James Emery White on Faith, Freedom, and Face Masks

The opinion page cartoon from the U.K. was telling: a series of iconic statues from around the world, from Christ the Redeemer in Brazil to Michelangelo’s David, all wearing face masks with the caption, “We’re all in it together.”

Except for the final statue, the Statue of Liberty, which, while masked, had an American leaning out of the top of her crown shouting, “Except it imposes on my personal freedom!”


People in other countries are genuinely dumbfounded by our “mask” divide. To have something as basic as wearing a mask in the midst of a pandemic in order to control its spread become a partisan issue is confusing to many Americans as well. Why is there such a belligerent attitude toward wearing a mask in public in the name of public health?

The answer that is often given is the defense of personal freedom. Yes, it is often coupled with the distrust of government, doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and all things “deep state.” But the heart of the Facebook/Instagram/Twitter rebellion is freedom.

Might I humbly submit something to consider? What would it mean to put thinking ahead of feeling, public service before personal freedom, and Christ before ourselves? Particularly in light of three very important truths.

First, face masks matter. While there may have been confusing, conflicting reports early on during the outbreak, there is now growing evidence that face masks help reduce the transmission of droplets. As reported in the Wall Street Journal:

“Face masks are emerging as one of the most powerful weapons to fight the novel coronavirus, with growing evidence that facial coverings help prevent transmission—even if an infected wearer is in close contact with others. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he believes the pandemic could be brought under control over the next four to eight weeks if ‘we could get everybody to wear a mask right now.’”

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Source: Church Leaders