As we all know, one of the requirements for opening up society is that all should be wearing masks — not as personal protection for ourselves but rather to protect others from our germs. And, this past Sunday my sermon was about my own love/hate relationship with the mask that I’ve been wearing, but that I continue to wear it out of love for my neighbor (something Jesus seemed to talk about a bit).
So, when I walked into the neighborhood Dollar General, I let out a sigh. You see, of all the people in the store, exactly two people — myself and the cashier — were wearing masks.
- Other shoppers weren’t wearing them.
- Vendors stocking the shelves with their products weren’t wearing them.
- Other Dollar General staff weren’t wearing them
And of course, the elderly man in the line behind me wasn’t wearing one either — which made me very nervous when he started coughing.
Now I know, there are folks in society who think that this is all an overblown hoax, created by the left to tarnish the current administration. I know there are folks who believe that this virus is no worse than the flu and will note that we don’t wear masks during flu season. I know there are folks who think that a million cases in 99 days really isn’t a big deal.
But, I honestly don’t think that everyone in the Dollar General was avoiding wearing a mask as a political protest against the coronavirus, the CDC, or local health officials. As I think about the folks in the Dollar General, all who are very likely “good” people in their own way, I don’t think there was any thought given to how this might affect someone else in the room.
The aversion to wearing masks is, I think, not unlike the aversion to seatbelts that I experienced back in the ’70s. All the statistics screamed that wearing seatbelts saved lives. The data proved that they were more helpful than harmful. And yet, again and again, I would meet people who refused to wear them. These folks would gamble with their own lives and sometimes even the lives of others in their refusal to buy into the knowledge that seatbelts offered protection in car accidents.
Why? Mainly because of comfort and convenience. We are, after all, people who love their comfort and convenience. And those were the idols that refuseniks would bow down to in their unwillingness to use seatbelts.
“If I wear a seatbelt, it will wrinkle my dress,” some would say. “They are uncomfortable and confining,” said others. “It takes too long to put them on when I’m in a hurry.” And yes, there were always those who simply didn’t want anyone else (the government, the “man”, etc.) to tell them what to do in the privacy of their own car.
Yes, comfort and convenience seem to trump all other considerations for some of us — even in the midst of a pandemic. The difference in wearing a seatbelt or not from wearing a mask today is that in the first case you are more often gambling with your own life, while in the second case you are gambling with others in the name of your own comfort and convenience.
It seems to me that choosing to not wear a mask is an act of self-interest that completely ignores Christ’s command to love sacrificially. It is ultimately bowing down to the altar of the self as the most important thing in the cosmos, with little concern for how our actions affect others.
Not wearing a mask is a giant “@#$% you” to everyone you come in contact with. It says that you know better than anyone else – the health experts who have actually studied and experienced this stuff, government officials charged with maintaining public safety, and even your friends who may have risk factors that you don’t even know about. It says that MY comfort and convenience is more important than any other consideration, that is, it is ultimately an act of selfishness.
Look, I get it. I don’t like wearing a mask. It pulls on my ears. It causes my glasses to fog up. And, I already look foolish enough . . . I don’t need a mask to help me.
But I’m not wearing it for me.
I’m wearing it for you.
And the other shoppers at Dollar General.
And the vendors stocking the shelves.
And the Dollar General staff members.
For some reason, I don’t think Jesus would have it any other way.