Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Preachers and Covid Vaccine

After listening online to some of the big-name preachers in Aotearoa NZ, I was surprised at how many of them are sitting on the fence with regard to vaccination against Covid. This is odd, because preachers are usually not shy about telling their listeners what to do.

The standard advice of the preachers is that people should do some research, seek God’s wisdom, and decide for themselves what to do. This is bad advice, because researching the safety and efficacy of a vaccine is a highly technical and complex task. You need to know quite a lot about statistics, genetics and immunology to investigate the vaccine test data and understand how the vaccine functions. I don’t have the knowledge to do this, and I presume that it is beyond the capability of most of those listening to the sermons.

Asking everyone to research the vaccine is foolish, because it pushes them towards people on social media with simple messages that seem easy to understand, when they are probably being misled about a topic that is too technically complex for simple explanations. They end up listening to non-Christian people who sound sure and certain, but they have no way of assessing if what they hear is right or wrong. Finding a voice on social media that you agree with is not the same as serious research.

The reality is that the only way to get to the truth about the safety and efficacy of the Covid vaccine is to trust the experts in the health system, who have the knowledge and experience to assess the information provided by the pharmaceutical companies who developed it.

Preachers expect people to listen to their sermons because they are experts on biblical studies and theology and are skilled in hearing God’s voice, ie trust the experts. They would never tell a person who is concerned about a complex theological issue to do some research on the internet and decide for themselves, yet that is what they are doing with regard to Covid vaccines.

I presume that the experts in the health system did not spend years studying medicine to do evil. If the preachers think that they are dishonest and untrustworthy, despite their years of training and caring for the sick, they should come out openly and say it, rather than making vague insinuations that the people doing the assessment and making the medical recommendations about vaccination have sinister motives.

Telling their listeners to ask God about the vaccine is not very helpful either, because God seems to be telling different people different things. Some are saying that God has told them to have the vaccine, and others are saying that he has told them not to have it. This makes God seem to be confused. The preachers are supposed to be experts on hearing God speak, so they should be able to tell their people what God is saying about the vaccine.

If God wants some people to take the vaccine and others to avoid it, the preachers should be able to discern the criteria that God is using and help their people know which category they are in. Instead, the preachers seem to be leaving their people tossed about in confusion, “and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14).

If preachers want their people to decide for themselves about vaccination, they are not telling them the most important thing that they need to know. The preachers seem to be implying that Christians have a choice between trusting in God and trusting in the vaccine. However, if Christians are going to trust in God for their protection from sickness, they need to know that their pastor and the leaders supporting him have demonstrated the capability to heal the sick people in their church.

If the pastor and other leaders do not have victory over sickness and are not confidently praying for all the sick people they encounter, they have no right to tell people to just trust in God for protection from Covid. God’s protection comes from belonging to a strong body functioning in the gifts of the Spirit. If preachers can only offer vague hopes of healing in case of sickness, they would be more honest to tell their listeners to get vaccinated against Covid.

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