Seeking to Understand the Resistance to Wearing Masks – and a Plea for my Christian Friends to do so

This post has felt really hard to write. Honestly, I’ve written about 10 different introductions, and I have almost deleted every line from the page a couple of times. The last few days I’ve oscillated back and forth between whether or not to even publish this. I’m not a “social media influencer,” a news journalist, or a scientist. My typical audience is not very large, and I’m definitely not superior in knowledge. (My SAT scores and the fact that I once told a man that his boots looked “erotic” when I meant to say “exotic” both prove that point well.)

But I’ve found myself continually struggling with something I keep seeing around me, and talking about it just seems like the right thing to do.

So, here I am writing about another weighty topic. This time, instead of politics, it’s about face-masks. And, specifically, it’s about some Christians in Midland, Texas refusing to wear them. 

Before I get rolling, I want to make sure my heart is clear. 

First, I don’t want to be divisive. You can choose to not wear a mask, and though I might question your reasoning for doing so and, ultimately, disagree with you, I still love you. Being just like me – and landing exactly where I land on things – is not a requirement for being my friend. As Christians in the Church, we are to seek to live at peace with each other (Romans 12:18). I’m writing this because I’m concerned about others. I’m not writing this because I want to heap judgment upon you. 

At the same time, from everything I read and understand, our city, Midland, Texas, is in a state of crisis, and it seems as though, as citizens of Midland, TX – and as Christians in general – we should be doing all that we possibly can to make sure we aren’t making things worse.

A couple of weeks ago, I watched the Midland City Council meeting from home on my computer. I listened as Russell Meyers, Midland Health’s CEO, encouraged our city council to put in place a mask-mandate to give people extra incentives to wear masks. In a press-release on November 24th, Meyers stated that the hospital was using 47 out of 61 of their vents (some of those were borrowed from the state) and they were in the process of setting up a tent outside of the ER driveway to have more space to treat ER patients, since the ER was feeling the strain of incoming Covid-19 patients. On November 23rd, Midland Memorial’s ER saw 158 Covid-19  patients. In the same press-release, Meyer’s stated that the state/FEMA is bringing in additional medical staff to help Midland carry the load. According to the City’s Public Information page on Facebook, as of November 23rd, 132 people have died in our city, and our Covid numbers are rising rapidly by the day. Our testing numbers aren’t high enough, which means there are a lot of people who have Covid-19 without knowing it, and frontline doctors and nurses are struggling to keep up. The CEO stated that a lot of beds are filled up by Covid patients, and although they have beds reserved for other urgent medical needs – heart attacks, car accidents, strokes, or anything else – we are reaching a point where there may not be space for them. The story seems to be even worse in Odessa, Texas where one hospital’s hallways seem to be the only available space and they are in the process of requesting a portable morgue, as this CNN story highlights.  

Let me state here, that I can only imagine how hard and complex it is to navigate these times as a city leader – or a leader of any sort, really! On either side of a decision, you have people who will criticize you, and in a social climate where people don’t know how to talk to each other in a respectful and understanding way, it probably gets to be brutal. I don’t really have any interest in declaring whether or not I think local government should fine businesses and people for not wearing a mask. That issue is incredibly complex, and I cannot say that I understand everything potentially involved on either side of the argument – and, honestly, I want to keep this post as apolitical as possible. 

I’m not a politician. I’m a Christian and a citizen of Midland, Texas, and all I am doing is asking those of you who refuse to wear a face-mask to reconsider your position. If you’re a Christian, I would even make the claim that refusing to wear one makes you look like you don’t care about others – a stance that is confusing for people both inside of the church and out.

Christians – especially conservative ones – preach being pro-life until they turn blue in the face. We talk about human dignity because our scriptures tell us that every person is created by God with value and importance (Genesis 1:27, Genesis 9:6, Psalm 139:13-14). We, of all people, should know that value comes not from what we can contribute to society, but that it’s a God-given state. In fact, we believe we can only have a relationship with God if we are able to acknowledge how imperfect and incapable we are of saving ourselves (1 John 1:9, Romans 5:8). Scripture is clear that we are to love in a sacrificial way – that we are to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (John 15:12-14; 1 John 3:16), deny ourselves to carry our crosses (Matthew 16:24-26), and to value others above ourselves.

