To the Editor:

I would like to make the case that, as we deal with this global pandemic, those who claim to be disciples of Jesus ought to be first in line to put on a face mask. After hundreds of scientific experiments, masks have been shown to be an effective and efficient hindrance to the spread of infection. Even so, many Christians claim that requiring masks impinges on their personal freedom.

Here we have a clash between two competing values — both of which are good. First, we want to live freely. We all resent having our rights trampled upon. Yet we are living through a serious pandemic. Roughly 1,000 Americans die everyday due to this disease. By wearing a mask, we sacrifice personal freedom for the well-being of others. I would certainly prefer not to wear a mask and requiring one does involve personal sacrifice.

The values of freedom and self-sacrifice are in conflict. Hard ethical decisions often flow from a clash between competing good values. That is the case here. Both freedom and self-sacrifice are good things. But which value should take precedence under these circumstances?

A Christian should answer this question by asking which value would be more in line with the life and teachings of Jesus. Was Jesus about protecting his own personal freedom or about giving up his life for the good of others? The answer is quite obvious. Jesus is the supreme example of self-sacrifice. Jesus’ followers should, well, follow.

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Christians who refuse to give up their personal liberties have forgotten to pay close attention to the logic of their own faith. They are shaped by values of American culture which are all about protecting freedoms. Of all people, Christians should be willing to sacrifice personal freedom for the good of others — that is, if Christ’s is the example they seek to follow.

Joel Allen, Professor of Religion and Philosophy

Dakota Wesleyan University