Maybe you’ve noticed how hard it is to agree on things these days. Every topic feels like an unresolveable argument just waiting to happen. From the presidential election to the politics of a pandemic to the police and how we promote justice in light of our country’s legacy of slavery, I don’t recall a time in ministry where so much needs to be discussed, how difficult it is to have these sorts of discussions, and where, even after having a discussion, resolution seems impossible. For pastors and our congregations, often, we are no exception. Lately, I’ve become aware of the battle of the masks in our congregations — to mask or unmask? That is the question! Should we let individuals decide for themselves or should they be required?
Let’s talk . . .
Today’s blog is written by Glenn Austin, the lead pastor of Aims Community Church. He discusses the concerns and shares some compelling reasons why we all should wear a mask in church.
The concerns I’ve heard over masks are real, and I don’t want to dismiss them:
—Government and health care professionals have been inconsistent on masks, and it’s hard to know what to think about them when best practices have changed over these last four months.
—Masks aren’t comfortable to wear. My own experience with singing while wearing a mask is that it isn’t much fun. It’s hard to fill your lungs quickly while wearing one.
—For some people, there may be legitimate health concerns in wearing a mask.
—There are questions about what is and is not lawful for government officials to ask of U.S. citizens and how we, as Christians, are supposed to respond to executive orders and guidelines that do not have the force of law.
The problem is that legitimate concerns devolve into conspiracy theories, questionable knowledge, and unthinkable arrogance. The latest conspiracy I’ve heard is that the little metal strip that shapes over the nose in the paper masks is a 5G antenna that is being used to cause cancer and inflict brain damage.
As Christians who are called to love the truth, to speak the truth, and to live in truth, we have to be cautious about our reactions to these sorts of reports. (If you believe this is true, simply wear a mask without one of these metal strips.) I am convinced that down the road, we will have better understanding of the efficacy of wearing masks. As one of Shakespeare’s characters said, “truth will out.” In the meantime, we are asking all of our church congregations to wear masks.
My reasons are simple:
- There are studies that say masks are effective in slowing or stopping the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It doesn’t seem wise to dismiss these studies.
- There appears to be more risk in not wearing a mask than wearing a mask. In other words, the downside of wearing a mask is far outweighed by the upside of not wearing one. Wearing a mask seems like the wise thing to do.
- It’s hard to regret caution. I can’t think of a time in my life where I wished I had been less cautious. And if several months down the road we learn that we were wrong about masks, we can all roll our eyes together. In the meantime, we exercised wisdom.
- It helps our witness. The Golden Rule is that we do to others as we would have them do to us. The inverse is also true: Don’t do things that you don’t want others to do. The Church that wears masks is the Church that can say without question that they love their neighbor.
- There is much that is still unknown about this virus, but one of the things that we know is that many people are sick and don’t know it. This is actually something to rejoice in—not everyone is or becomes symptomatic. But until we have adequate testing or a trustworthy vaccine, we’re living somewhat in the dark. We don’t know if we’re vulnerable or not. We don’t know if others are vulnerable or not. It’s better not to find out.
- We’re talking about a temporary practice. We’re not saying wear a mask for the rest of your life. I find it interesting that as a culture, we’ve grown used to the idea of sneezing or coughing into our elbows. We actually respect people who do this, and I’ve heard people correct people who don’t. It doesn’t seem that far from sneezing into your elbow to wearing a mask.
COVID-19 can be a deadly disease for many members of our communities and congregations. To protect and love them maintain physical distance, practice good hygiene, and . . . wear a mask in church!
Before You Go…
These are exceptional times. None of us will forget 2020. Among other things, this year is a test of our humility. Can we think of ourselves less as we consider others more? There may be no better or easier way of doing this right now than wearing a mask in church. Let’s do this together.