Monday, August 17, 2020

On Masking and Loving

I know, I know - the one thing we don't hear enough about these days is everyone's opinion on masking. But bear with me because there's an important lesson about Christian love in here.

One of the lines that we keep seeing over and over is how selfish it is to not wear a mask. You must be thinking only of yourself. You don't care about anyone but you. A few weeks ago, a man in a Facebook group that I belong to tried to call our Christians who do not wear masks as failing at the central tenet of the Christian faith - love. You claim to love Jesus, who told you to love others, but you won't even wear a mask for them. You're selfish and an extremely poor Christian; Jesus would be disappointed in you.

Last week, I read an article by a prominent  Christian theologian (who I happen to agree with on many issues), and he argued that the libertarian notion that one should be able to make their own choices is selfish in this case and that we must not let masking become an issue that makes us unloving to one another in the name of our own "freedom." I applaud this theologian for phrasing his comments as delicately and specifically as he did, not calling all non-maskers selfish, but only those who are refusing masks based on the argument of their own freedom. But still, his commentary is likely to be misunderstood and painted with the same broad brush as the first comment - anyone who does not wear a mask clearly doesn't love Jesus. Because they aren't loving others.

This argument is too black and white and most ironically? It's not loving.

From the very beginning, even the highest health professionals have said that there are legitimate reasons that a person would not be able to wear a mask. Some chronic health conditions or lung conditions can make it dangerous. The neuro-atypical among us (think: autistic persons or Aspies) may have severe trouble covering their face, or struggle with the texture/feeling of the mask. A person with clinical claustrophobia will induce full-blown panic in a mask. Someone with a history of trauma, particularly traumatic assault or sexual assault, may be triggered by wearing a mask. In other words, masks may be beneficial, but they are a legitimate burden to some.

And this attitude that we have that anyone not wearing a mask is selfish and a poor Christian just doesn't work in those cases. How can we continue, as Christians, to berate someone else for "not loving us" by not wearing a mask when we are, in the same breath, not loving them by insisting that they should have to - especially if their wearing a mask is in some way dangerous or damaging to them? And then, we call them selfish. Selfish, for needing to take care of their own health. Selfish, for refusing to sacrifice themselves for us.

How dare we call someone else not loving when we are actively not loving them. Just who do we think we are?

This is the point about love that I want to make: love can never require the sacrifice from someone else; it always requires the sacrifice from us.

Love is not bullying someone else into loving us the way we want to be loved; it is setting them free to love us from their own heart. It is respecting the love that they are able to give us and letting go of our expectations of what that's "supposed" to look like.

If the shoe were on the other foot and you were the one facing life-crushing implications from "something so simple" as wearing a mask, how would you like to be called selfish? Unloving? Un-Christian? How would you like someone to look you in the eye and say, "I don't care what it does to you. If you loved anyone at all, you'd do it for them"? How loved would you feel right then?

Love can never require someone else to make the sacrifice. We have to make it ourselves. And sometimes, that sacrifice that we make is called grace.

It's the only way to be loving.

*This is, of course, extremely complicated. Those with issues that prevent masking are not exempt from making sacrifices out of love for one another. Those adamant about masking are not exempt from making sacrifices out of love for one another. Neither side gets a pass from sacrifice, but neither side gets to demand the sacrifice from the other. 

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