“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.”

– Paul to the Church of Philippi in Philippians 2:3-4

Scripture is also clear that we are to submit to our government leaders unless it causes us to sin (Romans 13:1-7, Acts 5:27-29).

Yet, when it comes to Covid-19, it seems as though some Christians in Midland, Texas have abandoned all of this. They have abandoned truths they themselves have preached, and have, instead, seemed to say that these truths don’t apply to Covid-19 and wearing masks – and it’s troubled me to my core.

To me, it’s always been simple: People matter. Covid-19 is killing people rapidly. They say wearing a mask helps, so I’m going to wear a mask. The mayor asks me to wear one, so I’m going to wear one. My church strongly encourages me to wear one, so I’m going to wear one. HEB asks that I wear one, so I’m going to put one on. People’s lives matter, so I’m going to wear a mask.

But why do some Christians see it differently? Why are some Christians who fight for babies in the womb taking such a hard stance against wearing face-masks? Why are Christians posting anti-mask stuff online? Why are Christians in Midland refusing to wear a mask at church, even when the church staff strongly encourages them to do so? Why aren’t they wearing one at HEB? What am I missing?

I decided that instead of judging people – and probably assuming incorrect things – I would just engage in conversations with mask-hesitant people (or people who are super close with mask-hesitant people) about it to find out more information.

From the get-go, I need you to know something really important: What I have found is that mask-hesitant people feel as though they are doing the right thing by not wearing a mask. I talked to over 10 people about it, and none of them stated that they wanted to harm someone else. The point of this post is not to make people feel bad or demonize them for their hesitant stance on wearing a face-mask. The point of this post, is to present the different stances on masks that tend to exist within Christian circles (based upon those I have talked with), and then present some ideas that might challenge those view points. 

Why?

Because, based upon everything I have learned and everyone I have talked to, if you are a Christian, I still think you should wear a face-mask. And I believe scripture (though neither Covid-19 nor America are mentioned in its pages) affirms this.

None of us are going to agree with each other totally, but finding a space where we can engage with each other in friendly conversation is important. If we want to understand each other, we have to be able to talk about our differences – and we only grow as human beings when we are challenged. 

Please know that I know I’m not perfect. I battle sin like everyone else, and I have all sorts of weird quirks. I’ve also been guilty of not wearing a face mask when I should have. I gave into the social pressure around me, and I didn’t wear one. It was wrong, I felt awful about it afterwards as I reflected upon the harm I could have caused someone, and it was another piece of evidence that my people-pleasing self is still alive and well within me – and that gave me plenty of stuff to take to the Lord in prayer.

Again, my goal is not to judge the mask-hesitant person – my goal is to encourage them to care for those around them, even if it means wearing an annoying face-mask ESPECIALLY since our numbers in Midland are climbing and our hospital is in a place of crisis.

To be clear, the mask-hesitant position seems to be a spectrum.

In this post, I’m only concerned with the those who refuse to wear a mask regardless of who asks them to wear one – whether it be their church, HEB employees, the mayor, or their place of business. To those of you who wear a mask to be as safe as possible even though you have heavy doubts about their effectiveness, I admire you.

Common Mask-Hesitant Positions + Considerations

ONE: The research doesn’t back-up wearing masks – and masks can be harmful to our health, too. 

This is definitely a complex position – and it’s a position I have a ton of empathy for. I have taken 4 research classes across undergrad and graduate school, and I still find research to be incredibly difficult to read and interpret. There’s also a ton of research on a lot of different things related to Covid-19 and influenza-type illnesses, and it’s straight-up overwhelming. In order to stay-up on the research, you would probably need to quit your job or hire a full-time nanny. 

What I found after reading over 20 articles line-by-line, spending a good solid 3 hours on the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine’s website, and spending even more time looking at other articles and videos different people have sent me is this: the research is very mixed on some things. For example, whether or not a mask on an uninfected person will protect them from getting infected from an infected person seems to be highly disputable, and a pretty big point of debate amongst scientists. In fact, the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine’s website is filled with researchers arguing back and forth with each other about it, and, because of the pandemic, researchers are launching new studies to try to figure it out. (To read some debates, articles, studies, or statements on this click here, here, here and here). 

