slightly younger, be at the door waiting to get in when the store opens in the morning. Any CV 19 hanging in the air will have settled. As one infectious disease specialist pointed out, super market aisles are like canyons, and trap the virus for long periods of time, but eventually they do settle out.

    Also, in my limited experience, there are very few shoppers at 7 am, when our local HEB (our supermarket chain here in central TX) opens. So far, workers are all wearing masks and customers are required to as well. Lowes (home improvement store) was essentially deserted at 6:30 am when I went two weeks ago and again, customers and employees were all masked.

    I’m also taking advantage of senior hours at a few places (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods), which is great.

    Our mayor has instituted stricter masking guidelines than Gov. Abbott, and Abbott claims he can force the mayor to rescind those requirements.

    That said, there’s a huge 20 and 30 something demographic in my city and many of those in the 20 and 30ish category seem to have zero concern about masking outside and gathering in hordes. The bars are open and buzzing, although there is still some distancing required and bars seem to be careful about accommodating that because they don’t want to lose their liquor license.

    I anticipate masking for the next damn year. We can’t rely on vaccine development.

    Wishing you and yours the best in continuing health and sanity!

    Reply

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