Love thy neighbor, wear the mask

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is the Golden Rule, a guiding ethic found not only in every major religion and in atheistic moral systems as well. It is the most basic and easily-applied rule we have; a foundation of common ground, upon which our shared ethic can be built.

And right now, we all have the opportunity to live out the Golden Rule in an essential and lifesaving way: By wearing masks in public. The worldwide scientific community is unambiguous in its statements that wearing masks works: According to some estimates, more than 30,000 deaths could be avoided by Oct. 1 if 95% of people wore masks in public. Attempts to muddy the clear water of the efficacy of masks are based in ideological deception, not data. 

This is a clear and irrefutable fact. We cannot choose to make it false simply because we want it to be. The only thing that we can choose is our response to this fact. Hopefully, this choice will be guided by the Golden Rule. 

It’s important to note that the Golden Rule is not simply the absence of wrongdoing. It’s not enough to say “do not do to others as you would not have them do to you.” This passive ethic may seem attractive to those who prioritize individualism, but it is an insufficient approach to a community-based problem like the pandemic. We must take action in order to truly live ethically in community. We must do unto others.

And fortunately, there is precedent for this. We have in our shared national mythos the ideal that when faced with seemingly insurmountable crises, we pull together. Following the attack at Pearl Harbor, Americans didn’t passively wait, they lined up in droves to volunteer for service. Following the attacks on September 11, nations didn’t passively wait, they came together to voice support for and solidarity with the United States. And following major natural disasters, people around the world don’t passively wait, we pull together to provide food, shelter and emergency assistance to the affected people. This is in our blood. This is in our ethical code. We answer history’s call to do unto others.

With COVID-19 cases again on the rise, history again demands we respond, and the call to action is clear. We can ‘do unto others’ and save lives simply by wearing one small piece of cloth for a fraction of the day. But we have to do it together. Not as republicans and democrats, but as Americans who protect each other. Not as people of one faith or another, but as humans who love one another. This is both our patriotic duty and our moral imperative. 

And until this mandate can be enforced, it is our duty to make it the societal norm. We can do so by refusing to patronize businesses that are lax in requiring masks. We can speak up to those who are not wearing the masks in public, to make it clear that it is selfish behavior. And we can be stringent about wearing the masks ourselves. In the absence of this leadership from the state and federal levels, both in policy and by example, the onus falls on us to set the ethical example. Because those who choose not to wear the mask are not only violating the law, they are violating humanity’s most basic shared ethic: the Golden Rule. 


Rev. Matt Schultz, an Anchorage pastor, is on the steering committee for Christians for Equality.

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Matt Schultz

Rev. Matt Schultz, an Anchorage pastor, is on the steering committee for Christians for Equality.