MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, February 10th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.
We welcome back WORLD Founder Joel Belz to the podcast after a time of recovery from a broken bone. He’s thought about the unintended consequences of constantly covering our faces.
JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: If I’ve asked just a dozen people, I must have asked 100. What’s the worst part about this pandemic? The overwhelming winner is: The masks!
Let me be emphatically clear. I do not believe, and I am not suggesting here, that the masks now covering 90 percent of all Americans’ faces are the result of some vast conspiracy designed to show how subservient we are. My sense is more that some top experts in medicine, science, academia, and politics, when confronted with a genuinely baffling threat to public health, stumbled across one tool that offered potential help. And that one tool also just happened to carry with it some symbolism that should serve as a warning to many people.
Practicing Christians should pay attention. Intentional or otherwise, the wholesale masking of a population has produced a profoundly negative effect on at least three behaviors central to Biblical living. Christians are expected to gather often and committedly. Christians are expected to share the sacraments when they gather. And Christians are expected to sing when they gather!
I am astonished that a number of WORLD readers are reporting to me that it has now been a year—and more—since the churches of which they are members have welcomed them to these practices ordained by God, and intended for our nourishment in all kinds of ways. When we begin paying more attention to the demands of civil authorities than we do to God’s gentle commands, why should we expect happy results?
There’s also the practical side of things. Kindergarten teachers report how hard it is to build intrapersonal relationships with no more than half a face to share with a 5-year-old in his or her first year of school.
On the other hand, tending the needs of the elderly presents even more challenges. I heard last week from one of my college roommates now retired in an assisted living center where he also serves as a chaplain. He wrote: “A visit requires gowning, gloving, masking, and shielding. It is most difficult for the person I visit to recognize me. And trying to hear me clearly behind masks and shield is a struggle for them. For me, with glasses fogged, reading Scripture is greatly hampered.”
Imagine, if you will, what your response might have been if you’d been told the preceding paragraph came from a Muslim nation, where it was commonplace for a regulatory government to make life difficult for Christians. In such a case, I think many of us would scurry to our prayer closets to seek relief for our beleaguered brothers and sisters.
This mask issue’s not a petty matter of fretting and worrying about some possible future consequence. The church has already taken an incredible hit in terms of lost opportunity to offer ministry and personal care. Those masks have covered up much more than people’s faces.
I’m Joel Belz.
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