By Pr. Rhoda Klein Miller
“Paranoid Sheep!” The supposed insult was shouted in my direction as I stood in a line that wrapped around the outdoor vaccination site. The relief I felt when I booked my appointment wasn’t because I had been living in fear of this virus. I was relieved because I’ve seen too many suffer its effects and know the toll its taken on health workers. God has given me peace and patience to endure the past few months but I’m eager to see restrictions lifted. “Vaccines are dangerous.” “Don’t be a guinea pig.” “I’m sticking with natural remedies.” “I trust God more than science.” These comments from fellow Christians have me wondering, “could our church be more helpful in decreasing vaccine hesitancy, alleviating suspicion and even countering misinformation?”
Emotions and psychosocial conditions can override logic and reason. There are very different areas of the brain that process rational information and emotion-based reactions. Fear based thinking drives suspicion about the vaccine, and is very challenging to counter anxious emotions with facts and contrary evidence. The short video I shared about vaccines by an Adventist professor at Loma Linda University was dismissed as “misinformed!” However, relational trust between personal contacts can quell anxiety and help build confidence in the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. We each have a sphere of influence. Collectively as a faith community let’s commit to seeing past the defiance and debate and respond instead with grace for frightened souls. Let’s remind each other “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Let’s champion the Biblical values of health, common good and collective responsibility. Just imagine if Christians were recognized for helping end this pandemic! If all church members echoed this health-saving message we would be living out the healing ministry of Jesus. Getting vaccinated is a critical step toward community immunity, where about 80% of a population has recovered from Covid or been vaccinated. This protective act can save, physically and spiritually, as we demonstrate God’s infinite love for this suffering world.
The Adventist denomination supports evidence-based public health recommendations and encourages responsible vaccination. At the same time the church acknowledges the inherent free-will granted to us at Creation. Individual rights and personal choice should be respected as we aim for mutual consideration of personal and collective consequences. If you are in a dilemma about what to do, seek counsel from health care professionals and pray for the Spirit’s peace in making your decision. If you hear God’s call to care for public health, please step up and be an advocate. If you have survived Covid or lost someone to Covid consider sharing your story as a testimony of the real threat this virus poses. If you are part of a visible minority or speak another language, be a role model in your community. Challenge ideas that getting the vaccine shows a lack of faith in God’s protective power. We buckle up and use seatbelts without offending Heaven. Look back to our fearless and inspired leader, Ellen White, who was not only championed immune-boosting and health sustaining practices, but also modeled practical prevention by being immunized against smallpox.
After my jab I handed the practitioner a thank you card. “You were the agent of answered prayer today; thank you for your service” I said with a masked smile.