At the same time, however, researchers feel pretty confident that masks on an infected person work as a good method of “source control” – meaning a mask on an infected person reduces the number of droplets and aerosols that escape into everyone else’s breathing space. Here is a really good evidence-review and a good 172-study meta-analysis on it (basically a bunch of different studies combined into one summary) on it. The CDC makes the same claim, but I tried to mostly stay away from the CDC’s website during this post because I have found that a lot of people in this camp don’t really trust the CDC. If you’re looking for more, just Google “face masks as source control.” There’s a lot of really good information about it out there.

What the research seems to be abundantly clear on is that a face mask is never going to be 100 percent effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19. People are going to wear face-masks, and people are still going to get Covid.

The question is, do masks on an infected person slow down the spreading of their germs AT ALL? It seems like the majority of researchers believe so. Can you be asymptomatic with Covid? Yes – and a lot of people are (here and here). So should everyone wear a mask? Personally, I think so. So does the author of this evidence-based article.

It also seems understandable to be concerned about the harms of wearing a mask. There is quite a bit of research confirming that if masks are worn improperly or if they aren’t washed regularly or if they aren’t thrown away after a certain amount of time, they can actually cause illness. This article provides links and some discussion on that topic. Dentists are concerned about “Mask-Mouth,” and there is also understandable – and needed – concern over over how masks impact deaf people, people with other special needs, and our own children’s development.

I can’t even begin to imagine the implications of mask-mandates on people who struggle with hearing or who wrestle with any other cognitive or physical disability. I can only speak to being a mother. The fact that many of us have had to watch our kids navigate school and life in face-masks is absolutely heartbreaking. I hate it, but I’ve also had some neat conversations with my 4-year-old about why we wear masks, how it’s only temporary, and how sometimes we do things we don’t like for the sake of protecting others. It’s hard, it’s sad, I’ve cried, and I hate it, but there’s beauty in the midst of unfortunate circumstances, as well. It’s very rare that we, as a community, have the opportunity to serve our neighbor in such a visible way.  I will also say that those of us who are physically able to wear a mask without it diminishing our ability to communicate or function should perhaps be the ones to wear a mask most faithfully.

Many different sites, including the CDC, are reporting Covid-19 as the third leading cause of death in America. Our hospitals are suffering. They are asking us to wear masks. Should we toss out our masks because we aren’t sure whether or not they help, or should we wear them just in case they do?

TWO: People in America should take care of their bodies and then they wouldn’t get sick. It’s modern medicine’s fault, and I shouldn’t have to feel responsible/bear the burden of their mistakes. 

I can empathize with some things in this point, too. There seem to be a lot of things people can be doing to take care of their bodies so that underlying conditions are avoided and our bodies can more easily fight off illness. In fact, when looking into this argument, I was convinced even more that diet and exercise are fundamental to my body’s functioning, and I found out that vitamin D is a WAY bigger deal than I thought it was. I’m thankful for this reminder and the information these conversations provided me with.

Ultimately, this has been my friendly push-back. 

Yes, some people haven’t taken care of their bodies. There are various reasons for this. It could be a lack of education, it could be because of poverty, it could be because some people have to work weird hours or two jobs and they don’t have the time to cook meals at home, it could be because they can’t afford healthy options, it could be because they choose to eat poorly – who knows! The fact is, we are where we are, so what should we do now? 

 “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.  Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. […] So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,  just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.”

– Paul to the Church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 and 31-33

Should we refuse to seek the good of our neighbor because someone didn’t take care of their body? If the hospital is in crisis mode, should we refuse to follow their guidelines just because we feel like some people haven’t done a good enough job according to our standard? 

Jesus helped me when I couldn’t help myself. In fact, I was blatantly running from Him as He was pursuing my heart. I was drunk at a high school party when He prompted my heart to follow Him. He didn’t look at my life – the years of trying to find an identity apart from Him – and declare that I was a lost cause. Instead, He lifted my head, offered me life, and has been pursuing me continually ever since.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

– Ephesians 2:8-9

I deserve death. And if you’re a Christian, then you proclaim the same about yourself. It’s both a beautiful and humbling reality of the gospel.

I ’m thankful that I have healthy food to eat, and I love exercising, but those things are truly blessings given to me through various things the Lord has provided. Not every one has the education, the time or the resources to live the same way as I do.

