Think about others rather than getting the needle
With vaccinations providing a way to help end the Covid-19 pandemic, Rev Andy Bryant addresses those who are not so sure about having the jab and asks them to consider other people as well as themselves.
I am not sure I should even be writing about this. I do not want to give them any more attention than they have already won for themselves. The truth is that the anti-vax brigade is a small (and shrinking) number despite the noise they make. Overwhelmingly most people are taking up the opportunity to be vaccinated against covid and truly thank God, it is already making a difference.
But amidst the mythology they peddle there are temptations to which we all succumb. So before we sit in judgement, we all need to beware.
Beyond those who really just do not like needles (and there are schemes to help people overcome this), the first group of reasons for resisting vaccination imply, in different ways, that it is not to be trusted. This thinking ranges from “it has been developed too quickly” to “what are they really injecting into us?” At best this suggests that those promoting the vaccine are misguided, and at its worse it implies some underlying nefarious plot. It assumes the worst of those who claim to be helping.
This is a profoundly unchristian attitude. God encourages us to see the best in people even as we pray that God, and others, will see the best in us. The individuals involved in researching vaccines dedicate their lives to seeking to help people, to use their knowledge to eradicate life-threatening diseases. The speed with which the vaccines have been developed is, in part, down to their perseverance and determination, their skills developed over many years.
In a highly litigious age all pharmaceutical companies are extremely risk averse. They have nothing to gain, and everything to lose, if they bring a product to market too soon. Whilst blind trust in professionals can be dangerous, to be suspicious of people precisely because they are professional is blind folly.
The scientific community does not act as one uniform whole. All research is checked (peer reviewed) by other scientists who, in turn, research the research, monitor the progress of the roll out, test and re-test the results. Numerous different reports are now showing the effectiveness of the vaccines. Safety is the watchword at every stage.
Then there are those who wave the flag of faith. These arguments range from the pandemic being a punishment from God through to the assumption that science and faith are at loggerheads. It is certainly true that the origins of the pandemic may well lie in our abuse of the natural order and we are facing the consequences for our poor stewardship of the earth.
This is quite different to suggesting that God is deliberate inflicting suffering on the world. The portrayal of a vengeful God is a far cry from the God who chooses to take the suffering of the world upon himself on the cross to save us from our sins.
We are called to be stewards of God’s creation. Repentance is undoubtedly needed as we have proved to be poor stewards. We are also called to use the resources of the earth for the good of the whole creation. Science is one of the wonderful ways we can learn more about the world and the mysteries of creation. Science seeks to help use the resources of creation in the service humankind.
The development of the vaccines is precisely that – using the resources of creation to help all people. Throughout history, and still today, at their best faith and science are partners. Science has gifted humanity the vaccine and people of faith should be passionate in ensuring it reaches all people, and that none are excluded from its benefits.
Then there are those who bang the drum for their individual freedom: “I don’t have to have it if I don’t want it”. Yes, individual freedom is very precious, and vaccination is not compulsory in this country. But equally individual freedom must not be used to harm others. Being vaccinated is not just about protecting ourselves; it is also about protecting other people. We can become so wrapped up in our own views and needs we become blind to the needs to the wider society.
Vaccination works by raising the level of protection across society. This is what is known as herd immunity. In a highly individualistic age, thinking of humanity as a herd may not be popular but the truth is that we are intimately dependant on each other.
St Paul reminds us of this when he speaks of the Body of Christ and how the members all need each other. Even if you do not want to get vaccinated for yourself do it for everyone else around you. As Her Majesty the Queen has so eloquently but simply put it: think about other people.
It is right to have a questioning mind and not to automatically go along with popular thought. But this must never be at the cost of thinking the worst of others, distorting the nature of our faith or of assuming our needs are more important than those of others. In the midst of this pandemic we need to learn afresh the importance of striving for the common good and seek our mutual flourishing.
The image above is courtesy of pexels.com
The Revd Andrew Bryant is the Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care at Norwich Cathedral. He was previously Team Rector of Portishead, Bristol, in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, and has served in parishes in the Guildford and Lichfield Dioceses, as well as working for twelve years with Kaleidoscope Theatre, a charity promoting integration through theatre for young adults with Down’s Syndrome.
You can read Andrew's latest blog entry here and can follow him via his Twitter account @AndyBry3.
The views carried here are those of the author, not of Network Norwich and Norfolk, and are intended to stimulate constructive debate between website users.