Should Christians even get vaccinated at all?
I’ve been avoiding publishing any articles on vaccines because it’s an absurdly contentious subject that wins you no friends and makes you quite a few enemies.
It’s an issue plagued with political ideologies, conflicts of interests, bad faith arguments, issue conflation, terrible research, and appallingly stupid false dichotomies.
But alas, my inbox has been flooded with good folks asking me my perspective, so hopefully, I can lay it all out in one article and never have to discuss it again. My guess is that this will be one of the most contentious pieces I ever publish, so even if you disagree but can manage to stick with me through this one, I think we can continue our relationship for years to come!
In this piece, I’m going to try and lay out a biblical framework for approaching issues like this. I have no financial incentives in this fight, and I want to make it clear that my goal isn’t to make you get a vaccine or not get a vaccine, but to help tune up our reasoning and look at this highly-contentious subject through a Christ-centered lens.
Let’s start at the beginning
“A very good place to start.” — Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music
There are a lot of people out there who think vaccines are “inherently dangerous because there is no long-term safety data.”
These people have never read a history book.
Let’s go back in time…
The year is 1774. Smallpox is ravaging the world. Sore throats, headaches, and difficulty breathing are the nice symptoms. Instead, disfiguring rashes cover most infected people’s faces, feet, throat, and lungs with pus-filled pustules. A third of adults infected will die. Eight in ten infants will die. At least 400,000 people will die per year for decades, and survivors will be marred with blindness and lifelong scars, driving some to suicide.
Here’s what that looks like in real life:
People tried everything to halt smallpox outbreaks — hot rooms, cold rooms, avoiding melons, wearing the color red, drinking twelve beers per day. None of it worked, of course, but there was one genuine cure — an ancient practice from India and Africa called “variolation” an early form of inoculation.
We even know the name of the African slave who brought the life-saving practice to North America. His name was Onesimus, likely named after the slave mentioned in Colossians and Philemon. The American Onesimus’s master convinced 287 Bostonians to get variolated — among the inoculated, their rates of death fell sevenfold.
Variolation is pretty freaky by today’s standards: People just took pus from someone suffering from smallpox and scratched it into the skin of healthy folks. During the American Civil War, people would take the dried scabs of smallpox survivors, grind them into powder, then sniff it up the nose or drink it in tea.
Variolation worked… ish. People would usually get a mild case of smallpox and survive, thanks to their well-prepped immune systems. Some people still got full-blown smallpox and died, but variolation increased your chances of survival.
Over in rural England, one class of person seemed completely immune to smallpox: milkmaids. The women occasionally suffered from a cattle disease called cowpox, but they usually survived with little scarring. In 1774, as a smallpox epidemic once again swept his nation, farmer Benjamin Jesty decided to scratch some cow pus into his family’s skin.
None of them got smallpox.
The science was and is simple: The cowpox pus — vaccinia — could create antibodies and genetic memory that would trigger the human body to create immunity against life-threatening pathogens.
Ben Jesty renovated his garden cottage into a “Temple of Vaccinia” and invited locals to visit after church for their life-saving doses. For his generosity, he was labeled inhuman, “hooted at, reviled, and pelted whenever he attended markets in the neighborhood,” with some neighbors even worrying he’d turn them into horned beasts.
Because of a lack of widespread and effective vaccination, 300 million people died in the 20th century from smallpox alone.
A resounding success
We now have nearly 250 years of data and it all says the same thing: Vaccination decreases your chances of dying from deadly pathogens.
We no longer have regular rolling rounds of smallpox, whooping cough, scarlet fever, polio, hib, cholera, and other deadly diseases that have killed tens of millions of people across time.
Since 1962 alone, 4.5 billion virus cases have been averted thanks to modern vaccinations.
Tetanus mortality has been reduced by 96% since 1988.
17.1 million lives have been saved from measles since 2000.
Smallpox has been completely eradicated.
To be anti-vaccination is the same as saying you’re anti-medicine.
Thankfully, the vast majority of the world understands that vaccination is medicine. 9 out of 10 people in the world think that vaccinating children is important.
But there’s a small but vociferously vocal minority — typically white, right-leaning, Westerners who have never lost a child to a life-threatening pathogen — who would rather risk their family’s life and safety than give them this particular form of medicine.
They have about five major reasons, but none of them are Socratically sound:
1. Therapeutics aren’t a good enough reason to reject vaccine therapy
Some of our more earthy brothers and hippie sisters think we should stop playing God and just let nature do its thing, building our immune systems naturally.
