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Months ago, at the start of this quarantine stuff, a whole bunch of us were busy trying to get the term “social distancing” knocked out of the cultural vocabulary. Here’s an article in Psychology Today if you want to know the wheres and whys of that whole struggle. The short answer to all that is that words matter, words really mean things.

To “physically distance” from someone can be a practical, reasonable response to things like potential violence or infectious disease. To “socially distance” however, amounts  to oppression, psychological abuse, isolation, even a form of torture. This country once had separate drinking fountains. That’s how you “socially distance,” how you separate, divide, and control people. It’s a terrible term and it doesn’t mean the same thing as “physical distance” at all.

Some of us were really disturbed, our hearts sank  when that term “social distance” went across the cultural airways. Those words have meaning and history attached to them, and it isn’t such a good history either.

The second issue, wear a piece of cloth over your face if you want, but don’t wear a “mask.” People wear way too many masks! We’re often hiding behind masks, unwilling or unable to be vulnerable with one another. Somebody smart once said “intimacy” means, “into me see.” There is an incredible lack of intimacy, lack of relationship, and lack of  connection going on in our modern world. We were designed to live in relationship, a relationship with God yes, but with one another, too.

An lastly don’t isolate.  To be socially distanced from other people, wearing a mask, and isolated, is like a threefold trifecta for major mental health problems. Addictions thrive in that kind soil, as does depression and suicide.

Recently a fairly well know pastor committed suicide. It’s really sad and heartbreaking. Something this quarantine thing has really driven home to me is how important it is that we fight against those things, both as individuals, communities, and churches. Don’t let people become socially distanced, don’t create a need for masks, and don’t allow yourself to get isolated.

I mention this pastor because sadly pastor suicides are a real thing in the world, and one reason I think it can be such a struggle is because many of our traditional churchian structures tend to create environments where pastors are socially distanced, required to wear a mask, and somewhat isolated from the rest of community.

I live far from Seattle, but there’s a term for Seattle we call the “Seattle freeze.” It’s a real enough phenomenon, one we used to try to blame on the dreary weather.  It is a cold, unfriendly wall that just goes up, where people practice social distancing and isolate from one another. A bunch of people in Seattle were celebrating the quarantine on Twitter the other day, chatting about how their lives hadn’t really changed much from the ordinary “Seattle freeze” to the current “social distancing.”

Yeah, that’s probably kind of true for many of us, but it’s not okay, it’s all wrong. It’s part of the reason why we also have such huge problems here with addiction, homelessness, and suicide.