In his guest op-ed, Christopher Sylvain, a pastor and a pharmacist, says Christians shouldn’t see vaccination as a sign of insufficient faith. (“Open Bible” by Ryk Neethling is licensed under CC BY 2.0)
Your vaccine hesitant friends and associates are caught in a whirlpool of information and misinformation swirling around them. Thinking about the virus and thinking about the vaccines all day makes them feel bad. When things feel bad, people of faith are taught to run to faith — and God will solve every problem.
The music, the preaching, their fellow believers, scripture and the religious-themed books they read all repeat that having faith is the answer. In fact, if someone tries to bring any other solution but faith, then they may consider that person an enemy. Satan is a liar and will always bring doubt and fear while God brings love and peace. And why would anyone listen to a liar?
Who could trust someone who wants to inject some substance into your arm when God says have faith? In addition to the faith message, many who are hesitant are constantly being fed stories about 5G towers causing brain cancer and the vaccines containing microchips. People have been telling them that COVID-19 is “just like the flu” or that it’s really just a hoax. This scares a lot of people — even people who wallow in junk food, take other pills, herbs, vitamins without questioning what’s in them and have extensive immunization records going back to their infancy.
In many churches, the anti-vaccine messages start in the pulpit and are transmitted to worldwide audiences. An anti-vaccine preacher begins to look like David against an evil, mean, needle-carrying Goliath, specifically the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The message that you just need faith to overcome COVID-19 will preach every Sunday.
On the other side you have the CDC — with its shifting, obscure, unintelligible information — asking people to receive a shot with a 2-inch needle.
And the faithful have been taught to root for David over Goliath.
However, the balanced teachings of Jesus crush the ideology of faith operating without works. He had a follower named Luke, a physician who may have been influenced in the tradition of Hippocrates. Jesus clearly stated that people who are sick need a physician. Jesus was even challenged by the religious powerhouses of His time for performing pharmaceutical duties on the Sabbath. To heal a man who was born blind, He made a compound of saliva and mud, then actually applied it to the man’s eyes on the day when zero work should have been done. To those religious leaders, Jesus was declaring war.
His enemies were not misinformed; they were blind. Similarly, today’s religious leaders who are fighting against the vaccine are not misinformed; they are blind. Jesus used the young man’s blindness to open the eyes of many so they could live. He used a medicine to do a miracle.
The vaccine is only a medicine. Luke, who wrote the gospel that bears his name and the Book of Acts, prescribed, researched, compounded and dispensed medicines.
When they hear messages urging them to get vaccinated, believers may feel like they’re being asked to replace their trust in God with trust in science. But we need to be clear on what science actually is.
Science is only a method. Its rational, mental exercises only provide facts that can be used — for good or for evil. Recent research proves that those who “trust” science actually tend to fall for pseudoscience. Therefore, science isn’t to be “trusted.” Science is to be evaluated. Trusting in science will always leave you disappointed because science will always change. Science ends where the reasonable evaluations of the mind reaches its physical limit, as in emergent phenomena.
Theology and philosophy must carry on from there in the metaphysical heart. God is a Spirit. He never changes. Relationships require testing; therefore God even requires those who share His word to be open to heart evaluation, ensuring messages of balance.
This eternal, unchanging truth of God’s word opens blind eyes. God is sovereign and can use anything — including science, including vaccines. As a pastor and a pharmacist, I understand the conflict many believers face. But my message to them is simple: Take the vaccine and live.
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