Which is exactly what vaccines do.
Innoculation comes from the Middle English word “inoculaten,” which means “grafting a plant part to another plant.” When we get a vaccine, we’re essentially grafting some of the enemy pathogens into our immune system, but in a way that teaches our body to do the miraculous work of defending itself when the real pathogen shows up.
Most football coaches don’t let their teams go onto the field until they’ve analyzed the competition for weaknesses. Most militaries don’t send their soldiers into battle until they know their enemy’s setup. I hate to use computer terms for something as gloriously biological as a homo sapiens, but human bodies are old hardware in need of constant software updates.
Some people think our updates should only come from therapeutics and not inoculations.
But don’t forget Brock’s Rule! Avoid false dichotomies.
When given two bad options, choose neither.
When given two good options, choose both.
Don’t fall prey to the false dichotomy that it’s one or the other, therapeutics versus vaccinations.
Clearly, governments should have instituted a two-year ban on fast food, high fructose corn syrup, added sugars, processed foods, and everything non-organic, then sent everyone to the woods and beaches for exercise and sunlight while scientists worked on a vaccine.
And if you’re so inclined, go ahead and take therapeutics — sniff all the essential oils and eat all the vitamins to try to build a killer immune system, and also get the vaccine… which is just another natural immune booster.
If our rationale for therapeutics is truly to boost our natural immunity, then vaccines are the #1 weapon in our arsenal for doing so. The Cambridge dictionary defines a therapeutic as anything “tending to make a person healthier.” Vaccinations are therapeutic.
2. Big Pharma profits aren’t a good enough reason to reject vaccine therapy
Big Pharma is awful.
Life-saving medicine shouldn’t be a money-making industry.
There should be zero for-profit vaccines.
Pfizer and the other drug cartels are making billions off Covid, and it’s not right.
I wonder how many more anti-vaxxers would take vaccine therapy if it was owned and administered by democratic governments, not-for-profits, and charities. Imagine how many more people would get vaccinated if the Red Cross did the deed at their local church.
But alas, here we are.
We need to ask the same question as Cicero and the ancient Romans:
Cui bono? Who profits?
Clearly, Big Pharma is reaping a waterfall of cash from their vaccine. That’s a huge issue we must address.
But it doesn’t mean vaccines are any less effective.
What’s interesting is that many anti-vaxxers are happy to take all sorts of other for-profit products — literally anything under the sun, including anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine and a mostly Chinese-producedlice medication (and horse de-wormer) called Ivermectin.
Who do they think is paying for all the marketing and social media posts they’re reading about these products?
Who do they think profits from every single therapeutic purchase they make?
It’s just shadow Big Pharma.
There are profit motives on both sides — clearly, Big Pharma’s profits are far larger because they have so many unfair advantages — but it doesn’t mean vaccines are any less effective. Vaccines don’t care who makes money off them; they simply decrease our chances of dying from deadly pathogens.
3. Economic re-engineering isn’t a good enough reason to reject vaccine therapy
Corporate elites have used this pandemic as an excuse to enrich themselves to the tune of $5.5 trillion and growing.
We clearly have to deal with this.
We need a wealth tax, a global minimum corporate tax, and a robot tax.
Otherwise, the Great Reset will leave us all as full-time wage-slaves and rent-slaves.
But wealth inequality and systemic impoverishment also have nothing to do with vaccination efficacy.
Vaccines decrease our chances of death, regardless of who dominates the economy and tries to grind the middle class to dust.
4. The risk of a superbug isn’t a good enough reason to reject vaccine therapy
There’s also the very bad argument that taking vaccines will eventually create some sort of vaccine-resistant superbug. While the odds of such a pathogen eventually existing is extremely high, the argument itself is extremely poor for two big reasons:
First, this argument naturally forces the anti-vaxxer to admit that vaccines have, up until this point in time, indeed worked.
Second, when that vaccine-resistant pathogen does arrive, millions of people will die and no vaccine will help — and neither will the immune systems of millions of anti-vaxxers. There’s no evidence that says people who’ve avoided vaccines their whole lives will magically be granted immunity from the superbug.
