Even a broken clock is right twice a day. And once in a great while a non-Christian media outlet sounds more like Jesus than a lot of Christians do.
The above title is part of a headline taken from an NPR article back in early April. And the author is right. Getting “the shot” is the neighbor-loving, other-centered, Christian thing to do.
Sadly, a lot of evangelicals have been slow to get on board. And, as the NPR article indicates, the world is watching.
Interestingly enough, what we really have here is a left-of-center media outlet (National Public Radio) challenging Christians to listen to their leaders. Here is the whole title of the article:
“Love Your Neighbor And Get The Shot: White Evangelical Leaders Push COVID Vaccines.”
National Christian leaders publicly endorsing vaccination for COVID-19 include Franklin Graham (Samaritan’s Purse), Walter Kim (President of the National Association of Evangelicals), J. D. Greear (President of the Southern Baptist Convention). Leadership at Talbot School of Theology is on board, as well.
Local pastors — including most black church leaders — also see the light and are encouraging vaccination. As the title of a recent article in Christianity Today notes, “Evangelicals’ Vaccine Skepticism Isn’t Coming from the Pulpit.”
It’s coming from the pews.
Early on, a degree of skepticism may have been legitimate, given what we knew — or didn’t know — at the time. Many of us were understandably concerned, for example, about how swiftly the vaccines were rushed to market.
Now, however, initial reservations about the vaccine are a non-issue. Over 130 million Americans have now been fully vaccinated. About a million more are added each day.
Yet we still hear the same responses from the Christian resistance:
I am young and healthy and won’t get COVID very seriously if I contract the virus.
It is my right as a citizen to decline to be vaccinated.
I don’t trust how quickly the vaccines were produced and approved.
I’m afraid of the side effects.
It seems to me that these reasons (and others like them) likely find their roots in either:
- a stubborn individualism that is more American than Christian.
- an understandable but irrational fear fed by negative media ‘click-bait’ about the safety of the vaccines.
With the exception of those who cannot be vaccinated for legitimate health reasons, I am still waiting to hear an explanation for declining the vaccine that finds any support in (a) the pages of the written Word of God or (b) the life of the living Word of God, Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospels — or (c) in current scientific data on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. [To those who might cite the issue of vaccines developed from a cell line from aborted babies, I would simply observe that my favorite professional Christian ethicist, who has thought hard about the connection between the vaccines and aborted fetal tissue, does not see this as a biblical reason to decline vaccination.]
Why should I get the vaccine? Are there some good reasons? Are they biblical? I think so:
If I am vaccinated, I won’t potentially expose unvaccinated people at church, at work and at the grocery store to COVID-19.
If I am vaccinated, people who for legitimate medical reasons cannot be vaccinated will feel safe around me.
If I am vaccinated, other people will feel more comfortable around me, for example, families with unvaccinated children at church on Sunday.
If I am vaccinated—along with millions of other evangelicals—I can help our broader community get back to normal sooner and avoid a future spike in COVID cases, along with all the accompanying social restrictions.
Note that all these reasons have to do with the welfare of others — not my health risk, my individual rights, or my irrational fears. And the last I checked, concern the welfare of others — our brothers and sisters at church and persons in the broader community — is what following Jesus is ultimately all about.
Even the folks at NPR get this. They clearly see the connection between basic Christian morality and the COVID vaccine.
The world is watching. Your vaccinated brothers and sisters in Christ are waiting.
“Love Your Neighbor And Get The Shot.”