• Chris Smith

#TooSpicyforSundays: Wear a mask

Welcome to a new blog series that I'm calling #toospicyforsundays, hot takes on hot topics that don't fit well into the format of a worship service. And here is my first hot take: Wear a mask.

I am a conservative Evangelical Christian. And as much as the gatekeepers of conservative evangelicalism might want to paint me as a liberal—if you step outside of the microcosm of our religious tribalism and look at our movement from the outside—I fit the definition.

And yet I am mystified by the continued insistence of a substantial minority of my fellow conservative Christians that their freedom—and even their FAITH demands that they are exempted from doing the absolute minimum a human being can do during this pandemic by wearing a mask in public to reduce the spread of the virus that has been flourishing in our province and world this year. The rationale that is frequently being given for these ridiculous claims is a mixture of social-media pseudo-science, Trumpist Anti-authoritariansim, and an idolatrous conflation of American-style personal liberty with biblical notions of freedom.

Today, as I am recording this, there is a large anti-mask rally taking place in the community of Steinbach (a hot-bed of a distinctively Manitoban flavour of conservative Christianity) which has been organized by a group led by a retired Chiropractor and a current Pastor. Neither of whom possess the educational or professional background which qualifies them to argue for their position—but I digress. The group has the audacity to hold the rally at the end of the deadliest week (and coincidentally—although in fairness they couldn’t have known this—on the deadliest day on record so far) of the pandemic for our province. They have the audacity to hold the rally in a community that has been disproportionally affected (and INFECTED) by this virus during the past 2 weeks, and in a community whose hospital has been widely reported to have been absolutely overrun by the surge of people needing care. The group of protestors is overwhelmingly Christian (in the sense that they self-identify as believers and make their faith a part of their claim to exemption from government mandates), and yet by their actions they are demonstrating to the world the exact opposite of what Christian witness is defined as both in the gospels, and in the history of the church.

I am not a medical professional. I don’t know how or why masks work any more than you do. I can wrap my head around the basic premise, but don’t ask me to get involved in the science-y stuff about effectiveness rates and side effects. All I know is that the people who DO study this stuff, and who DO have the qualifications to tell us what is up OVERWHELMINGLY tell us that it’s important. The fact that you can find some random, nut-job with a medical license who will play contrarian to the scientific consensus is not a valid argument. Remember that 1 out of 7 dentists also doesn’t recommend Listerene as part of an oral health routine, you can always find someone who will disagree. What I am an expert in is The Christian faith and the theology of the church. And what I can tell you as an expert in MY field is that none of this is Christian.

The Christian faith—according to Jesus—is about two things above all others. Loving God, and loving our neighbours. There is a reason that your Bible has it labelled as THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT. It’s about honouring God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving your neighbour as yourself. Riddle me this: how is protesting for your right to ignore public health restrictions not far from the place where people are literally being triaged in their vehicles because the hospital is overrun with sick people loving your neighbour?

How is demanding the right to behave in a way that our brightest minds tell us puts the health and wellbeing of of our most vulnerable people at risk, consistent with the ethic of loving our neighbour?

How is arguing that the lives of the (mostly, but not exclusively) elderly Manitobans who have succumbed to this disease already, and the many more who probably will, don’t matter as much as your right to do what you want, loving your neighbour?

It’s not. It’s loving yourself. Period. It’s selfish, it’s entitled, and it’s decisively anti-Christian.

I’ll go one further today since this is already #toospicyforSundays. There is a good case to be made in the gospels, with the way that Jesus explains these commandments that loving your neighbour isn’t something we are called to do in addition to loving God, but that it is the application of loving God. That is is actually impossible to say that I love God if I DON’T love my neighbour.

"Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But, if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” 1 John 4:11-12

At The Bridge Church we have tried, intentionally albeit imperfectly, to make our pandemic related plans based on this ethic. Both for the safety and care of those in our congregation, but perhaps even more so for the sake of our witness to the world outside of our congregation. This, we believe, is the way that we show that we love God.

By loving our neighbour.

By giving up our liberties for the sake of others.

So I say to my fellow-Christians in the words of the mayor of Winnipeg:

"Wear a frigging mask" -Mayor Brian Bowman

My name is Pastor Chris and this has been #toospicyforsundays

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