I’ve met people who literally believe no one should take vaccines and we should risk the annual loss of millions of lives in an effort to boost our collective immune system. This, frankly, is unacceptable in a pro-human society. Sure, it would be great if our immune systems naturally adapted as fast as viruses do, but they don’t. Christ-followers can’t in good faith permit millions of deaths when we have a suboptimal but effective immune-training technology in our possession. That would be like withholding a life-preserver from a drowning person today because there might be a tsunami in the future.
We cannot allow the delusional perfect to be the enemy of the concrete good. The Bible is very clear that the earth is currently in a fallen state. In heaven, we won’t need vaccines. On earth, we clearly do.
5. Covid passports aren’t a good enough reason to reject vaccine therapy
This is the big one, isn’t it?
It’s certainly the thing everyone keeps emailing and calling me about.
“Aren’t Covid passports just the tip of the spear for government surveillance?”
No, they’re not.
We’re way past that.
A vaccine passport is a joke compared to your smartphone, your digital bank, your social media, your Internet usage history, and especially the coming central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and social credit systems.
Don’t lose the plot, friends. Vaccines aren’t the “tip of the spear” whatsoever. That weapon belongs to the elite monopoly control of money-creation. Everything else is secondary.
And here’s a big thing a lot of non-travelers have forgotten:
We’ve already had vaccine passports for years.
My wife and I have traveled to plenty of risky places including North Korea, Transnistria, Honduras, Ethiopia, and West Texas. Tourists who only go to Florida and Hawaii and Caribbean all-inclusives may not realize it, but much of the world has required proof of vaccination for decades.
As any missionary kid knows, you can’t get into many countries without showing your doctor-stamped visa that proves you’ve had your yellow fever shots. 124 nations require you to show a yellow fever vaccine visa to get across their borders. We’ve shown ours many times. (We’ve also never had yellow fever, which still kills 30,000 people per year, because our vaccination gave us 99% immunity 30 days after injection.)
Yes, future vaccine visas will likely be logged on the blockchain and movement will be automatically restricted by robots and algorithms. This is anti-human and should rightly be outlawed. But avoiding vaccination itself won’t change this. It’s the wrong hill to die on.
Tyranny isn’t defeated by leaving your immune system under-educated.
Why vaccines are so political
If Covid had a 100% transmission rate and a 100% kill rate, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
If any disease spread to everyone and killed everyone, everyone except suicidal sociopaths would be in favor of mandated vaccination and proven containment measures.
Conversely, if a “disease” had a 0% kill rate and a 0% transmission rate, none of us would be in favor of any vaccination or any containment measure.
Clearly, it’s just a sliding scale, based on personal risk tolerance.
So the question is: Who gets to decide when we should mandate vaccines and when to implement containment measures?
Ebola has a 50+% kill rate, but a low transmission rate. The vaccine is effective 97.5% of the time. If it had a 90% transmission rate by simply breathing in public, would you mandate a vaccine and/or try to implement containment measures? Even though we live in a troublingly individualist anti-culture, most people would say yes.
(If it were solely up to me, for the sake of stopping variants, vaccines would be mandatory for any contagious disease with an R-nought of more than 1.27 and/or an Infection Fatality Rate of more than 0.038%. If someone doesn’t like it, they can move to Arkansas.)
But it’s not up to me, of course.
And it’s not up to you.
Because we can all infect each other, it’s only fair that we all get to decide.
Vaccine regulation is democracy’s job.
And people are actually furious because they don’t live in a democracy.
Let’s be honest about what this is really all about:
The vaccine debate has almost nothing to do with health:
People don’t trust Big Pharma.
Nor should they — if it were up to Big Pharma, we’d all die unless we could pay top “free”-market dollar for their wares. They already do this in unregulated nations in Africa.
People don’t trust Big Medicine.
Nor should they — the American for-profit healthcare system is the biggest scam in global health.
People don’t trust Big Government.
Nor should they — we live in an undemocratic corporatocracy ruled by private interests with anti-commons agendas.
The Bible is quite clear in Psalm 146:3 “Do not put your trust in princes; there is no hope for you there.”
But our distrust of government has nothing to do with vaccine therapy.
We need to think clearly about the big picture: We’re rapidly approaching the age of the panopticon surveillance state.
So long as we continue to buy from giant corporations and vote for their corporate-captured political parties and candidates, social credit systems are coming, with or without a vaccine passport.
