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Anglican Futures: Anglican Alphabet Spaghetti

Anglican Futures Anglican Alphabetti Spaghetti A dummies guide to the plethora of organisations and acronyms linked to faithful Anglicans in the UK and Europe. I once spent some time around military personel.  Everything had its own TLA (Three Letter Acronym) right...

Canterbury Tales: Favourite Bible Stories Retold by Archbishop Justin Welby

Canterbury Tales Favourite Bible stories retold by Archbishop Justin Welby The Good Samaritan A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead, halfway...

Anglican Mission in England Elects Two Suffragan Bishops

Anglican Mission in England Elects Two Suffragan Bishops The Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) met in Synod on 18 June.  While there, they elected two suffragan bishops to aid Bishop Andy Lines in providing episcopal oversight for the overall work.  Bishop Lines also...

Pride Flags Causing Conflict at Christian School

Pride Flags Cause Conflict at Christian School Conflict has broken out in a Christian school in Oxfordshire over the display of “Pride” flags. The institution in question is Kingham Hill School.  The same Trust (Kingham Hill Trust) oversees Oak Hill College, an...

Prayer Book Society Raising Funds to Put BCPs in the Hands of Choristers

Prayer Book Society Raising Funds to Put BCPs in the Hands of Choristers The Prayer Book Society, which will soon celebrate its 50th Anniversary, is raising funds to put a special edition BCP into the hands of junior choristers around the nation.   The idea came to...

Book Review: Reimagining Britain by Justin Welby

Reimagining Britain Foundations for Hope Justin Welby Bloomsbury, 2018, new edn. 2021 (ISBN: 978-1-4729-8497-5, 322pp, £12.99) The Archbishop of Canterbury has made several notable political interventions recently, including over ‘partygate’ and the Rwanda deportation...

Birthday of Anglicanism in America

Birthday of Anglicanism in America By the Revd Canon Chuck Collins June 16, 1607 was the birthday of Anglicanism in America. On this day Captain John Smith and 104 others celebrated the Lord’s Supper when they arrived safely in Jamestown, Virginia. Jamestown was the...

Barnabas Fund Report: Two ChiBok Girls Found

Barnabas Fund Reports Two Chibok Girls Found After 8 Years 24 June 2022 Two women, who were among hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from the Nigerian town of Chibok eight years ago, have been found. Hauwa Joseph was discovered among a group of other...

New Bishop-elect for the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory

Church of Ireland News New Bishop Elected for Cashel, Ferns & Ossory The Church of Ireland diocese of Cashel, Ferns, and Ossory now has a bishop-elect.  The Venerable Adrian Wilkinson, Archdeacon of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross was elected to succeed the Rt Revd Michael...

Editorial: Lessons to be Learned from the American Pro-Life Movement

Editorial Lessons to be Learned from American Pro-Life Movement Friday, 24 June 2022, the Feast of St John the Baptist, will be a date which will live in infamy amongst the supporters of abortion.  On that date, the US Supreme Court, overturned the precedent set by...

Prudence Dailey: No, Loving Your Neighbour Doesn’t Require you to Cover Your Face

No, Loving Your Neighbour Doesn’t Require You to Cover Four Face

 

At the time of writing, it looks likely that the majority of COVID restrictions will be removed in England on 19th July, including mandatory mask-wearing. At the same time, the government is encouraging the continued voluntary use of face coverings in certain circumstances.

Many Christians are portraying this as a matter of love of neighbour: face masks are supposed to protect others (rather than the wearer), so only an inconsiderate and selfish person would fail to wear one, if doing so would help to reduce the spread of COVID, and might even save someone’s life.

It isn’t as simple as that, however. After all, potentially fatal communicable diseases (such as influenza) have always been with us; and we’ve never previously considered covering our faces en masse, even in a bad flu season. While wearing surgical masks in public places has been a common sight in South Asia for some time, we in the West always considered it rather odd, and foreign to our way of life.

The truth is that, due to the remarkable success of the vaccination programme in the United Kingdom combined with the natural trajectory of pandemic illnesses over time, the probability of becoming seriously ill with or dying from COVID is now really very small, and below the risk from other diseases with which we are used to living. The great majority of those catching COVID are experiencing mild illness, either because they have been vaccinated, or because they are young and healthy, and were never in much danger from it in the first place. At the same time, the evidence for the effectiveness of face masks in reducing community transmission is mixed; and any effect is relatively small. At best, wearing face masks may contribute to a minor reduction in the transmission of an illness which is already claiming only a handful of lives.

Meanwhile, the widespread wearing of face coverings has significant downsides. It is a sad truth that humans as a species are not terribly good at assessing probability and risk, and a sea of covered faces perpetuates fear, reinforcing the belief that COVID is significantly more of a threat than it really is. Face coverings are also dehumanising: we recognise one another by our faces, and read so much into facial expressions. With covered faces, we can no longer exchange a smile with a stranger. Face masks have, according to research from Manchester University, been shown to impede communication for both the speaker and the listener, exacerbate social anxiety, and cause stress and anxiety amongst those with no previous history of it. Face masks are bad for mental health, and bad for social cohesion. As Christians, it is surely better for us to interact with one another’s humanity to the fullest extent, even if that brings with it a small element of increased risk, rather than to reduce ourselves and others to disease vectors.

At the start of 2020, with what now appears like absurd naïveté, I had hoped that the pandemic might bring us all together. Instead, it now appears that to mask or not to mask is becoming the latest badge of tribal identity in our increasingly fractious culture wars—and one which runs the risk of manifesting itself with particular intensity because, quite literally, we wear it on our faces. Those of us who go maskless may sometimes stand accused of lacking Christian charity, and of putting others before ourselves: this is by no means justified. At the same time, we need to remind ourselves that those who have come to a different conclusion may well have done so for sincere and compassionate reasons. Our society, and our Church, are fragile enough as it is: it is not worth tearing ourselves apart further over this.

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