Face Masks and the Christian

31 May

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This post is not about whether we should remain in some sort of lock down, or whether churches should be open, or if the government has done a good job in handling the US epidemic. All of those things are important and Christians on both sides of the issues have shared some good reasoning. But there’s one thing regarding COVID-19 that Christians should not currently be debating about, and that’s the use of a face mask.

There’s no question that early on there was debate on the issue. Part of that was due to concern for supplies for medical workers. Absolutely that must be our first priority. But as supplies have stabilized, and as new research on cloth masks has become available, the preponderance of evidence shows that wearing a facial covering slows the spread of SARS-CoV-2. 

Since April 3rd, the CDC has advocated for the use of masks in public to reduce the transmission rate. There have been a number of academic papers and articles published in the last couple months on the issue, and almost universally, they support wearing a mask. To see the difference it makes, watch this short video from the New England Journal of Medicine, that shows an actual example, mask verses no mask, using laser light. (You can read the accompanying article at NEJM here.) 

 

The following are a few other recent items worth reviewing if you still have doubts:

  • On May 22nd, an international research team made up of a number of MD’s and other specialists released a report based on the review of the data available on cloth masks and concluded that cloth masks worn by the public will reduce COVID transmission rates, and furthermore, those benefits outweigh any risks that may be brought about by wearing masks (such as improper use).
  • Just a few days ago, a new paper was published from some aerosol chemists and an infectious disease specialist, who reviewed data and argue that masks are necessary.  They analyzed both analytical information about the virus and looked at countries where masks are commonplace. They note “airborne spread from undiagnosed infections will continuously undermine the effectiveness of even the most vigorous testing, tracing and social distancing programs.” 
  • Dr. Jennifer Kasten is a medical doctor and a pathologist, with degrees in infectious disease epidemiology and mathematical modeling of epidemics, and fieldwork in epidemic control. She’s written a good piece looking at several studies.  She writes, “up to 85% of transmission events are from people who feel well and therefore don’t modify their behavior, so infect others…Facemasking is the single most effective strategy to reduce COVID transmission.”
  • UPDATE 6/1: A systematic review and meta-analysis just published in the Lancet concludes, “Face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection.” 
  • UPDATE 6/10: Another study led by Cambridge just published calling for “immediate and universal adoption of facemasks by the public.”
  • UPDATE 6/13: All future updates on new studies will be found here.

Unfortunately, some (including Christians with a large social media following) are choosing to tell people to not wear masks, and they are sharing false and misleading information which I’ve detailed here (but please finish reading this post first before linking there).

With the studies we have available now, the evidence is strongly supporting the use of a face covering to slow COVID-19. Still, one of the reasons I’ve heard Christians saying they don’t wear one is because “the science is divided.” This is simply not true. Sure there may be a few people out there still saying don’t wear a mask (some trying to sell books or get social media hits), but you wouldn’t call a 85-1 lead in the ninth inning a “close game.” Again, the evidence from the mounting studies show that masks slow COVID transmission. How significant is still up for discussion. But does it make a difference? The growing body of evidence we have says yes.

But suppose even IF the science were divided, wouldn’t the charitable thing to do still be to wear a mask? A lot of people are scared. Think about the message you’re sending to this group of people, many of whom are non-believers, people we are commanded to reach as part of the Great Commission. A large number of them are deeply concerned. It may be that they have underlying conditions. It may be that they take care of someone who does. It may be that they work in an environment where they are more exposed, but need to work to maintain an income. What should the Christian response be? Should we throw temper tantrums because we have to wear a mask in Home Depot because this is ‘Merica and we got rights? Should we post on social media about how those people are just a bunch of scared sissies? Should we offer excuses like “they can still get it in their eyes”? My heart breaks every time I see a Christian do or say these things. Do we not long for these people to share eternity with us? Why are we alienating them so and teaching them to think we lack compassion?

Keep in mind, largely the purpose of wearing masks is not to protect the wearer, but to protect others in case the wearer is an asymptomatic carrier (or is pre-symptomatic). This is an act of compassion. It’s not out of fear. As followers of Christ, can we not live by His serving example? Is the mild inconvenience to our lives too much to ask? I’m not advocating that we need to be militant about it, or that there shouldn’t be exceptions for some for medical reasons. But those that can, let’s follow the CDC guidelines to wear a facial covering “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

Wearing a face covering is simple. It’s loving. It’s Christlike. 

I understand that we’re still learning on this. So, if the science changes, certainly we reevaluate, but right now, today, what’s the charitable, loving thing to do? As ambassadors of the King, how should we represent Him? I think the answer is clear. 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:3-5, NIV)

Note: Before commenting about why masks are not needed, please at least review the relevant links above (Proverbs 18:13).

2 Responses to “Face Masks and the Christian”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Face Masks and the Christian, part 2 | Sound Reason & More - June 3, 2020

    […] those who haven’t, please be sure to read part 1 of this post before […]

  2. A Hope for the Church in America in 2021 | Sound Reason & More - January 3, 2021

    […] Many ministries excelled finding ways to serve and some churches saw a revival, all while supporting the efforts of public health in this pandemic. Unfortunately, the actions of others were loud and confrontational, and seem […]

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