Photo by Two Dreamers
THE BODY OF CHRIST, DIVIDED OVER A PIECE OF CLOTH
Over the last few days, an opinion piece written by Kathy Ross in a newspaper from Waynesville, NC began circulating on my social media newsfeed. The article, titled “Why Christians Should be Wearing Masks,” appeared numerous times on Facebook, being shared by folks from my hometown – particularly, folks from my church back home. Before you continue reading here, I would ask that you please read the piece by Ross by clicking on the title in the previous sentence. I want you as the reader to have both the context for what I am going to say and the knowledge of Ross’s opinions on the issue.
I understand that masks are a highly politicized, disputed point of contention within our country at this point in time. One side calls for “protecting your neighbor” by wearing a mask at all times while the other side calls for “protecting our freedom” by ditching the masks as a form of silent protest and civil disobedience. It appears that the body of Christ is just as conflicted and polarized by this little piece of cloth as the national population is. Those on each side of the debate within the church are bullying each other, and it is unreasonable and uncalled for by both sides. In light of this piece by Ross, I would like to discuss why I believe Christians should stop bullying other Christians into wearing masks.
ROSS'S 5 REASONS WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD WEAR MASKS
In her opinion piece, Ross provided the following five reasons why Christians should wear masks.
Some of these are a real stretch.
POINTS #1 AND #3: JESUS SAID "LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR. WEAR THE MASK."
Sure, we are commanded to love our neighbors. Sure, love bears all things or “always protects.” No Christian disputes these facts. Ross, of course, cites the well-known passage about love in 1 Corinthians 13. She conveniently cherry picked the part that somewhat supported her point of view without considering one of the other clauses of this passage: Love delights in the truth.
The truth is, the verdict on masks and their actual efficacy is shoddy. There is evidence that masks can “help slow” the spread of the virus, but they do not stop the spread.
The truth is, Covid is a virus, and by definition, viruses spread.
The truth is, there are plenty of healthcare professionals who do NOT support masks. Dr. Fauci himself initially said that masks were useless and that Americans should NOT be wearing them; he only changed course when pressured by the Left.
The truth is, we do hold life sacred as Christians. But, we also acknowledge that we are mortal, fragile beings, and our days are numbered. God will call us home when and how He chooses. Part of holding life sacred is LIVING.
The truth is, we now have a vaccine to protect anyone who feels at risk or afraid. Sadly, that vaccine won’t protect Christians from their fear.
Do you know what the most used command in the Bible is? “Do not be afraid.” I’m so tired of churchgoers living in fear of this virus. I choose to live my days unafraid of illness, and I wish more Christians made that choice, too.
The truth is, I am not responsible for someone else’s fear when I pose no threat to them. I am not responsible for protecting someone else from a threat that I do not pose.
POINTS #2 AND #4: OUR WITNESS AND PERSONAL AGENCY
These points are a massive exaggeration for me, almost to the point of discrediting the entire piece from Ross because of them. I have really wrestled with them, as my initial response when I read that refusing a mask hurts my Christian witness and forces fellow believers into “making a difficult decision” is… anger.
Let me be clear here: It is not damaging to your witness to refuse wearing a mask. I find it hard to believe that Jesus is upset when I refuse to wear a mask to walk 10 feet to my table in Chili’s just to take it right off when I sit down, and I don’t think my witness is tarnished by refusing to follow along with utterly arbitrary guidelines such as that. As image-bearers of the Creator, we are given minds to reason and discern, and more Christians should use them in such instances. Of course, I understand that we should be concerned with how we represent Christ to the world in all that we do, as we are to make disciples of all nations. But it seems to me that Ross is using The Great Commission in an attempt to push her mask agenda.
Are masks being used to bring people to Jesus? That is a serious question. If so, I would love to hear about those instances. Because right now all over my newsfeed, all I see is Christian after Christian expressing their disapproval of their brothers and sisters in Christ who won’t wear the piece of fabric. This type of public fighting within the church, to me, does just as much damage to one’s witness as a Christian, if not more.
Regarding those non-Christians who choose to condemn Christians for not wearing masks, I have to admit: I don’t put much emphasis on the words of nonbelievers when it comes to my faith. They condemn Christians for ALL of our beliefs. I have experienced this condemnation relentlessly from these very non-Christians for the last four years here at KU. I don’t let what they say affect me or change my beliefs. So, why should I let any non-Christian’s degrading “but you’re pro-life” comments about masks affect me?
I prefer not letting nonbelievers dictate how I live my life, but maybe that’s just me.
I don’t look for their applause, nor do I seek their advice or feedback when they don’t give me or my faith the time of day. You shouldn’t either. Jesus clearly instructs us in Matthew 10:14 about how to deal with this type of critical nonbeliever: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” There’s also the whole “don’t cast your pearls to the pigs” command.
I felt it necessary to add personal agency to this discussion. At the end of this life, I as an individual will have to stand before God and answer for my actions, just like you will answer for yours. I will not have to give account for your actions, or the actions of anyone else, with one exception.
I will be held accountable only for instances in which I caused others to sin.
In various instances in the New Testament, the writer instructs believers not to be a stumbling block to those with weak consciences. The word for stumbling block in the Greek translates to “that over which the soul stumbles, by which it is impelled to sin; furnishing an occasion for sinning.” The only actions of others for which I will have to give account are sins committed by others because of my actions.
