Recently, The Reverend (ahem) Russell Moore was interviewed by John Yang on PBS News Hour, where Moore explained that evangelical hesitance to get the COVID-19 vaccine was based on ignorance and selfishness, not on religious or scientific convictions.
A few days later, megachurch pastor James Emery White described himself as “deeply disturbed” by the fact that approximately 45% of self-described white evangelicals in the United States are reportedly not interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
In the PBS interview with Russell Moore, Yang quoted an evangelical named Billy Bryan from Nashville who said the following:
My real hesitancy, though, is, I just don’t really want to see the government or anybody force people to do something that those people feel like is not in their best interests.
Again, if people are comfortable with it, I think the more the merrier. But it does seem like a logical decision to hold off, at least to me individually, at this time.
It should not be missed that the logical abilities, ethical principles, and indeed the spiritual maturity of Bryan seriously exceeds what is demonstrated here by either Russell Moore or James Emery White. Bryan rightly notes that it is wrong for believers to support the government’s encroachment upon the bodily autonomy and personal freedom of fellow image-bearers (see Romans 12:1 and Mark 12:17). This encroachment is not justifiable under the biblical exhortation to love our neighbors. Bryan then appeals to the freedom of the individual to make medical decisions for themselves and their families and finishes with his personal, logical conclusion that he can and should hold off.
Why might Bryan have reached this conclusion? According to Russell Moore, it must be that he is scared and needs to see his neighbors getting the vaccine so he knows it’s safe. Moore also insists that simpleton Christians like Bryan need to realize that the vaccine is the pathway to the government giving us back our God-given freedoms of worship and association, and makes sure to reiterate his scientific bona fides by citing his webinar appearance with “fervent Christian” and theistic evolutionist Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health.
James Emery White places the blame for evangelical vaccine hesitancy on ignorance and misinformation, listing eighteen strawman arguments in an effort to label regular believers as tin foil hat crazies, including our supposed belief that the vaccine contains aborted tissue, it is the mark of the beast, the virus is a hoax, and (most offensively) he bastardizes our belief in the sovereignty of God, claiming some of us say, “If God wants me to die, I’ll die. It’s all predetermined” as if this is evidence that Bible-believing Christians are too stupid to exercise reasonable precaution.
I can’t speak for every Christian deciding not to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Frankly, I trust the ministry of the Spirit in their lives to inform the decisions they make for themselves and their families, and I believe they have God-given freedom of conscience to make medical decisions. But here are my principled and scientific reasons for not getting a COVID-19 vaccine:
First, I accept the universally understood fact that everyone will come into contact with the novel coronavirus (remember flattening the curve?) and the overwhelming majority will have little to no problem defeating it on their own. Natural defense against the virus (and thus, herd immunity) is developed through spread and the development of antibodies, T cell immunity, and memory B cells within individual immune systems.
Second, asymptomatic infections and those who have defeated the virus don’t spread the disease. Not only is this Germ Theory 101, but it has also been specifically demonstrated as true with COVID-19 by scientific studies like this one showing the nonexistence of asymptomatic spread and admissions by groups like the WHO that have admitted the same.
Third, the infection fatality rate is no higher (and possibly far lower) than the seasonal flu. Contrary to fear mongers claiming that the novel coronavirus is ten times deadlier than the seasonal flu, careful examination of the data and the use of a proper epidemiological framework (making sure to use infection fatality rate versus case fatality rate consistently) demonstrates that the novel coronavirus did not increase death from all causes, and instead “borrowed” deaths from other causes either by claiming the lives of those with comorbidities or by being given credit for their deaths.
Combining these truths leads me to understand that the need (or my community’s need) for me to get a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is virtually nonexistent. This determination stands in stark opposition to evangelical “leaders” like Russell Moore and James Emery White who continue to push verifiable falsehoods like the existence of asymptomatic spread, the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions (lockdowns, masks, social distancing), and the idea that herd immunity (and the government’s return of our God-given freedoms) can only be achieved through mass vaccination. These men and their ilk continue to parrot the ever-changing narratives pushed by institutional liars like Anthony Fauci and his government handlers, and shame Christians who dare to think and act as free people.
Why are evangelical elites doing this? Yes, they could simply be woefully ignorant. But it is more likely that their capitulation on this issue is for the same simple reasons they capitulate to the world on so many other things: pragmatism, cowardice, and (in the end) hatred for God and scorn for His people. Much like the Pharisaism exposed by Jesus in Matthew 23, these men desire to be respected by the world, and one of the ways they do this is by “[tying] up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders,” such as turning the choice to receive a COVID-19 vaccine into morally-binding legality for Christians.
I want to make clear that I am not against the technology of vaccines. Contrary to the caricature of regular pew-sitters like myself being ignorant, prone to conspiracy, and reflexively distrustful of authority, we simply trust the Word of God as sufficient and use our God-given ability to reason, freedom of conscience under the principle of Christian liberty, and God’s gift of general revelation to come to our own conclusion. In my case (as a healthy 40-year-old who has recovered from COVID-19), there is no logical reason to get the vaccine. You might make a different decision. It is certainly not a sin either way. But it is a sin to ascribe this choice the weight of biblical legality, judge the heart of other believers, or bear false witness against those who have made a principled decision that is different than yours.
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