In one sense, it’s an unusual expectation as I have lots of people in my life who’ve not made any public statements about masks, and I haven’t felt that they were obligated to say something about it. But I suppose it comes along with my job that people will want me to say something about issues in our culture. So, far I haven’t said much about masks for two reasons:
A) I don’t typically make health/medical recommendations. Normally, everyone is fine with that. I’ve never made any public statements about hand-washing, vaccines, or prescription medications either. And under normal circumstances, mask-wearing would have fallen into that same category, but not this year.
B) I don’t typically bring up divisive issues publicly unless they are in the Bible. I have covered topics like homosexuality, divorce, and female pastors, because the Bible addresses them. But I’ve never given out any opinions about the border wall between Texas and Mexico or the recent $2 trillion stimulus package. It’s not that I don’t have opinions about those issues; it’s just that I don’t believe it’s my job to take sides on them publicly as a pastor.
So, for those two reasons, I have steered clear of making some sort of statement about masks. However, as I said earlier, some people are starting to believe that I am almost hurting the church with my silence, as this is considered by many to be a moral issue. So, I’ve thought about it, and here we go. This is my official statement followed by an explanation:
I think the practice of mask-wearing is a complicated issue.
There, I said it. 😊 Now let me explain what I mean. I think there are too many people who believe that there are just two sides to all of this. You are either pro-mask or anti-mask. There are either too many people “living in fear” for no good reason, or too many people being irresponsible and practically denying that this disease even exists.
I do not believe it is that simple.
Let’s just focus on the mask issue. The two positions are not pro-mask and anti-mask. Off the top of my head, I came up with a dozen different positions that people could hold regarding mask-wearing. I am going to list them roughly in order from most anti-mask to most pro-mask:
- Masks are doing spiritual damage. Mask-wearing is greatly reducing the amount of time and occasions that people are discipling and evangelizing. Therefore, there will be more people in hell because of all of this.
- Masks are actually doing physical/medical damage. They are lowering immune systems, collecting germs close to the face, transferring germs from hands to the face, increasing carbon dioxide intake, etc.
- Masks are contributing to emotional/psychological damage. Making our public spaces look dangerous and having people mostly avoid each other is contributing to panic attacks and depression.
- Masks are not worth wearing considering the financial and/or political damage that is associated with them.
- We don’t know if masks help or not. There has, and continues to be, a lot of conflicting information about them. People should not be dogmatic about their use.
- Masks do help slow the spread of pathogens somewhat, but they are inconvenient and not really worth it.
- Masks do help slow the spread of pathogens and should be worn, but they shouldn’t be a requirement in order to worship along with God’s people.
- Masks should be worn, but it should be voluntary. No one should be forced to wear one against their will. But the people who do wear them are loving their neighbors by trying to prevent them from getting sick.
- Masks should be worn, and it should be up to the owners of the buildings to enforce it. The government shouldn’t make laws about it. Publix, Walmart, and Good News Church should all just make their own policies.
- The government has the right to legislate mask-wearing. And Romans 13 says to obey your government, so wear a mask. (If the government doesn’t require them, then you don’t have to wear one per Romans 13, but you should still wear one because of verses like, “love your neighbor as yourself.”)
- The government should legislate mask-wearing and punish law breakers. These people are spreading a deadly disease and it must be stopped. A certain amount of “loving your neighbor” should be required by good government.
- Not only should mask-wearing be required temporarily, but this pandemic has opened our eyes to a whole new way of life. We should probably be wearing masks for a long time to prevent other illnesses (like flu) and we should even reconsider cultural practices like hugging and hand-shaking. We all need to work together to make the world a better place.
(Note: some of these positions are not mutually exclusive. Someone could believe #1, #3, and #5, while someone else could believe #8, #9, and #10. And technically, I think someone could believe #3 and #8, and simply believe the risks associated with #3 are not as high as the ones avoided by lifestyle #8.)
I think you get my point. There are multiple sides to this issue. And that is why I’ve had a hard time saying anything about it, or even trying to enforce some kind of “Good News Church Policy.”
Think about it. Imagine what a policy like “you can’t wear a mask at our church” would do for someone in #8. It’s like you are telling them to not love their neighbors.
Or imagine what a policy like, “we recommend you wear a mask to church” would do for someone in #1. It’s like you are telling them we should not love our neighbors.
Imagine what a policy like, “you must wear a mask to get into this building” would do for someone who believes in #2 or even #7. It’s like you are telling them to not love their neighbors.
So, what’s a pastor to say? Well, for now, I’m saying: I think the practice of mask-wearing is a complicated issue. And I would encourage you to follow your conscience and not judge (in the sense of “condemn”) your fellow believers on this issue.
Please don’t imagine that everyone not wearing a mask hates their neighbor, because I know that’s not true. I personally know people who believe they are loving their neighbor by not wearing a mask. Also, don’t imagine that everyone who is wearing a mask is “living in fear,” because I know that’s not true. I personally know people who wear masks and are not afraid of getting this virus, but are simply concerned about accidentally spreading the disease pre-symptomatically or asymptomatically.
I don’t know how much longer this issue will be a big deal. But, as a pastor of Jesus Christ among the people of God, I honestly don’t know what else to say to you other than to please realize how complicated this is… do your best to do what you believe is right regardless of how inconvenient it is, or what it makes you look like, and be forbearing with your brothers and sisters who see things a different way.
“Accept anyone who is weak in faith but don’t argue about doubtful issues ~ Romans 14:1 HCSB
“One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind.” ~ Romans 14:5 HCSB
”Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” ~ Ephesians 4:2 NIV