Some say the mask has the virtue of being a kind of “social shield” that disinvited unwanted interaction in public. This is also frequently cited as a virtue of Islamic veiling. Our prejudice is to view it as a form of oppression. The virus locks us behind the mask. A low view of women imprisons them behind a veil.
Our objection to veils and masks is hard to articulate because it is so deeply rooted in Christian theology, and so deeply rooted in the culture of the West, that we almost never consciously think about it. Christian cultures assume that the truth is “unveiled.” It reveals itself in everything from our clichés, our high pattern of business travel to see people “face-to-face,” and even in our architecture, where unlike in the Islamic world, our homes are typically open and sociable to the street, showing their faces.
In the Gospels, the Crucifixion of Christ on Calvary was accompanied by another event in Jerusalem; “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” That veil at the heart of the temple was used to separate the holy of holies behind it from the rest of the temple, and it hid the place where God’s presence sat enthroned upon the Ark. To look upon that presence caused death. Therefore, one of the paradoxes of Good Friday is that the God-made-flesh took his new throne upon a cross. He dies there, and any looking upon the Cross are restored to life.
Ever since, Christian liturgy has featured “unveiling.”