I heard yesterday that somewhere around 20 staff out of the 160 at my child’s Christian school are either quitting or will be working from home until the end of February before they have to quit too. Covid seems to be driving a wedge between Christians who are getting vaccinated and those who are ideologically opposed to vaccination. Why?
Some of those staff were ready to retire anyway so quit in quiet protest against the new government mandatory vaccination rules. Some noisily fought the school and then quit. Some are waiting for the novavax vaccine to come out as they don’t trust Pfizer after hearing about lots of disaster stories on social media. Everyone’s reasons are different and in their minds they are valid, but there are patterns and causes.
The drama at our school is a microcosm of what is happening in the wider evangelical Christian community in Australia. This ideological opposition to vaccines has been the ongoing topic of conversation in our very pro-vaccine family over the Christmas break. So I thought I’d don a sociologist’s hat from my uni days and jot down some of the causes I can see for this resentment toward a public health directive designed to keep the community safe from a deadly disease. Here, in no particular order, are nine:
- I think it has something to do with evangelical Christians innate suspicion toward government. For decades now the primary view of the future (eschatology) taught in Western evangelical churches is one where a spooky one-world-government takes over and persecutes Christians. This comes from a futuristic understanding of the book of Revelation. They see the actions of compulsory health mandates, lockdowns and “forced” vaccinations as feeding into this well-established belief system. There are other perspectives on the book of Revelation but they are rarely heard in Western churches.
- I think it’s also got something to do with a skepticism toward science born out of a rejection of the theory of evolution. I also reject the myth of evolution and have extensively written on the topic. However, I can see why the two here are being confused after the massively politicised approach to the pandemic in the USA last year which destroyed faith in public health initiatives which then spread doubt around the world.
- Then there is the dumbing down and atomizing of “news” flow into the modern household. Social media is now the main source of information about the outside world and has created an environment of positive feedback loops. Biases are reinforced not challenged. Prejudices are fanned by algorithms which keep feeding you information similar to what you are viewing so you stay on their site. It’s all about advertising. They also want you to be enraged as emotion keeps you on the site. Facebook is a master at these strategies. Sadly, most Western Christians read facebook much more than the Bible!
- Entitlement plays a part. The Gen X and millennials of the West have never had it tough. Many have grown up as materially and socially spoilt snowflakes. Us boomers can still remember our parents talking about the pandemics of old that they grew up terrified of: Polio, malaria, tuberculosis, venereal disease, the Spanish flu etc. Our children don’t know anything of that world thanks to modern medicine. They’ve got it so good but they still manage to couch the privilege of being able to reject a life-saving vaccine (vaccines which they were pumped full of as a baby) in the language of oppression, even after at least 115,000 health workers globally have died fighting this disease! They use words like apartheid and segregation. That’s abuse of those words! My daughter works on the frontline of Covid prevention and quarantine. She has had to deal with multiple clients who had Covid and then died. She has zero tolerance for idiot Christians who post challenges on facebook for their friends to find a genuine case of Covid as they believe it’s all a conspiracy. Here’s one: My brother couldn’t get out of bed for six months after getting Covid. There’s not a lot of time for entitlement attitudes in our family!
- Lack of education plays a part too. It is no accident that all over Australia where education levels are low, we also find vaccination rates are low. It’s the same in every developed country. Meanwhile people in poor countries are desperately pleading for the rich to share their vaccines. The majority of staff at the school mentioned above who resigned were admin staff, not teachers. The same loose divide permeates most churches.
- The rise and rise of the individual over the group in Western society plays a part. In every decade since I was a child, I have seen individual rights progress up the value chain to the point where they are now hegemonic over community needs. You can’t question a person’s right to whatever weird and whacko behaviour they want to exhibit to the world. I’m a women trapped in a mans body. No problem. I want to destroy my life and you have to pay the medical costs. No problem. I want have sex with whoever I please and the taxpayer funds the abortions. No problem. Our culture has privatized reckless behaviour and socialised the cost to taxpayers. The “You can’t tell me what to do” mindset now comes back to bite us in the pandemic. I head just yesterday that 95% of those Covid patients in hospital in the state of Victoria, Australia, are either unvaccinated or have only had one jab. They appear to be demanding a high degree of autonomy and freedom unhindered by the consequences for the community. Christians are not immune to these trends. It’s the cultural water we swim in.
- Genuine fear of something going wrong is there too. Yes, there are real horror stories. Pfizer’s vaccine can cause heart problems, especially in young men. It’s called myocarditis. Freedom of information requests showed there were over a thousand myocarditis deaths from the Pfizer vaccine up until February 2021 in the USA alone, with many more since. I hear anecdotal stories from people I know and trust of others suffering heart problems (says he who had his first Pfizer jab just yesterday as his third booster shot!). It’s a real issue and I respect anyone who refuses the vaccine if one of their personal friends is suffering badly because of it. The problem here is that many viruses and bacteria can cause myocarditis and if you got it from the vaccine, you would be in the hot seat to get it much worse from the disease itself. That’s the bit we are not told. Public health is always about weighing the individual cost against the greater good. There have been almost a million deaths from Covid in the USA so far. How many more would there have been with no vaccine, two million, five million? Get the drift?
- The spirit of fear is palpable when I talk to friends who are against vaccinations. They are petrified of something going wrong. What started as doubt then became their public position, then gradually hardened and is now entrenched. They’ve dug themselves into a hole. Many will change their story when novavax comes on stream as that will give them a dignified escape route, but the damage has been done. Fear is their paradigm. This seems odd from a Biblical and Christian perspective considering we walk with Christ. He has not given us a spirit of fear, and we are guided by the Holy Spirit. Fear comes from Satan, and it paralyses us. The much more important task of the Kingdom of God is abandoned. If anti-vac Christians put as much emotional effort into proclaiming the Gospel as they do into fighting against vaccinations it would be commendable. If you want to know what righteous fear is then join the thousands of Iranian followers of Jesus being tortured inside their criminal justice system.
- Most Western Christians are auditory learners (simply because 70% of all people are auditory learners) and have been conditioned all their lives to getting their Christian “truth” from sermons rather than scripture. The more entertaining the speaker the better. This feeds into an interest in podcasts over scientific literature. This has resulted in an army of emotional anti-vaccination ranters getting full-spectrum exposure inside the Christian community. I was actually sent a podcast in 2020 by a Christian which claimed the 5G rollout was causing Covid. He believed it. Insane!
Everyone has to make their own decision. But every decision has consequences in this era when everyone is going to get this new variant. Seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit before listening to the views of men.