by John Ellis
(Today, the CDC released updated mask recommendations, saying that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or socially distance when inside, with some noted exceptions. I appreciate the CDC’s expertise and continued guidance. That being said, my overall point in this article still stands. For the moment, especially in church, I will continue to wear a mask for the reasons listed below. In case you’re curious, I will likely not wear a mask unless the local government and/or business requires it.)
I’ve never been scared of COVID. Just like I’m not scared of being in a car crash. And like how my lack of fear doesn’t prevent me from wearing a seatbelt, my lack of fear of COVID hasn’t prevented me from submitting to the collective wisdom and advice from the experts (actual experts) and adhering to their recommended mitigation measures, including wearing a mask. The question now, though, is why do I still continue to wear a mask even though I’m fully vaccinated?
Last week, Florida’s Surgeon General made news by contradicting the CDC and claiming that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask, whether inside or outside. Dr. Scott Rivkees is an accomplished doctor, there is no doubt about that. He knows far more about infectious diseases, mitigation measures, and vaccines than I do. The gap between his knowledge and my knowledge is laughable (as in, I can’t legitimately claim to have knowledge). To that end, I am not qualified to adjudicate between the intermural squabbles between public health officials, infectious disease experts, and vaccinologists about what and how those who are fully vaccinated can proceed with our daily lives.
Prior to being vaccinated, my wife and I discussed what and how we would proceed with our daily lives once vaccinated. One thing we’ve decided is that we will continue to wear face masks when inside public spaces until the rate of COVID infections has cratered. Here’s why.
This past Sunday, in Sunday school, and completely unrelated to the topic at hand, a husband and wife took it upon themselves to share with the rest of us Dr. Rivkees’ pronouncement and then lecture us about how we shouldn’t be wearing masks inside (side note – among other things that went through my mind, this recent article of mine seemed very apropos during the moment). Upon the conclusion of their harangue, I turned to me wife and not-so-silently said, “I hope no immunocompromised people are here.”
You see, that’s why my wife and I continue to wear a mask: Out of love and the desire to serve others. Unless we all start wearing “vaccinated” buttons, how do those who aren’t vaccinated or who are high risk know? Especially visitors to church.
Not everyone can get the vaccine (making antivaxers the antithesis of love – and please do not read that as hyperbole). I want people to feel welcomed and loved, and so I wear a mask. It costs me very little. It’s not oppressive (because I’m not a wimp) and it’s not muzzling (because I know how to project through cloth) and it doesn’t hide my smiling face (because my eyes remain uncovered – and, let’s be honest, I rarely smile anyway). I want those who are unable to be vaccinated (or who have been unable up to now) to know that I am willing to do what is necessary to allow them to join bodily in corporate worship. On another side note, one of the sad ironies in all this is how those who scream the loudest about meeting in person are also often the ones least willing to do the simple things that would allow everyone to do just that.
Along those same lines, I also wear a mask out of solidarity. As fewer people mask up, those who have to/need to – you know, those who are immunocompromised or in another high risk category – can feel alienated. I want them to see me with a mask on and know that they’re not alone.
I hate wearing a mask, but my preferences are far less important than loving and serving others. This shouldn’t need to be explained to professing Christians.