Eric Metaxas on Martin Luther

In this classic interview from February 11, 2020, bestselling author Eric Metaxas joins David Gornoski to talk about his biographical book on Martin Luther and how the reformation shaped the world in which we live in. Metaxas takes us through the life of Martin Luther and what led him to protest against the Catholic church as well as some common misconceptions about the reformer’s life. Did Luther really nail the ninety five theses to a church door? Did he really throw ink at the Devil? How important was Luther’s movement in the spread of the gospel? Listen to the full episode to find out and more.

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How Mythology Unmasks Fake News

The concoction of fake news is very closely connected to how mythologies were spun in ancient times. Both are written by the winners and both deal with expelling crowd-designated scapegoats. Christianity, on the other hand, reveals the persecution and sacrifice at play in myth-making; it has made it impossible for society to scapegoat the other. Where did our fascination with underdogs come from? Who are the ‘witches’ in today’s witch hunts and how do the media and the establishment help us scapegoat them? Listen to the full episode to find out and more.

Barouk Almaw Gari Gives an Ethiopian View on Identity Politics and Rene Girard

Barouk Almaw Gari, an Ethiopian entrepreneur and Rene Girard fan, joins David Gornoski to discuss his introduction to the works of Rene Girard, his perspective on Ethiopian politics and history, and how Christianity has shaped Ethiopia’s culture. How does the gospel effect each culture in their tribal and sacrificial customs? Barouk takes us through the gospel-infected culture of Ethiopia and how its culture compares to that of its neighboring countries like Libya. What is the Ethiopian perspective on how the West is moving towards victim-garbed, identity politics? How do we fight against the spirit of the crowd without becoming absorbed into its mimetic rivalry? Listen to the full podcast for the answers and more.

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Danny Sjursen on Honoring Our Fallen Soldiers

“One of the ways we get rid of the malaise in our society and culture is by ending forever wars.” Danny Sjursen, writer and war veteran, joins us to explain why war has become largely invisible to the people of our nation. “Memorial day to me feels like a wretched day in a lot of sense,” says Sjursen who also feels that the holiday has been mythologized to cover up for mass sacrifice perpetuated by the war machine. Sjursen also brings to attention the ongoing escalations with Iran, Venezuela, and elsewhere which he calls ‘pandemic opportunism.’ Listen to the full episode for an epic deconstruction of the sacrificial war machine, a clarion call to bring our troops home, and more on A Neighbor’s Choice.

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Against Masks: Not Hindering Our Personal and Relational Connection With Others

This article originally appeared on The Aquila Report

There is much talk these days about requiring people to wear masks as a condition for reopening states, businesses, and churches. This is said to be part of the “new normal” that we are to expect and accept without question. I would like to suggest that this practice, if widely implemented, would have a dehumanizing effect on us as persons.

For the ancient Greeks, the word person (prosopon) anatomically referred to the part of the body below the cranium and above the neck. In other words, it referred to the face. However, for Greek dramatists such as Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus the word person (prosopon) increasingly came to be associated with the mask worn by the actors. This led to a strong correlation between the word person and the word mask making them virtually synonymous.

In Rome, the Latin word for person (persona) essentially followed the Greek usage. The Latin word denoted the different roles a person would play in society or the theater. A persona was not the person himself, but rather an add-on or an appendage to one’s identity.

So, for both the Greeks and the Romans the word person referred to the role one played in either the theater or the society. It was something external to one’s true identity. In short, a person was a mask.

All of this, of course, begs the question: how did the word person come to be associated with one’s true identity?

The answer is complicated, but the abridged version is that the modern usage of the word person comes from biblical Christianity. Its theological and philosophical underpinnings come to us by way of the Cappadocian Fathers, especially Basil, the bishop of Caesarea in Asia Minor.

The etymology is as fascinating as it is important. My immediate concern, however, is that our direction is about to be reversed, and we will return from whence we came. The Cappadocian Fathers made the etymological pilgrimage from mask to person, but as we transition into the post-pandemic age we may be journeying back toward the original Greco-Roman understanding of a person as a mask.

There is much talk these days about requiring people to wear masks as a condition for reopening states, businesses, and churches. This is said to be part of the “new normal” that we are to expect and accept without question. I would like to suggest that this practice, if widely implemented, would have a dehumanizing effect on us as persons.

Wearing masks en masse, whether voluntarily or by way of compulsion, will ultimately diminish us as persons. It will dramatically change our behavior towards others. It will radically alter the way we relate to each other.

Concealing our faces, will encourage us to look at others with suspicion. Our neighbors will be perceived as something to protect ourselves from, rather than someone with whom I commune, eat and drink with. If you doubt this just remember that a medical mask is called personal protection equipment.

Also, inherent in mask wearing is the tendency to perceive others as a threat, or at the very least, as a potential threat. Masks suggest that others should be feared, rather than embraced. Hiding our faces encourages us to distrust everyone as a potential enemy rather than a potential friend.

Covering our faces will inhibit our communication. Fifty-five percent of communication is non-verbal, and much of our non-verbal communication is facial expression. Covering up two-thirds of our face will rob us of vital nuances necessary for real communication. A smile or a frown has enormous power. There are said to be at least seven universal facial expressions that communicate a person’s emotions: happiness, disgust, anger, fear, sadness, surprise, and contempt. These emotional expressions often occur at lighting speed and are sometimes more capable of deeper communication than our verbal speech. The absence of these facial expresses would greatly diminish us as human beings.

More importantly, wearing masks will have a negative impact on our worship. Imagine baptism with masks, or the Lord’s supper with masks, or sermons and singing with masks. At the very least, the obvious awkwardness would greatly distract us from the seriousness, solemnity, and joy that should accompany participating in the sacraments and other elements of worship.

Earlier I stated that my immediate concern was that donning masks would return us to an understanding of the human person similar to that found in the Greek and Roman theater and society. In the theater, the actor fights against the gods and fate. In his rebellion he briefly tastes freedom, and senses what it feels like to be a person. But in the end his fight is tragic. He can neither escape his fate nor triumph over the gods and he realizes that his person is nothing but a mask.

If our putting on a mask is actually nothing more than a new kind of virtue signaling of our own personhood it, too, will end tragically, and we will realize that this person is nothing but a mask. If reopening the states, businesses, and churches is contingent on wearing a mask we will unwittingly create two classes of people. Those who wear masks and those who don’t. The former will be characterized as people who really care for the safety and welfare of their fellow human beings while the latter will be vilified as uncaring, dangerous, and disrespectful. This will result in a new form of discrimination.

In addition, it will set a higher bar for participation in worship than either Scripture or the Westminster Standards prescribe. In this way, masking ourselves will move us in the direction of reversing the unifying effects redemption, and put us on the trajectory toward reestablishing the alienation that resulted from the fall.

This would be tantamount to promoting a pathology that is worse than the pandemic.

It is on this basis, and for these reasons, that I am against masks.

Rev. Jim Fitzgerald is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and a staff member of Equipping Pastors International.