Dear Christian, please wear a mask

Dear Christian,

Please wear masks in enclosed spaces to help slow the spread of COVID-19. I appeal to you on three grounds: To care for the physical well-being of your neighbor, to love your brothers and sisters in Christ, and to demonstrate respect for governing authorities.

To care for the physical well-being of your neighbor

Let me be clear: I do not think Christians who are opposed to wearing masks, or are blase about it, do not care about the well-being of their neighbors or are inherently selfish – though some may be. Instead, they just don’t think that wearing a mask helps slow the spread of the virus. They are skeptical of the evidence.

The evidence, to me anyway, seems clear that masks are effective against viruses, including COVID-19. Check out this article which gives a good summary of the logic and studies behind this argument. You don’t need to take the author at face value. He provides plenty of links to studies which you can follow to conduct your own research.

For the purposes of this post, I will provide a brief summary.

First, masks are more effective at slowing the spread of viruses than they are as a personal protective equipment. That is, our proper motivation for wearings masks is one of concern for others, not fear.

Second, masks protect others by trapping droplets that come out of your mouth when you speak, cough, or sing. This YouTube video uses a laser-scattering experiment to shows how wearing a simple washcloth drastically reduced the number of droplets expelled into the air. This matters a lot, since aerosol spread is one of the main ways that COVID-19 spreads.

Third, people can spread the virus even before they have started showing symptoms, so wearing a mask prevents the spread of the virus after a person has contracted the virus, but before they would know that they have it.

Fourth, many people are skeptical about wearing masks because at the start of the pandemic, health officials discouraged wearing masks. They see this as evidence that health officials are untrustworthy. However, this guidance changed simply because the situation changed. Early on health officials looked at wearing masks primarily in terms of PPE, not in terms of protecting others. Also early on there was a mask shortage so health officials wanted to ensure that medical workers had priority. As evidence for even simple cloth mask effectiveness has increased, and the overall stock of masks has increased, health officials began to issue the guidance we see today.

To quote from the originally linked article:

There are numerous studies that suggest if 80% of people wear a mask in public, then COVID-19 transmission could be halted. Until a vaccine or a cure for COVID-19 is discovered, cloth face masks might be the most important tool we currently have to fight the pandemic.

Christians often respond that by wearing masks we are giving in to fear. I don’t think that’s a great way to frame the discussion. While wearing masks can be an expression of fear, it can also be an expression of love, of concern for the well-being of our neighbors.

To love your brothers and sisters in Christ

As churches begin to re-open Christians who wear masks and those who don’t will be attending church together. Each will have a strong opinion one way or the other. Both may be called upon to demonstrate Christian humility by giving up their “rights” or by acting in a way that is uncomfortable to them.

And so, brother or sister, if you are healthy and unconcerned, consider those in the congregation who have a weakened immune system and are more vulnerable. I appeal to you who don’t want to wear a mask, to consider doing so to make your fellow congregants more comfortable, even if you yourself are not particularly convinced by the first argument.

To demonstrate proper respect for authorities

In many places, wearing masks indoors is mandatory. Many businesses put up signs stating as such. Christians can demonstrate respect for authority by following these guidelines.

While human authorities are not absolute, obedience to human authorities should be the norm for Christians. Obedience to authority, unless it contradicts obedience to God, demonstrates a respect for how God has ordered our lives. Contradicting authority requires us to demonstrate how doing so would cause us to disobey God. That is not the case for wearing masks.

Conclusion

We should show each other grace in this matter. I have written this post merely to appeal to the Christian conscience. When and where we wear masks isn’t always simple. I personally wear it when going to a store but never when I am outside. And, if I’m meeting indoors with just a few people and we can stay six feet apart, I typically won’t wear one. That may be hypocritical on my part, I’m not sure. My point is that there are a lot of gray areas.

However, I want to show how the Christian conscience should move us toward, not away, from wearing masks during this pandemic. Dear Christian, please wear a mask.

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