Pastor Walter Mitty was feeling upbeat as he walked into the Main Café last Saturday morning. It was the first time the men’s fellowship breakfast group was meeting in a year and a half. Everyone had been vaccinated, and they all felt the risk was low enough to get together in person.

When he saw Alice, he felt like greeting her cheerfully. “Hi Alice,” he said with a smile. “Long time, no see.”

“Don’t look at me with that smug smile,” was her response.

“But, but …”

“I bet you feel like saying, I told you so, right?”

“No, I meant …

“Yeah, yeah, you see I’m wearing a mask. The boss made all of us on the staff wear them. I thought he was on our side, but he is turning out to one of those closet liberals who loves to tell working people what to do.”

“But Alice, he’s trying to protect you and the customers. He’s …

Sarge from the army surplus store swiveled around on his stool at the counter. “What you liberals don’t understand is that Pritzker loves to tell us what to do, but it’s our bodies and we have a right to do or not do with our bodies what we want. If we don’t want to wear a mask or get vaccinated, we’re not hurting anyone else. He loves imposing mandates.”

“Ouch,” thought Mitty, feeling his good mood evaporate.

When he arrived at the big table in the back of the dining room, he was greeted with looks of concern from the guys who had already gathered. “You look like a bus just hit you,” said Asch. Everyone at the table nodded.

After Mitty explained what had happened, Eric Anderson expressed his sympathy, “Affects no one else — 617,000 deaths in the last year and a half is ‘hurting no one else?’ And infections are spiking in the states with the lowest vaccination rates!”

Dominique nodded in agreement with Eric, but added, “I agree with you guys that Alice and Sarge are smoking something when they say only their body is affected.”

Everyone around the table waited for him to finish his thought.

“But when I made the mistake of saying that I tend to be pro-life at the coffee hour a few weeks ago, do you remember how Sharissa jumped all over me?”

“She got angry,” Eric recalled, “and said you had no right to tell her what to do with her body. She said you can believe what you want, but the government has no right to tell me what to do when it’s my body that is involved.”

And Asch added, “She argued it’s her decision and no one else is being hurt. Roe v. Wade confirmed that the government is out of line with mandates against abortion.”

Dominique took a deep breath and said, “No one else — 800,000 lives ended last year by abortion is no one else?”

But Mitty decided to push back a little if nothing else than for the sake of defending Sharissa who wasn’t there to speak for herself. “I think Sharissa would say that she is against abortions after the first trimester or when the fetus is viable.”

“That argument used to make sense to me, Pastor,” Dominique began, “but the more I thought about it, I decided to look into what the definition of life is.”

“And?” Asch asked.

“Well,” Dominique began, “Merriam Webster defined life as the state characterized by the ability to get and use energy, reproduce, grow, and respond to change.”

“So you are saying that even an embryo uses energy and has the potential to grow and change?” asked Mitty.

“Right,” Dominique said, “but it certainly doesn’t have the capacity to reproduce.” He laughed adding, “But neither does my mother.”

Asch rolled his eyes and said, “Dorothy and I know where you’re coming from.”

Dominique continued, “A newborn doesn’t have the capacity to reproduce either, not for 10 years or so.”

“But everyone would agree they are human lives,” Mitty said, checking to see if he understood his council president.

Pastor Mitty felt confused as he walked home from the Main. He was more convinced that human life has to be understood as a process. That even though during the first trimester the fetus looks more like a reptile than a human. Still, the question arises, what should he do about that recognition? And more important, what should the government do?

People seem to love government mandates, he decided, when it’s their values the government is imposing.

That night as he poured a Bailey’s over ice for himself he said to himself, “I’m glad I’m not preaching on the subject tomorrow … but should I?”