I don’t believe that my choice not to wear a mask in the pew 15 feet away from others is causing any of you to sin, unless you choose to curse me for it. Likewise, your choice not to come to church because you disagree with the lack of masks is your choice for which you bear sole responsibility. Contrary to what Ross says, no one is forcing you to make that choice except for yourself.
Just to put things into perspective: More than 2,200 Christians were killed in Nigeria this year simply for being Christian, and the persecution of Christians in China could be discussed for hours. So, please forgive me if I don’t think your choice to stay home and watch church online because of lax mask guidelines in a massive, socially distanced sanctuary is “a difficult decision” imposed on you by other Christians.
POINT #5: RESPECTING ELECTED LEADERS DOES NOT MEAN WE MUST BLINDLY TRUST THEM
Within the introduction, Ross says she does not understand the reasoning that Christians give on social media for being anti-mask. One of those reasons is that masks “cater to government control.” She continues that those concerns should “surely” be “outweighed by the need to protect others.”
In response, I would like to pose the following question: Why do we as Christians have to choose between being skeptical of the government and protecting others? The answer is simple: We don’t. Christians can question government motives and simultaneously emphasize the “protection” of those around us. We actually should do both simultaneously.
Considering that scientists right now are telling us that our children need to be masked despite the evidence that children are not spreaders of the virus and that Americans will need to continue wearing masks even after being vaccinated, I see no reason to condemn Christians who are skeptical of the politically-motivated government overreach regarding masks. Likewise, I see no reason to put a blind faith in the government’s will to “do the right thing.”
By and large, Christians in the USA are either very confused or simply ignorant to what Thomas Jefferson called “The Wall of Separation between Church and State.” Your college professor and CNN want you to believe that this separation is intended to keep religion out of politics and the government. That is fundamentally backwards. Thomas Jefferson included this idea in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists. Contrary to popular belief, this separation was not intended to prevent people from expressing religion in politics or the public square; it was intended to keep the government out of our churches. He intended to prevent the government from infringing on religious liberty. If you don’t believe me, just read the phrase in context.
Thomas Jefferson made such a statement on purpose: He knew that religious liberty was a fragile, important right in our country; that the government was power-hungry and would inevitably attempt to infringe on and destroy religious liberty; and that religious liberty was a privilege that, if not cherished, would eventually be lost to government control and nearly impossible to regain.
We are seeing this sort of overreach against which Jefferson spoke take place in our nation right now. What we as the Church condone within our society matters; what we allow our government to control matters. As a result of this pandemic, we have seen state governments run roughshod over our religious liberties, limiting the number of congregants allowed in the building and oftentimes closing church and synagogue doors altogether in the name of their religion: Science. Meanwhile, these government tyrants allow strip clubs and liquor stores to remain open and encourage mass protests. Just this week, the Secular Democrats of America PAC composed a 28-page document addressed to the Biden administration, demanding that he remove God from America. They even outlined the ways to achieve this removal.
Lest we forget, Hillary Clinton has said the quiet part out loud multiple times when it comes to how the Left views government control: Never let a good crisis go to waste. When we give the government an inch of our religious liberty, as we have willingly done for Covid, they take a mile that we will never see again.
This is unacceptable, and the Church is all too eager to bend the knee to such overreach as our liberties are extracted before our eyes.
Ross says she doesn’t understand the conflation between masks and government control. One Facebook user even said, “Somehow, ‘Don’t tread on me’ supplanted the Golden Rule.” It's as though these two things must be mutually exclusive, or that it is somehow shameful to demand the government not trample over our religious freedoms. The part that I still don’t understand is how or why Christians fail to see what the government is doing. Any evidence of government threat against religious liberty is one thing we should all be united in fighting against; however, many Christians are instead only interested in fighting the family sitting down the pew for “politicizing” masks, for making them into a “fictitious” government tool.
One last note on politicization: Lots of Christians are full scale “against being political.” I hate to break it to you, but everything has been made political, and there is no avoiding it. Christianity is political. Being pro-life is political. Being pro-traditional marriage is political. Every Biblical belief that you hold is political, and every political belief you hold is mentioned somewhere in the Bible. It’s long past time for the Church to wake up to this reality and fight for our rights and our society.
THE PIECE OF CLOTH IS NOT WORTH ALL OF THIS
If your conviction is to wear the mask out of respect for those around you when you are a totally healthy human being, then please continue to do so. As with any issue in the church, congregants have different convictions (for example, some Christians abstain from alcohol out of conviction, and some do not share the same conviction). Those differences and disagreements should not divide us.
Some Christians acknowledge the power and overreach of the government and don’t want to give them another inch of our liberties when they have already taken so much from the Church during this pandemic. And that is okay.
Some Christians do not read “love your neighbor” and feel that it means “wear a mask or your witness is in danger." And that is okay.
Some Christians refuse to stand idly by while their fellow church members call them selfish, overly-political, or un-Christlike for choosing not to wear the virtue-signaling piece of cloth over their mouth and nose to sing a hymn. And that is more than okay.
Christians, we are bullied enough as it is for our faith. You do NOT have to tolerate bullying from within the church over a cloth mask, or for being politically active as a Christian. You do not have to endure that, nor should you. Stand up for yourself and your rights, speak out, and do not let anyone – especially a fellow Christian – shame or belittle you for doing so.
When the religious rights of our children and grandchildren are decimated by the government because of the Church’s inaction and complacency, they will wish they had stood for those rights when they had the chance.
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