I am not entirely sure when wearing a mask became a political statement.
While I have not done extensive research on the topic, I dedicated a solid 30 minutes of Google searching all to no avail. Between remarks about the “Chinese Virus” from President Trump, to the muddling of social distancing guidelines across states, the narrative about masks from the current administration has, for the most part, remained constant.
I am still trying to understand why this matter is so controversial.
The “CDC recommends that people wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”
The minute I found out wearing a mask could help to slow the spread of the virus, it seemed like a no-brainer. For me, wearing a mask became such an easy way to display my compassion for those who had been negatively impacted by the virus.
Before stepping out of my house for the first time to break quarantine, I truly believed everyone would wear a mask in public to protect their immunocompromised neighbors, and overcome this treacherous time in American history. I have never been more naive.
For many, during the early summer months, life resumed as normal. Many continued attending church and going on vacation with their friends. However, until my internship in early June, I stepped outside of my home one time to deliver groceries.
As a campus, we must understand the different viewpoints of students. Some have to consider their grandparents or immunocompromised friends when making the decision to come to school. Some feel uncomfortable we have transitioned to in-person classes.
Wearing a mask is possibly the easiest thing we can do on an individual level to actively participate in allowing all students on Oklahoma Christian University’s campus to feel comfortable and safe. Wearing a mask is easier than social distancing. Wearing a mask is easier than becoming ill from the virus. Wearing a mask is the bare minimum.
I never expected to read long-winded Instagram posts encouraging people to “mind their business” or not to judge those who chose not to wear a mask. These ideas existed outside of the scope of my imagination. I also noticed large numbers of Christians felt passionate about not wearing masks.
Slowly I began to realize that the American ideals of rugged individualism combined with the “pick yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality often results in discomfort with the notion of being told how to live our lives.
Sometimes, especially when “loving our neighbor” conflicts with our innermost desires, we suppress any lingering feelings of guilt to rationalize our actions. Other times, those guilty feelings are so suppressed they transform into apathy.
But, we must fight these feelings of apathy with everything we have. Personally, I have not been impacted by the virus. Still, I know countless families are grappling with the loss of their loved ones. Countless people are still recovering from the virus. Countless people will be infected. As a Christian university, we must choose to care about others deeply.
Please, do not let the “Love Your Neighbor’ signs sprinkled across campus become ironic. Philippians 2 tells us to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, love others more than yourself.” This means respecting people’s health and comfort over our own beliefs. This means considering varying points of view. This means, at a bare minimum, wearing a mask in public locations.