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Statute of Limitations Proposed for Legacy of Troubles

Statute of Limitations Proposed for Legacy of the Troubles During the Prime Minister’s Question time on 15 July, PM Johnson announced that the government would be bringing forth a statute of limitations in regard to occurencess committed before the Good Friday...

Church of England Considering Legislation Regarding Parishes Seeking Input on Proposals

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GAFCON Australia to Support Diocese for Those Forced from Anglican Church of Australia

GAFCON Australia to Support Diocese for Those Forced from Anglican Church of Australia Gafcon Australia has outlined its plan to support Anglicans who leave the Anglican Church of Australia over doctrinal revision which overturns the plain teaching of Scripture. At an...

Church of England Evangelical Council Reacts to Unorthodox Remarks by Bp of Liverpool

Church of England Evangelical Council Reacts to Unorthodox Remarks by Bishop of Liverpool The Church of England Evangelical Council has responded to a widely criticised public address and subsequent apology made last month by the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of...

Questions Out of LFF, Letter to the Editor

Dear Sir, I read the first article from Anglican Futures, regarding the document, Living In Love and Faith, [LLF] EC 8083. I found the article helpful, well presented and gives a clear overview of the document.  However, I found myself seriously disquieted and I raise...

Kenyan Bishop Appeals for Orphan Aid: Parental Deaths Due to HIV

Kenyan Bishop Appeals for Orphan Aid Parental Deaths Due to HIV  The Rt Revd John Orina Omangi, Bishop of the Kisii Missionary District in Eastern Kenya is appealing for assistance in caring for 100 children orphaned by the widespread HIV problem in the area.  Kisii...

Christianity & Craft Freemasonry, A Pastoral Guide for Christian Ministers

Christianity and Craft Freemasonry A Pastoral Guide for Christian Ministers Gerard Moate Latimer Trust, 2021 (ISBN: 9781906327705, 70pp) By 1964 a national commission of enquiry estimated the existence of 50,000 books and pamphlets on freemasonry. This literature has,...

Forgotten Reformer: Myles Coverdale

Forgotten Reformer: Miles Coverdale Geoffrey Main Self-published, 2021 (ISBN: 9781916873704, 228pp) Episcopal biographies are always an enjoyable read, not least those of bishops who are better known for their non-episcopal work. Coverdale is of course best known for...

And Just When You Thought You’d Heard Everything, Bats Communications Officer

Whilst considering reducing the number of clergy nationwide, the Church of England is advertising for someone to be employed as its, “Bats in Churches Communications Officer”.  The post, which is located in London, pays between £31,857 and £34,255 (pro rata).  The...

Pilgrim’s Proces: Baptism Depths of Meaning by Peter Sanlon

In my last column we looked at the Lord’s Supper.  Today, we take a look at the other sign our Lord Jesus instituted among us.  These signs, or sacraments, which God gives his people are both simple and profound. In their simplicity, God's grace is powerfully...

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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