THREE: It’s only the old people and people with underlying conditions who are dying. During Covid-19, they are probably just going to die regardless of what we do. 

This one is very similar to the one above, but slightly different. This camp of people aren’t really upset that people haven’t taken care of their bodies, or that modern medicine is the way it is. They are simply just trying to state facts they have learned – and I think, in many cases, they are trying to prevent someone else from freaking out when they seem to be freaking out. 

I think we have all had moments when we have felt some anxiety during this pandemic. Whether we wiped down all of our groceries with Clorox wipes, or striped down in our garages before entering our houses after going to the grocery store, we have all had moments where we longed to understand how at risk those in our family truly were. 

It is true that Covid-19 tends to affect those over the age of 60 most, and it seems particularly harsh on people with underlying conditions – as noted here. However, I don’t see this as a reason to not wear a mask. As covered in the first section, if masks are meant to protect others, and not to protect self, then why wouldn’t you wear one – especially if you are young and don’t have any underlying conditions? Is not the person with underlying conditions worth protecting? What about your elderly neighbor? 

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

– Paul to the church of Galatia in Galatians 6:9-10

FOUR: No one should be allowed to tell me to wear a mask. Masks infringe upon my civil liberties. Masks make me feel uncomfortable/claustrophobic, and I don’t have to wear one, so I’m not going to wear one. Masks are a political move brought on by people who didn’t want President Donald Trump to be re-elected.

This is obviously a VERY large category (please see note below). In my conversations, I have found that all of these viewpoints seem to be somewhat connected, though.

The first train-of-thought goes like this: Covid-19 is a political thing, spurred on by Democrats, and it was ultimately created to prevent President Donald Trump from winning. Because of this, masks are simply political and they shouldn’t be worn.

Some people may not totally believe the logic-train above, but may believe that masks are the starting place of government control – that the mask is going to lead to government shut-downs, fines, and all sorts of things that harm small businesses, the working class, and those who struggle to put food on the table. 

I highly doubt that I have the intellect or the skill-set to dismantle a conspiracy theory, so I’m going to mostly leave the first train-of-thought alone. I will say, if you ask any frontline doctor, they will tell you that Covid-19 is a very real thing. Local hospitals are experiencing record-number capacity levels and more deaths than normal. Even in my close circle of friends we have known people who have been hospitalized because of Covid-19 and have known a handful of people who have died from it (either as a primary or secondary cause of death).

I can understand being fearful of what the mask might lead to.

When things shut down the first time, our economy suffered and, therefore, my husband’s business suffered. I know people that lost businesses, I know people who got laid-off, I know people who had to move to find work, I know people who had a really hard time putting food on the table. There are several places in our town that have a “permanently closed” sign on the front-door because of Covid-19 shut-downs. The impact it has made – and continues to make – on our city, and on our economy – is real. It’s sad, and it’s really scary if you own a business or are barely making ends meet in the job you currently have. In other states, churches were mandated to close their doors and it is questionable if it is constitutionally okay to prohibit people from going to church. Currently, several states are fining people and institutions if they have 6 or more people gathered together – including churches. I, too, have questioned whether or not this is okay, and if it is a breach of civil liberty.

I don’t have any interest in laying out what government should or shouldn’t do in this article. I don’t understand enough about how it all works to even “go there”. 

All I can add to the conversation is this…

It’s not the masks’ fault. Could the government shut-down your business again? Potentially. But your face-mask has zero power to do so. The face mask is a face mask. It’s not a politician. It was created by scientists to protect infected people from spreading their droplets to uninfected people well before Covid-19 outbreaks began. Have politicians used it as a political tool? Yes. Have media outlets helped politicize it? Of course. Is that wrong? Completely…but the mask is not political. The mask is not arguing before congress. The mask cannot be elected president of the United States of America. A mask is a mask.

And when we – on either side of the aisle – make it more than that, we are contributing to the idea that it is political. We are making it to be more than it should be – we are adding to the chaos surrounding them. Politicians, the media, and anyone who states that the mask is a political thing, are to blame – the mask is not. 

If scripture regularly encourages us to lay down our rights for the sake of others (1 Corinthians 9-11), to love sacrificially (John 15:13), and presents examples of faithful people doing so (Genesis 13 is one example) then what “rights” and “comforts” are worthy of being laid down for the sake of the elderly and our hospital, until we get this thing under control more? 

