As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.
Libertas Christian School made headlines this past November for maintaining a staunch opposition to statewide mask mandates in Michigan. The prevailing stated reasoning behind it was the opposition to government-mandated regulations being imposed on a faith-based institution. Libertas Christian School forces us to ask, what is really going on behind the mask to cause such a persistent resistance to something so unanimously agreed upon by experts? And moreover, what do we do when Christians choose to value individual liberty at the expense of welfare for our neighbors?
This was the dispute at the heart of the Libertas challenge to state health regulations. After having the opportunity to require masks, the school chose not to, thus a judge ruled that they no longer have a choice and now must comply or face harsher consequences. In light of the judicial ruling, many have become even more ardent in their anti-mask sentiment.
A question swirling in the minds of people hearing about Libertas School is, “What happened first?” Did government regulations cause mask resistance, or did mask resistance cause the government regulations? If we believe the government regulations caused the resistance, then it can be assumed that there was little hostility toward mask wearing before it was required. Many others believe the opposite, though, and believe that large numbers of people would refuse masks even if there were no mandates, which is why they see the regulations as merely the natural result of the anti-mask sentiment.
What I believe is underpinning all of this is that there exists in many personalities a general mistrust/resistance against establishment thinking. With this in mind, the behavioral patterns of such individuals are largely predetermined to oppose whatever conclusions establishment experts arrive at. This could be for a variety of reasons, but a main one is that many folks feel belittled by public intellectual elites, and dismissing their claims is an act of resisting their scorn. Additionally, there will always be examples of how experts were mistaken in the past, and it will be the fodder fueling the fire of mistrust. The experts that are currently in the crosshairs of establishment mistrust are doctors and medical professionals.
Fundamentally, though, doctors know more about health than non-doctors, even if there is a rare occasion that a doctor’s opinion was wrong and a non-doctor’s opinion was right. On the whole, doctors are still more likely to correctly diagnose a malady than non-doctors. Some might say, “I know my own body better than some doctor who has never met me.” This might be true, but what also might be true is that that doctor could name every bone in my body while I couldn’t tell a tibia from a fibula.
In many instances, experts provide the very stability we need to exercise our righteous resistance. If there was no prevailing expert opinion, then what would there be to rebel against? This is ultimately what we are searching for, something to rebel against, just like Adam and Eve. Their rebellion to the regulation of, “Do not eat the fruit,” is eerily similar to our rebellion to, “Wear your mask.” What we are seeing is the inherent rebellion contained within the human heart masked as a righteous resistance to authority.
As we continue to move closer and closer to a time when a COVID vaccine is available, we must still live with the reality that precautionary measures are not optional. Fortunately, we have Scripture to inform our values in the form of Old Testament sanitation laws. Leviticus 13:5-6 explains that if a person has a potentially contagious skin illness, they are to be quarantined for a week, re-examined, and then quarantined for an additional week. After two weeks of quarantine, if they have recovered, they are free to rejoin the community. Furthermore, in Leviticus 14:45, if a building determined to be contaminated with illness is beyond reasonable measures of sanitation, it is to be completely destroyed, and every stone and timber is to be disposed of.
These were precautions the ancient Israelites were to take in regard to contagious diseases. It is safe to assume many in the ancient community probably saw these regulations as unnecessary or even reactionary to an over-inflated perception of risk. Today though, we have the privilege of reading them in Scripture and seeing them as God-ordained. There is room for faith when living in the presence of contagion, but there is also scriptural mandated precedent to take abundant precautionary measures.
If we wish to demote the precautionary measures in the name of elevating personal freedom, we must at the very least admit our behavior is misaligned with Scripture and thus outside the parameters of Christian ethics. Ironically, many who flout the mask mandate do so out of a mistaken hybrid of living in faith over fear and self-elevation. Scriptural orthodoxy assumes that the individual should demote his or her individual preferences for the greater good. What makes this so hard is that American cultural orthodoxy assumes the opposite.