Why It’s a Sin Not to Wear a Mask

August 18th, 2021

You could say many things about the anti-vaccination, anti-masking, anti-mandate movement that is feeding the surge in the infection, hospitalization and death rates in Florida right now.

It’s anti-science. It’s the flashpoint for the continued attack on the authority of reason, knowledge and science that rejects facts in favor of crazy conspiracy theories and self-aggrandizing political hyperbole.

It’s anti-history. It is repeating the worst lessons we should have learned from the 1918 flu epidemic.

It’s anti-democracy. The Governor of Florida is arguing that for the sake of “parental freedom” he has the authority to overrule the freedom of local school boards to make critical decisions about the health and welfare of their students.

It’s stupid. It’s as stupid as claiming that I have the freedom to ignore public health and safety laws that require me to buckle my seatbelt, stop for a red light, and not to smoke in public or drive when drinking.

But anyone who is not blinded by political near-sightedness can say any of that. What can I say as a follower of Christ?

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The Freedom to be Sinful 

A basic biblical truth is that we have the freedom to be both stupid and sinful. In fact, the Bible says that which is sinful is also stupid because it always ends up badly for both the sinner and those who are affected by my sinful choices. 

The deepest truth about sin is that it is always selfish. St. Augustine called sin the “soul turned in on itself.” It’s the radical egotism that leads me to act as if I have no responsibility beyond my own self-absorption. If I claim to be a Christian, it is an outright rejection of Jesus’ command to love my neighbor. 

Paul summarized the truth when he wrote to the Galatians: 

“You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other!” (Galatians 5:13-15 CEB)

We affirm the good news in our baptism liturgy when we “accept the freedom and power God give you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” 

Paul promised that power when he wrote: 

“People whose lives are based on selfishness think about selfish things, but people whose lives are based on the Spirit think about things that are related to the Spirit. The attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death, but the attitude that comes from the Spirit leads to life and peace … 

“So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it isn’t an obligation to ourselves to live our lives on the basis of selfishness. If you live on the basis of selfishness, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the actions of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:5-13 CEB)

OK. I don’t like wearing a mask any more than you do. I miss communicating with a smile. But in the midst of a raging, deadly, highly-contagious pandemic, not wearing a mask is both sinful and stupid. Wearing a mask, getting vaccinated (unless there is a medical exception), and supporting reasonable public health mandates is smart. It’s an act of Christ-like love. It’s also a step toward Spirit-empowered life and peace.

 

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