Unmasking the Pandemic - Word&Way

Unmasking the Pandemic

“Churches have divided over wearing masks,” laments Jeremie Beller, a pastor in Oklahoma City. “Christians have moved church membership because the leadership strongly encouraged masks. Some Christians have even stayed home from worship to protest against wearing masks.”

Now that the Center for Disease Control has altered its guidance on masks, allowing fully vaccinated individuals to go without facial coverings in most places, this division among Christians is sure to end, right?

Of course not.

Churches remain in conflict over plans to safely resume worship and activities limited by the pandemic. Decisions about whether to continue requiring participants to don a mask is roiling congregations. Both of us have personally talked with pastors struggling with how to adapt their practices, as they feel pressure from all sides. As much as the CDC’s shift represents progress, the mask remains a source of division within many churches.

We could presume the national fight over mask-wearing that has seeped into our churches is just about that: a disagreement over a slightly inconvenient piece of cloth. But this kerfuffle reveals something more about the Church’s relationship with culture.

In this edition of A Public Witness, we aim to convince you that the mask debates reflect how a serious illness has infected Jesus’s followers in a way that is killing our churches. This disease existed before the pandemic, but our experiences with COVID-19 have exacerbated the severity of the sickness.


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