Vaccines are an opportunity
As far as I can see it, vaccination provides Christ-centered people with five intriguing opportunities:
1. The opportunity to serve others
Just because some of us feel young, strong, and healthy doesn’t mean we aren’t surrounded by more vulnerable people, especially the elderly brothers and sisters in our churches. In Philippians 2:5–7, Paul encourages us that, “In your relationships with another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus by taking the very nature of a servant, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Supercharging our immune systems is yet another way we can serve each other.
One thing is for certain: Vaccinations aren’t worth losing unity over. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”
The reality is that vaccine passports are just the next technology that secularist governments may try to use to control their citizens. These new technologies are emerging at a faster and faster rate, which suggests Jesus-followers actually need to slow down, get in step with the Holy Spirit, and wrestle together as Christ-centered communities on how to honor God in this cultural moment.
2. The opportunity to obey our governments
This one is very, very tough for those of us who’ve been raised in this hyper-selfish individualist anti-culture.
But Scripture is brutally clear on this point: we are to obey every government law that doesn’t disobey God’s law.
Titus 3:1 — “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.”
1 Peter 2:13–15 — “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors… For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.”
Clearly, getting vaccinated doesn’t go against the word of God and the gospel of Christ. In fact, it creates obedience to 1 Corinthians 6:19, where Paul insists our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. But if you’re like me, you have a deeply rebellious spirit! This is our opportunity to submit to the government. Believe me, there will soon be plenty of reasons to glorify God by practicing civil disobedience, but avoiding vaccination isn’t one of them.
3. The opportunity to honest and truthful
We don’t need to delude ourselves into thinking we’re “educated” on vaccines. The vast majority of us don’t have a doctorate in the subject, and no amount of online article-reading will ever get us there.
We don’t argue about whether or not houses reliably stay standing — they generally do, and we don’t need to research the intricacies of house-engineering to trust the experts. In the same, we know that vaccines have proven to boost our immunes systems for the past few centuries, and while they aren’t perfect, that’s probably all a lay-person needs to know.
This is an opportunity to lay aside the notion that we are experts on this subject. As Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
4. The opportunity to practice wisdom
Pastor Andy Stanley says that the best question ever is, “In light of our past experiences, current circumstances, and future hopes and dreams, what is the wisest thing to do?”
This isn’t a question to answer alone.
Followers of the Way will naturally do what we always do when faced with tough questions: Go to the Word, get on our knees, and meet with other believers.
Only the Holy Spirit can guide us into all truth.
5. The opportunity to wear a cloak of humility
This is our chance to not think better of ourselves than we should. Having the vaccine doesn’t make you a better person — it just means you’re less likely to die from Covid-19.
In the same way, not having the vaccine doesn’t make you better than your vaccinated brothers and sisters — it just means you’re putting them and yourself at a greater risk of infection.
Christ-followers don’t have human enemies. We are called to love those who hate us, and pray for those who persecute us. As John Mark Comer says, we are to make our bodies a graveyard for hate.
For pastors and elders, there is a huge opportunity to disciple your believers toward a less individualistic outlook on life, re-orienting your people to a communal framework for living, and a proper understanding of the government’s role in the life of a Jesus-follower.
Regardless of mandates or economics or passports, I would’ve gotten the Covid vaccine anyway. Why? Because vaccination helps train my God-given immune system to be awesome, and because this vaccine is proven to significantly decrease my chance of death by Covid.
Vaccines just aren’t political for me, at all. I can’t fathom why anyone makes them political — vaccines are therapeutic medicine that trains your body to fight pathogens, pure and simple. Sadly, ours is an age of outrageous conflation. Rather than thinking clearly and tackling the real problems of tyranny, we endanger our children because we think it’s magically “creating change.”
My track record shows that I’m extremely anti-partisan, anti-politician, and anti-corporatocracy, and I’m not going to let any tyrannical earthly institution weaponize my own health against me.
We need to stay strong so we can take down the powers and principalities who are actively at work in the spiritual realm.
This often ugly debate should make us ask important questions:
Am I placing my trust in the government, myself, or my Savior?
Am I spending more time on social media than in God’s word?
Do I spend more time researching vaccines than I do in prayer?
Would I rather fight digital people on the Internet more than commune with local believers in the flesh?
At the end of the day, everything always comes back to the gospel. The good news is that the kingdom of God is here in our midst; that Christ has taken our sin on his shoulders; that through Him we can be restored to God.
This has massive implications for how we live and move and have our being.
As you wrestle with the Word and the Holy Spirit and your church through this issue, I pray that you will find unity and peace in the bonds of His love.