The yarmulke, the burka, the hijab, the grey flannel suit, and the pork pie hat are all governed by cultural sanction and personal projections of belief. All are inwardly meaningful and outwardly expressive of that meaning; what we wear is far more than mere personal preferences for comfort or functionality. Undeniable sartorially manifested morality, messaged by superficial overlay.

Now, we are engaged in the great cultural medical necessity, the staunching of our exhalations via a covering of our gaping maws. That very obvious facial broadcast has been projected to offer everyone around the opportunity to provide a moral statement. Sometimes literally, writ large by the masks themselves, we are told, and sometimes required, to wear them now.

The realities of whatever we wear are simply declarative, without any relativism: I believe, therefore I wear. Today’s manifestation of that commitment is now social. The implied directive “And you should too” is what all of us wearing masks come to project the longer we feel our masks manifest our values.

Proselytizing is nothing new. It is sincere in its origins, prescriptive in its realization, and often explosive in the reactions it provokes. When science melds with government to catalyze moral judgment into requirements of high aesthetic import, all hell breaks loose. Prescribing truth is not about faith, or hope. It is about Doing The Right Thing. The belief in What Is Right becomes cultural expression the moment personal statements become legal requirements.

Could anyone get a job on Wall Street in 1950 if they were not wearing dry-cleaned clothing? For men that meant grey flannel suits, with an occasional seersucker or tan version tossed in during the summer (and blue wool in the winter). Everyone, male and female, wore hats until JFK and the First Lady didn’t. The messaging of conformity was broken. Then the Beatles stopped cutting their hair.

The prescription of what we wear is either accepted, or the deniers make a statement of their own judgment over that cultural expectation. There was a time when grey flannel suits were what church was for, for men and boys. Oh, and the blue ones, too. But now many of us cannot go to church, even in the shorts and compression knee socks that I now wear.

What was a duty (going to church) has become, here in the Northeast, a treat for us who love the aesthetics of traditional worship. Now, the times when we can have a naked face, when the lack of a mask is possible if properly distanced, have become a treat. Just like all the correct conformities, there is joy in the full exultation found in GroupThink and, alternatively, in rebellious denial of its strictures. The trappings our our day-to-day lives are made and effected by us, here on earth — it is the theater we’ve created and live in.

The righteousness of the masked is undeniable in our presentations — in the world or on the Internet. The anger at being compelled to wear them is also righteous, and undeniable. Respect for differences falls apart when those differences endanger others’ lives. So anger ensues on both sides, masked and unmasked.

In these seasons of threat and judgment, I long for God to simply grace me with a sense of humor and patience. Good luck with that. My masked presence is often isolated. I never say a word to others who do not wear a mask, but I think about all those who do not do what in the hearts of others is The Right Thing To Do. The hijab, the yarmulke, even the grey flannel suit of the American Mid-Century all have a sea of cultural sanction behind them, even divine judgment.

But masks merely save health, sometimes life. That, apparently is not enough to gain God’s Grace of forbearance. We judge, even though we may be judged. In a world literally made of ways to fail God, this season’s versions of human failing are legion.