By Terri Fullerton, student at Northern Seminary

Pay attention to the narratives.

Over a year ago a professor at Northern Seminary exhorted us to pay attention to the cultural narratives that shape us, including ones we hear from the church, the media, and politics. Discern whether it’s a false narrative. Listen to what it’s telling you about God and others.

Her call to us has afforded ample opportunities to listen and think through what is being said, who it benefits and who it harms. COVID19 continues to spread in most of the world and especially our own country, surpassing 6.1 million cases and almost 190,000 deaths.

I find it grievous that the response to the top infectious disease physicians’ requests to wear masks and social distance has become politicized and party aligned, creating a morally dangerous divisive tactic which protects us from discerning more costly issues.

The CDC, leaders at the World Health Organization, and Dr. Fauci, the leading expert in infectious diseases, have studied and recommended wearing masks as it prevents the virus from spreading. This is especially important as some people are not showing symptoms and it’s a highly contagious virus. You have already heard the statistics and seen the visuals.

When I wear a mask, I protect you. I put those around me above my comfort. I relinquish “rights” for the common good.

When I wear a mask, I protect you. I put those around me above my comfort. I relinquish “rights” for the common good.

One surface narrative reveals the refusal to wear masks is because of individual freedom and rights. Who is benefitting from this narrative? Who pays the price? What is the more crucial issue?

“No one is going to tell me I have to wear a mask.”
“I live in America and I have freedom.”

While I do not deny that we have freedom, though systemically unequal, this is not the core issue. Civil liberty has been pulled in as the bottom line but it’s a smoke screen.

Claiming our personal rights in America keeps us from seeing a corrosive problem in our culture and in our own hearts. Whether we wear a mask is not about party alignment or civil liberty. It reveals our moral character. A refusal to cover our faces is not just about people taking a stand for their freedom. It’s that people value themselves and their comfort more than others. It’s about character and our desire for the well-being of others, especially the vulnerable population.

As Christians we have the opportunity to serve in the smallest inconvenience and do so with joy. But do we? N. T. Wright wisely points out, “We become what we habitually do.”[1] Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if we are consistently making decisions to put others first.[2] In his lecture, Wright used the example of Captain “Sully” (Chesley Sullenburger) who made a successful landing on the Hudson, avoiding an airline tragedy. It was based though on the thousands of decisions, landings, and problem solving he practiced as a pilot.

If our character is shaped not by one heroic deed but the thousands of times we say yes for the other, we must see the opportunity and responsibility we have each time we slip the mask or face shield around our ears. What could be more unprecedented this year than the virus and how it’s handled is the humility and joy Christians could display rather than complaining when we are inconvenienced. Are we choosing joy and self-giving love rather than clinging to individual liberty?

We, as a nation, cling to our rights and freedom when Christ did not model this for us. Paul encourages the Philippians to remember that Christ relinquished his position for the sake of humanity, pouring himself out to the point of death. He was the true model of faithfulness in loving God and loving his neighbor.

For Americans, individual freedom and personal rights planted long ago, has deep tangled roots. We are seeing evidence of the kind of fruit it bears in our collective selfishness, and disregard for the other.

Don’t believe the lie that it’s just political. We have a mission to faithfully love others in all that we do. Christ relinquished position and power to lay down his life for all. Let’s get in the habit of practicing sacrificial love with unprecedented joy.

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[1] Wright, N.T., 2012. After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. (video) Available at: (accessed 26 July 2020).

[2] I am not suggesting nor supporting abusive relationships of any kind.