To Mask or Not to Mask
Loving My Neighbor Is Not Demanding They Wear a Mask.
You have likely seen the signs or heard the statement: wearing a mask is not about you but about caring for others. The intent is to justify government officials who demand everyone wear masks, first in public indoor settings and then to the outdoors, with some pushing this for private settings.
This may sound noble, but is this really what the Bible requires if we are to follow the golden rule, the teaching of Jesus, and the overarching message of the law of God?
How do we love our neighbor? Jesus said we do so by keeping the six commandments of the Second Table – we don’t steal his property, take his life, dishonor his name, covet his possessions, or promote immorality, but we protect his life, liberty, property, and God-given inalienable rights. We act in such a way that he is able to live free under God to pursue all that God wants him to do.
Liberty, both internal and external, is one great object of the Christian faith and has been uniquely expressed in the American Republic. As opposed to pagan societies where all truth and law emanates from rulers, Christianity teaches each man can know the truth and are to govern their lives in accordance with that truth. They are to be free to follow God and fulfill His will. This is what was meant by the phrase “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence because pursuing God and being free to do His will is what produces maximum happiness.
Loving my neighbor means I will do all that is necessary for him to retain the great liberty Christ came to earth to give to mankind. A governmental decree demanding all men wear masks (whether that action is as beneficial as some claim or not) increases the power of that institution that historically has been the most oppressive agent to human welfare. It opens the door wider to future encroachments by the government to control our lives, liberty, and property.
In 1934 former President Herbert Hoover warned of the increasing government control of the Franklin Roosevelt administration writing: “the rise of most dictatorship in history has justified itself upon saving the country in ‘emergency.’”
Under our current COVID-19 “emergency” we are seeing the rise of statism, of government control of areas of our lives not yet breached by the growing socialism of American polity. Governors have decreed who can open their businesses, how many people can enter private buildings, how many people can gather at church, what you can do in church (sing or not), where you can travel freely, et cetera. Some have imposed similar restrictions on private functions, even in your homes. In some places wearing masks is mandated, even while outside. These violations of biblical and constitutional rights and liberties are justified by arguing these actions are saving lives and saving the country. After all, it is not about you, but about loving your neighbor.
But I love my neighbor and understand that statism is a much greater threat to them than a virus that man, exercising his God-given skills, will learn how to overcome. And I also trust my neighbor to do what is right and to effectively govern his life.
Living in liberty requires us to trust our fellow man to act as he should, to be self-governed. Every day we drive our cars we trust our fellow citizens to safely operate potentially dangerous machines, which can and unfortunately sometimes do bring death and destruction. We trust them to act honestly when they conduct business with us.
COVID-19 is a real virus that brings real harm to people (although we are learning it is not nearly as fatal as initially thought). If people are infected with it, quarantining them is a biblical response. While this is generally done by individual choice, government could take action for those who abuse their liberty and purposely endanger others. But we should not quarantine those that are well. The consequence of universal quarantine produces greater death and destruction (through lost wages, lack of obtaining basic needs, lack of access to health care for other serious illnesses, etc.) than trusting citizens to act in their and their neighbor’s best interest.
Individuals who are most at risk for the virus (the elderly with comorbidities) can isolate themselves from potential infection. Others concerned for their safety can choose where to go and what to do on their own. Those who think they may have been exposed, including the asymptomatic, can isolate themselves. Individual choice shaped by biblical truth and love is a foundational component of our constitutional republic.
In a free society, we are to trust the individual citizen to act rightly. In a command society, government leaders believe they know best and must use force to get everyone to comply with their decrees. Rather than demand that my neighbor act in accordance with some government bureaucrat (knowing this will only lead to greater loss of liberty in the future), retaining American liberty while governing myself under God is a much better way to show my neighbor I love him.
 Herbert Hoover, The Challenge of Liberty, New York: Charles Scriber’s Sons, 1934, p. 72.
(Editor's Note: This blog was posted first at Stephen's website (www.providencefoundation.com) and is reposted with his permission)