One of the most tiresome arguments I have been hearing from Christians of late is the invocation of God to justify taking the COVID-19 vaccine. There have been people using Biblical passages and crafting them into a means of persuading other Christians who do not wish to take the vaccine to have it. As a Christian of the Catholic tradition (although, at this point, all Christians should be banding together as one to defend the Church and the faith), I decided to write this piece as a way of bringing some reality to the claims being made with regard to taking the vaccine in the name of Christianity.
Let us begin with one of the two most common arguments I have heard from fellow Christians:
“The vaccine is a gift from God. We prayed for it, and He gave it to us.”
Sure, there is some truth to this insofar that we have prayed for a remedy to this virus, and many of us have been praying for a vaccine. Personally, I have prayed for a working and reliable vaccine. But that is where the truth of the matter ends. It is of course a possibility that the vaccine could be a gift from God. However, there are several significant issues with the vaccine that makes me question if it truly is God’s gift to us to eliminate the virus from existence. The more minor issues from a faith-based perspective are that the vaccines do not prevent infection nor transmission (which, I think many would agree, are of great importance when attempting to rid the world of an infectious disease).
But the major issue that tells me this is not God’s gift to humanity is the simple fact that these vaccines are causing harm to people. There have been plenty of cases of people who have taken the vaccine and ended up experiencing adverse effects, including, but not limited to, anaphylaxis, myocarditis, pericarditis, blood clots in various places throughout the body (sometimes in the lungs or the brain), each of which can cause significant damage to the body, and have even led to deaths.
Now I know people who claim the vaccine is God’s answer to our prayers will be thinking, “but Joel, Covid is also harmful”. While that is true, we are not here to debate the relative harm of the virus and the vaccines and compare the two. This piece is not intended to address that. It is intended to address claims made by Christians using the faith as a means of justification. In this case, given the harm the vaccines are causing, it is not accurate to describe the vaccine as a gift from our Heavenly Father. God would not provide something that would cause harm to His people.
The second of the two most overused arguments fellow Christians have been using to justify the vaccine goes something along the lines of:
“God told us to love our neighbour. To follow His commandment, we must take the vaccine so that we can protect each other.”
Again, there are several holes in this argument. Yes, God did tell us to love our neighbour, however those who are using this verse to justify and push the vaccine have not understood its meaning. What God tells us through this verse is that we should treat one another with kindness, love, and respect. It is essentially the root of the commonly known philosophical statement “Treat others how you would like to be treated”. It ties in with Jesus’ words in the New Testament, when He said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” This has nothing to do with the vaccine. We do not need to take a vaccine to love our neighbour.
What we must do is respect the decisions of others, given this is very much a personal health decision. There are a significant number of Christians who have chosen to take the path of supporting pressure and coercive measures on those who choose not to take the vaccine. These are the same people who invoke the “love your neighbour”. In reality, they are failing to practice what they preach.
In addition to this, as noted in the deconstruction of the previous argument, the vaccines do not prevent infection, and those who are vaccinated can still contract and spread the virus. So to say that it is essential that we take the vaccine to protect each other is unfounded, given it does not guarantee protection from the virus.
Now I have seen some Christians saying that if Jesus were on Earth right now, He would be urging us to have the vaccine. But I seriously doubt that if the events of the New Testament took place in the present day Jesus Christ would have said to His followers, “Take the vaccine or you cannot follow me”.
Jesus would not have approached people to become His disciples, asked them to follow Him, and then promptly asked, “…but before you do, have you been vaccinated?” He would not be demanding to see a valid vaccine passport before permitting an individual entry into His flock.
What Christians are forgetting about Jesus Christ is that He was a rebel for His time. He did not allow the leaders of the time to hold Him back from working miracles and undertaking His ministry. He did not cast out the sick and the dying as if they were “unclean” and dangerous. While many others at the time were scared to go anywhere near those who were diseased, particularly lepers, who were exiled from society to “protect” others, Jesus greeted the outcasts warmly, with no judgement or condemnation, with no bitterness nor hate.
He laid His hands upon them and healed them, bringing them great comfort as they were now able to re-enter society, free of the denigrating labels pinned upon them by their fellow citizens. Jesus went to the sick; He did not shun them, nor make them out to be a threat to his safety. And he certainly did not send them into exile, separating them from the rest of civilisation.
It is the work and method of Christ that Christians must remember and put into practice in the circumstances we face today. With vaccine passports now coming into play as a requirement to go to church, we have reached the point where the lines between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God have become blurred to many a Christian. I have seen far too many supporting this method of control that has absolutely no grounding in science whatsoever, essentially demonstrating that they are in favour of their fellow Christians being forced to remain locked up at home, only able to tune in to Mass online.
But online church is not the same as real church. There is something truly special about being present in God’s House with fellow believers, an opportunity I am certain God would not want denied to anyone at all, let alone on the basis of their vaccination status. Some have even suggested that there be separate Masses for the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. I am certain Jesus would not have stopped certain people from attending His sermons, and so we should not engage in such discriminatory behaviour ourselves. God would not want segregation taking place in His Church.
It is past time that Christians who are supporting vaccine passports, mandatory vaccinations, and any other coercive measures to essentially pressure and force people to take the vaccine against their will or better judgement understand that nothing about this is Christian. Those who choose not to have the vaccine of their own free will are being treated like lepers, cast out from society even though they are not diseased; they are the proverbial Jobs of our time, losing everything that matters to them.
You do not see these people, people like me, segregating society into two tiers. You do not see us saying we do not want to go anywhere near those who have been vaccinated, that we do not want to breathe the same air as them. And you certainly do not see us wishing harm upon others, hoping they become diseased and suffer. It is Christians like me who are making a personal health decision not to take the vaccine that are now being persecuted not only by the State, but by our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Christians who are supporting or engaging in such persecutory behaviour desperately need to do some soul-searching and read their Bibles.
So I would ask all those Christians who are invoking God and clearly misappropriating the Biblical text to push the vaccines to take some time to consider the true meaning of the verses they are citing, rather than just pulling them out and launching them misguidedly at a moment’s notice.
A widely used philosophy among Christians to determine the right course of action is the simple question:
“What Would Jesus Do?”
I would invite Christians and others alike to consider this question in their actions and decisions, and in their treatment of others in society.
So, what would Jesus do?
Definitely not what some Christians are doing right now.
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Joel Agius is a young Catholic conservative writer currently studying journalism and creative writing with Griffith University. He writes on freedom, religion and the human condition, mainly focusing on the Australian and US social and political scenes. He also volunteers as a Special Religious Education teacher in State primary schools, and occasionally contributes to The Spectator. You can find him on Twitter or read his work over at his blog. If you would like to support his work, you can click here.