A note on comfort: I HATE wearing a mask. I find it hard to breathe and talk in them, but if wearing a mask for 2 hours while in HEB or Target is the hardest thing I have to do, then I should be immensely grateful for the blessings and ease the Lord has allowed me to experience in my life.

FIVE: God is fully in control, so I’m not going to live in fear. 

This is so incredibly true. God is in control and scripture tells us that we shouldn’t live in fear. We have all had to think about this as we have evaluated whether or not we should send our kids to school, or homeschool, whether or not we should open offices, or keep them closed. God, and our trust of Him and faith in Him, is fundamental to our faith as Christians.

You can still trust God, and do wise things, though. In fact, I think scripture is very-pro us being wise. I trust God, but I still wear a seatbelt, sun-protectant hats and sunscreen, I still eat healthy food and exercise, I still wash my hands, and I would still seek medical treatment if I got cancer. Seeking to prevent something awful from happening or doing things to help others prepare for what is about to come, does not mean you don’t trust God. In fact, there are moments in scripture where God tells people to prepare, or when He himself is preparing people for what is about to happen (Genesis 41, John 16). Maybe I’m misunderstanding something, and please reach out to me if you think I am, but God’s sovereignty doesn’t seem to negate human wisdom. Yes, people are going to die from Covid-19, and God knows who those people are and He knew how they were going to die before they were even born, but that fact shouldn’t lead to the conclusion that masks are dumb. 

Again, the mask was created to protect others – not to protect you. Wearing a mask does not communicate that you are fearful – though you could be. It communicates that you care about others. Covid-19 is killing people – at rapid rates. 

Based upon the evidence, I’m not scared of getting Covid-19. I’m not fearful of going out in public, and I’m not wearing a mask because I am. What I’m fearful of is giving Covid-19 (an illness that is often asymptomatic) to someone who is over the age of 60, autoimmune-compromised, overweight, poor, or someone who has any underlying health condition. I wear a mask because of this. 

Would you please consider doing the same? Please?

Again, I’m not all-wise. I’m not writing this because I feel like my opinion is more important than anyone else, nor do I feel as though I am perfect. I am writing because I’m concerned. I’m concerned for our hospitals, I am concerned for my elderly next-door neighbor, I’m concerned for those in our Churches and communities with underlying health conditions, and I’m concerned by what Christians are communicating by not wearing one. If masks prove to be even PARTLY protective, I think we should all wear one. 

We have a huge opportunity to love others right now – to care for people even if it costs us comfort and the freedom to do what we want to do while at Target. Our hospitals are begging you to wear one, our mayor is asking you to wear one, and he has asked other citizens to ask you to wear one. Would you please wear a mask? 

At the end of all of this, if I am wrong and masks are proven to be zero percent effective in stopping the spread of illnesses, and we find out that Covid-19 was really created to prevent President Donald Trump from getting elected, you can hound me with “I told you so” texts, emails, and phone calls. I will apologize for being wrong. Neither of these things have been proven so far, though, so would you please wear a mask?

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

– Colossians 3:12-15

I love you, friends. 

* The down-side of this format, is that it could over-generalize. I actually hate over-generalizations, so that’s not my intent. I’m simply boiling down the stances into categories because I don’t want this thing to be 15 pages long. If you disagree with what I write, or if you feel as though I have categorized different positions in an inaccurate or offensive way, please reach out to me. I’m happy to have a friendly discussion (where we both show each other respect), and I would be thrilled to learn more from you.

2 thoughts on “Seeking to Understand the Resistance to Wearing Masks – and a Plea for my Christian Friends to do so

  1. Really well said, Lindsey. Thank you so much for speaking up on this important issue. One codicil I’d add to your third point: COVID affects far more than the elderly and immunocompromised. Long-term COVID-related damage to the young and otherwise healthy has been well-documented, and of course we don’t yet know the long-term effects.

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/07/brain-fog-heart-damage-covid-19-s-lingering-problems-alarm-scientists

    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02598-6

    Like

  2. Lindsey, thank you for this thoughtful and well-articulated piece. I think you’ve framed your concerns and thoughts (much of which, I happen to share) in the clearest way I’ve seen in the past few months. I hope your post is widely shared and read.

    Like

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