On Mask Wearing

I almost completely missed the irony of my own topic in this space just a week ago, when I wrote about “Unveiled Faces,” and the call for us as Christians to not “wear masks.”

Well, here we are a week later, and we are now mandated by our state government to….wear masks.

Let me first acknowledge that the two topics have very little to do with one another, even if they do sound alike. The masks I was talking about last week focused on impression management, the so-called “impostor syndrome,” and hypocrisy. Scripture calls us to live with authenticity and transparency in our Christian walk, without pretense, and that is foundational to our living together in community with one another. We don’t have to put up a front, and try to act like we are someone we are not. Instead of acting like we’ve got it together, we work together, together, to get it together. Hence, we can be real, and there’s no need to wear that kind of mask.

But that’s not the mask-wearing that has everyone’s attention these days, even before our governor’s order on Wednesday. It’s funny–in a sad-funny kind of way–how a simple act of protection and consideration has turned into another political football to be kicked around on social media. And, it seems, everyone has an opinion about masks and is ready to share it.

Now let me say on the front end, my natural tendency is to distrust the over-reach of government into our personal lives, and any encroachment on our civil liberties. And it has been chilling to see how easily our nation has willingly surrendered so many constitutional rights during this pandemic–all because some “expert” told us they were looking out for us. That is not a good precedent, and will likely come back to haunt us the next time around. It’s rare that government ever cedes its new found power back to the people; as they say, it’s like putting toothpaste back in the proverbial tube.

And as a society, a lot of people–including a lot of you in our church family–share that sentiment about distrusting government. Our nation has been founded on a rugged individualism that doesn’t like to be told what to do, and naturally pushes back when an overzealous authority tries to do so. We usually trust our own decision making more than we trust the government, and history has given us plenty of reason to do so. I believe in personal responsibility, and am inclined to not want to do something, sometimes, just because they want me to.

We also have had so much confusing information from all the so-called experts–about masks, and about COVID-19 as a whole–that we don’t know who and what to believe. There is so much inconsistency and so many double standards these days, we get frustrated, and end up in our echo chamber listening to familiar voices, who are saying what we already agree with and what we want to hear. Which only leads to more us-and-them polarization like just about everything else in our culture these days.

So, this issue–whether to wear masks on our faces to potentially protect us and others from the spread of a virus–has morphed from being about public health to politics. And thus everyone feels like they have to choose “sides”–all the while making sure they tell everyone else which side they should choose. Instead of making their own informed personally responsible decisions, many people decide what they think about masks based more on what the other side is telling them they should or shouldn’t do.

I say all that to say, all the above was the conversation I have had in my own mind the past few weeks. I have been careful and respectful while in public throughout the pandemic, but I was just not real excited about wearing a mask. Was it because of discomfort? Pride? Really, when I thought about it, and realized it was more about my “rights” than it was my “responsibility,” I was convicted that such a mindset didn’t reflect an attitude of Christ. Am I convinced that masks are the answer to stopping the spread of the virus? No, not really. Do I trust the government and the so-called “experts” in all of the advice and direction they are giving? No again. But does it really hurt to wear a mask, out of consideration for others, and possibly protecting others? No, yet again.

As Paul wrote, and I referred to back a few months ago, “all things may be lawful, but not all things are beneficial.” He was writing that to the church in Corinth about personal freedom, basically saying, just because we can, doesn’t mean we should, or just because we don’t have to, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. It’s really about laying down your rights and putting your neighbor first.

So I made the choice to personally wear a mask in public a few weeks back, though I have’t worn one on Sundays for worship. But I will be wearing one this week–except when I am preaching, of course. And though the governor’s order has an exception that doesn’t require you to wear a face mask while participating in religious services, we hope you will consider doing so if you plan to attend our services at Shelby Crossings, if only to be considerate of others and extra cautious as the virus numbers continue to rise.

So I guess you can add me to the list of confusing voices you are hearing. One week I tell you not to put on a mask, the next week I ask you to do so. But really, I hope you’ll still be transparent and authentic and without pretense in your walk with Christ, even behind your protective mask.

I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I do hope to see you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken