Updated: Oct 6
Yesterday! A red letter day! Huzzah! Hip! Hip! Hooray! Yesterday was the day I had been waiting for. What day is this, one might ask? Was it the day of my daughter's birth, which we have been waiting nine months for? The day that I was told, I had been the mega millions winner? The day that I finally received total enlightenment? Putt. Putt. “Nanananananana”? (Bill Murray)
No! Yesterday was the day that I had been waiting for. A day of anticipation, the way that an evil fat child waits for their coal on Christmas morning. Yesterday, I received the first of what I suspect will be several phone calls. A call from a desperate person asking for a religious exemption from a work enforced vaccination mandate.
To be clear, our church is not a place that says people should not get vaccines, yet I also believe as well as would be our church stance that it is “My body, My choice.” Funny how only five minutes ago that phrase meant something, I don't think anyone thought it meant. Words matter at least until the Newspeak Dictionary is completed somewhere in some later chapter of the book.
I hold the idea of bodily autonomy close and precious. I would have no problem issuing an exemption. However, the fact that there are now strangers calling and asking for said exemptions feels a bit like hearing knocking on the sealed door of Noah’s ark, or possibly Ken Hamm’s. Furthermore, it raises similar questions, both social and organizational.
Many have said that “politics is downstream of culture.” Yet, oftentimes people forget to think of this in terms of the relationship that exists (or at least should exist) between the Church and the society at large. I feel I can say with assurance that if the above statement is true concerning the relationship between culture and politics, I can also assert that the culture which forms the political arguments, is downstream of the Church.
Organizationally, we do not have the luxury of setting a domino trap meant to strike a match that will fall into a can of gasoline and set the house on fire, only to then tip the first, sit back, and stare confused claiming no knowledge of the crime. In short, the mechanics of the problem do not detach the cause. No matter how far away the flyer of the drone is, they are still responsible for the death of the good guy and his seven children. (Although, arguably there is a solid case in this instance that those responsible would have been the ones who issued the order. Albeit the operator could have denied the order, but in this case why would they?) I digress.
We must understand that socially and culturally, there are grave issues at stake in this discussion. First, of all (and after consulting with a lawyer) I have come to realize that even exemptions are no guarantee of job security. If such an order is given the only path to a legitimate exemption would be that institutionally, we would have been advocating against vaccines in general for years. We have not been, nor have I personally or corporately said that the Covid Vaccine is (in the words of Bobby Bushe’s Mamma) “Of the Devil”.
In light of this it appears that there really is not recourse for those that fall in the line of modern mainstream evangelicalism. The cynic in me might even propose that the cult of the emperor is seeking to push people toward the cult of the cult. The goal: to divide, isolate, and anger through marginalization and poverty.
Additionally, I feel that it should be seen socially (and bleeding into the organizational level) that the greater Church in America has failed to hold the systems of our government accountable. We have had megachurches for 40 plus years in this country. Yet, all the while we were too busy with youth groups, laser shows, identity based ministries, and Barney to find some folks that would be willing to go to the local school board meeting. We were too concerned with fall festivals and seating arrangements, dress codes and alliteration, comfort and ease, and by it all we failed our communities. We failed our social calling to live the Gospel in public.
Yet, I am also tempted to say that we failed our neighbors. Socially and organizationally, how many of us were content with seeing faces on Christmas and Easter and asking for some great “love offering” praying for the pittance our culture could offer to us. The church played a pivotal role in forming one of the most moral and ethical societies to ever exist. Without this, freedom would not have survived the 19th century. Yet, cheap hucksters took over and lived from the fat of that land. A populace that was charitable, but increasingly self absorbed. A populace willing to turn an eye as practical critical theory, game of pulpits nonsense ravaged the church.
It is into this that we arrive at one of the greatest concerns I have as a pastor. What do I do with the frantic stranger? What do I do with those “christians” who have not cast a shadow on the floor of their local church for years, yet now find themselves “religiously” opposed to a vaccine. “Christians” who have passively watched as millions have sacrificed their own children to the Asherim of our culture and now see themselves agreeing with “My body, My choice”. In short, I fear there is not much we can do. Not much that the church can do, short of encouraging the once closeted Christians to embrace the loss of of all things for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:8-10)
The greater question facing many who have found themselves looking for a vicarious vaccination through an organization that they have had very little to do with is a simple one; are you truly belonging to Christ? Currently we are not in a situation in which the church should violate authorities in order to accommodate people that we do not know. Clearly, if there were children being taken from parents or lives being taken in the streets, the church should see the ethically right decision to lie, obfuscate, and resist. Yet, we are not there yet. However, we are at a point in which many need to assess what it is that they value.
Yet, I suspect that simply, having warm fuzzies for a felt board Jesus you met in a distant mothball Sunday school class is not enough. This sort of relationship will not lead toward sacrifice and self denial. You will eventually submit. You will eventually offer your children. You will willfully own nothing and you will be happier for it.
Yet what of the sheep? Will they willfully submit? Will the faithful, those who did not forsake the assembly? Will they also seek a vicarious immunity to the pains of this world? My expectation is that they will not.
Yet, the outcome in that case may be remarkably different. Those individuals, by biblical accounts already have the vicariously assured immunity of Christ risen. For these there is no great frantic rolodex, no great worried google search “churches in my neighborhood”. These individuals know the church, they know the leaders and the shepherds that have loved them, and cared for them through so much already.
Still, what of those who seek immunity but not sacrifice? What will the future hold for those who culturally affiliated with the movement of American evangelicalism but only persisted in its fringe benefits? I imagine that either by Covid or some other great upheaval in the near or distant future they will join the masses. Given the right stimulus and situation the call to worship the Emperor will be too great, and to deny it too great a cost. It will be on that day that many in the coliseum will wave their clean vaccinated hands crying, “Crucify them!”... “Crucify them!”... “Crucify them!”... There will be no shame in their faces, and their children will grin at the sight.