Some folks are convinced that Jesus would wear a mask. Are they right?
I was asked recently on the social media what I thought about requirements for people singing in church to wear face masks. I responded by saying: “Given how divided the ‘experts’ are concerning the efficacy of masks, it seems an unhelpful requirement, especially since many churches are still not even allowed to open.”
And others have asked similar sorts of questions, eg., whether Jesus would wear a mask to deal with infectious diseases. There are several ways to deal with such questions. One is by means of a biblical and theological discussion. Another is to look at the actual science and medicine, and see if we can determine the best path forward. And we can also discuss social and political angles to this.
As to the first, we must remind ourselves that Jesus was not into self-preservation at all costs – either for himself or his followers. He knew that what he had to do would result in his death, and he forewarned his disciples that to faithfully follow him would lead to persecution and even death. Some things are more important than merely staying alive.
That is not to say he would be unnecessarily reckless – nor should we be. But so many folks today, including far too many Christians, live in fear and paranoia and they demand and even expect complete safety. There is no such thing – at least in this life. But we do have ultimate spiritual safety when we abide in Christ.
And Jesus did not seek to avoid the harsh realities of life – including disease and sickness. He often took them head on, healing many people along the way. And he dealt with somewhat infectious diseases. While most people avoided lepers like the plague (no pun intended) he mingled with these people. He did not avoid them. He did not practice social distancing. He went to them and healed many.
Of course Jesus was not just man but also God. So again, I am not saying that believers today should be careless or irresponsible. We can do certain things such as social distancing and the like. Corona alarmists however will insist that loving our neighbour means we all must wear masks all the time. But this in good measure is where science comes into the discussion.
As to the matter of how effective masks are, we of course have been getting mixed messages all along. The “experts” not only disagree with each other, but they even disagree with themselves over time! Many examples can be mentioned here. The US physician and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci has had differing takes on this.
In March he said this in a 60 Minutes interview: “Right now in the United States people should not be walking around with masks. There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask. When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection people think it is.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRa6t_e7dgI
Now of course he is saying we should be wearing masks. If the experts differ with each other and in fact change their tune on this issue, that does leave us mere peons in a rather confused place. Sure, the alarmists who want us all to stay at home and always wear masks can offer links to sites where some “experts” are telling us we must wear them.
But I can offer plenty of links to sites where others are telling us masks are not all that helpful – and may even be harmful. Indeed, there are numerous sites I could direct you to on this. One quite recent piece offers a nice summary of the data. The piece is well-documented with 42 footnotes. It asks the question, “Are masks effective at preventing transmission of respiratory pathogens?” Here is a small part of it:
In this meta-analysis, face masks were found to have no detectable effect against transmission of viral infections. It found: “Compared to no masks, there was no reduction of influenza-like illness cases or influenza for masks in the general population, nor in healthcare workers.”
This 2020 meta-analysis found that evidence from randomized controlled trials of face masks did not support a substantial effect on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility.
Another recent review found that masks had no effect specifically against Covid-19, although facemask use seemed linked to, in 3 of 31 studies, “very slightly reduced” odds of developing influenza-like illness.
This 2019 study of 2862 participants showed that both N95 respirators and surgical masks “resulted in no significant difference in the incidence of laboratory confirmed influenza.”
This 2016 meta-analysis found that both randomized controlled trials and observational studies of N95 respirators and surgical masks used by healthcare workers did not show benefit against transmission of acute respiratory infections. It was also found that acute respiratory infection transmission “may have occurred via contamination of provided respiratory protective equipment during storage and reuse of masks and respirators throughout the workday.”
A 2011 meta-analysis of 17 studies regarding masks and effect on transmission of influenza found that “none of the studies established a conclusive relationship between mask/respirator use and protection against influenza infection.” (6) However, authors speculated that effectiveness of masks may be linked to early, consistent and correct usage.
Face mask use was likewise found to be not protective against the common cold, compared to controls without face masks among healthcare workers. https://www.technocracy.news/masks-are-neither-effective-nor-safe-a-summary-of-the-science/
Please have a read of that entire article. And one can throw some social and political commentary into the mix as well. I tend to agree with what Brendan O’Neill has recently written on this:
Boris Johnson has announced that it will be mandatory to wear masks in shops in England from 24 July. If you don’t wear one you could be fined £100 by the cops. We should talk about this, right? We should weigh it up. Discuss the efficacy of masks and the desirability of empowering the police to take a hundred quid off someone who dares to show his face in public, like a politer public-health version of the morality guards in Afghanistan who would whip women with a stick if they ever committed the crime of unmasking their face in public. Apparently not….
We have to talk about this. We cannot let mask-wearing become the ‘new normal’. Masks are horrible. They’re stuffy and claustrophobic. They make it hard to read people’s faces. They alienate us from each other even more, hiding smiles and discouraging chit-chat. And they actually worsen the culture of fear by spreading the idea that our fellow citizens are walking diseases who must be muzzled and kept at a safe distance. Only people comfortable with the contemporary social atomisation that has been intensified by the lockdown would embrace mandatory mask-wearing with no questions whatsoever. Some of us dislike atomisation. We want connection, community, engagement. And so we believe that mask-wearing should be voluntary. Are we allowed to say that? https://www.spiked-online.com/2020/07/14/muzzling-the-public/
Real questions arise here with such things as the mandatory wearing of masks. Are we indeed becoming a police state? Are we encouraging everyone to turn on each other if they are deemed to be a health risk? This is not just theoretical. Consider just one example of where all this is heading:
A county in Ohio is encouraging the public to snitch on anyone who is not wearing a face mask by calling a hotline. Cuyahoga County, which includes the city of Cleveland, launched a hotline and a website for Ohioans to report their fellow citizens for not wearing face masks on Friday.
“There’s not enough people in law enforcement throughout the county to track down people, chase them around and figure out who we can go after for not wearing a mask,” Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said on Friday. Many are fearful that the hotline will be weaponized by Karens to report anyone seen not wearing a face covering. https://www.theblaze.com/news/face-mask-hotline-ohio-county
As I have said in over 60 articles now on corona, we must carefully weigh up the right balance between public health and safety, and civil liberties and freedoms. Both are vitally important, and both must be considered when thinking about the right response to coronavirus.
In sum, it seems that the science alone cannot help us to fully answer the questions I opened this piece with. So let me try some tentative answers based on what we do know. Would Jesus have worn a mask? Probably not. Should Christians? I would say if you prefer to, then you have that right to make that choice. I would also say that if you prefer not to, yet can maintain some social distancing while in public, you also have that right to make such a choice.