There is a story about a Samaritan called ‘good’ in the Bible because he did not walk by a suffering Jew. He had no prior relationship with the man lying beaten on the roadside, who was not part of his community, yet he acted out of compassion. Giving up his rights and freedom, he helped the man recover and get on with life.
This story came to mind as I thought about Covid-19—we are all connected and depend on each other—and the public cry for personal choice and freedom. It is necessary to spotlight our churches’ behaviour in the light of Christian values since half of our population professes to be some form of Christian.
Since March 2020, there has been some outstanding charity work done by Christian groups and individuals. Some leaders have guided us on navigating these disorienting lockdown periods. Some key leaders have acted as spokesmen for the vaccination campaign.
Yet, there seems to be an undercurrent of thought and behaviour that undermines the promised relief of the vaccination campaign.
Vaccination is considered to be one of the most outstanding public health achievements in the 20th century, helping us to have a society free of vaccine-preventable diseases and saving the lives of millions.
Why is this advance now a frightening prospect that stimulates some to wage war against it? Why is there vaccine hesitancy—the ‘delaying or refusing vaccines despite the availability because one may believe that a vaccine may be unnecessary, ineffective or unsafe’?
The positions shared by several local religious groups appear to fall into three broad categories: belittling health information from informed health professionals, accepting misinformation from religious and political figures, and rejecting restrictions on in-person religious services.
When did Christians lose their connection with their fellow men and science? The essence of the Gospel is about a transformed relationship with your neighbour. When did it become all about us and what we want?
Jesus, in Matthew 26:40, said: ‘if you have done it unto one of the least of my brethren, you have done it unto me’.
In times of pandemics, the traditional Christian ethic considers our neighbours’ lives the prime concern. During plague periods in the Roman Empire, Christians cared for the sick and offered a spiritual model where plagues were not the work of angry and capricious deities. It is claimed that this stance propelled the spread of Christianity.
In 1527, when the bubonic plague hit Wittenberg, Martin Luther made two appeals: ‘The plague does not dissolve our duties: It turns them to crosses, on which we must be prepared to die’ and ‘obey quarantine orders, fumigate, and take precautions to avoid spreading the sickness’.
Is our modern-day church in lockstep with this thinking?
When something goes wrong with our car, do we only pray or take it to a qualified mechanic? Why choose a skilled mechanic, if not because of his training? What is different?
Why reject the advice of medical professionals in this matter but routinely take medicines with no clue about their ingredients? Why eagerly share misinformation that can be easily discounted? Does this eager promotion enhance the reception of what is deemed authentic and vital: the Gospel?
Why are some churches clamouring for a return to in-person services? Is it that God only answers when we meet physically?
Public health research has shown that the activities commonly undertaken in churches—singing, shaking hands, hugging—all come with a high transmission risk. Are the unvaccinated who are clamouring mindful of our school children being disadvantaged because of the lockdown? Or is that immaterial?
The faster we get vaccinated, the more confident we can be about reopening, not just the schools but the economy.
What about Matthew 5:38 – 40 does our church not understand? Jesus, in that passage, speaks to suffering bodily injury, wrongful possessing of our goods and assault on our liberty. Yet, He insists that His followers should comply and not offend the government. Why are we different?
The vaccines are safe, effective based on published data. (Financial Times, March 2021). Underlying diseases aid Covid-19 in destroying the body.
Has the church spoken about diabetes and hypertension with its members? Is not the physical body supposed to be the temple of God? Why are our religious leaders not preaching more vigorously and consistently this version of the message of life, the vaccines?
If you care about protecting life, advocate for something we have access to and others wish they had.
Be a Good Samaritan! Feed the hungry, clothe the poor, take care of the sick, advocate for the vaccine.
Stand ‘for’ something rather than ‘against’ something.