Vaccine mandates are everywhere.
Now, they are infecting the Christian churches even though they are illogical, ineffective, and un-Christian. If the churches are to play a useful role in social policy, they should be resisting vaccines mandates – not enabling them.
Take the Anglican church where I am a volunteer who serves on parish council as well as being a church organist. The diocese has mandated that all church workers (a term which includes people like me as well as contractors, and even those whose work is non-religious, like gardeners) must be double vaccinated by January 10, 2022.
There is some room for objectors, but this is vague and appears to depend on individual congregations as to how they are managed.
A similar policy has already been adopted by the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.
This has potentially dire consequences for some congregations, particularly smaller ones. With ten per cent of the population unvaccinated, it’s likely ten per cent of parishioners are too. If being unvaccinated skews younger, which I suspect it does, these are likely to be amongst the most vigorous and active members of any congregation.
There’s the first problem. Too many congregations are struggling to survive because of Covid restrictions – this could be the final knell.
Christians are literally followers of Christ. This means that while they are part of this world, they are not of this world and must hold themselves to a higher standard.
As a result, Christians are judged by higher standards, which is why the history of child abuse in so many denominations is so abhorrent, even though the same things were happening in secular society at the same time.
If churches fill any vital role in secular society, outside good works, it is through speaking truth to power.
Christianity also involves a radical individualism where all, no matter their status, are equal in the sight of God. This in turn means no coercion because all have free will.
Yet in this case, churches appear to be the handmaids of power and deniers of free will.
As a religious organisation, the Church has no role to play in an individual’s physical health, or in advancing a government’s agenda. Indeed, they should oppose it if they think it is unjust or immoral, as some have done with abortion and voluntary euthanasia laws.
Vaccination decisions should be left to the individual in consultation with their medical practitioner and other proper people. There are risks in taking the vaccines, and there are risks in not taking the vaccines. These risks vary dependent on age, health, diet, and inherent biological qualities and are not susceptible to a blanket pro-vaccine directive.
Worse, there is no point in the coercion because it won’t reduce Covid infections. There is little difference in the infectiousness of vaccinated or unvaccinated. Vaccination may limit the severity of the disease, but it does not significantly limit the chances of catching it, or of transmitting it.
If infectiousness is the critical factor, there is nothing to be achieved by excluding the unvaccinated. Logic dictates that if anyone is more vulnerable it is the unvaccinated person, but they are obviously relaxed with that risk or they would not want to gather in a crowded place with other Australians.
The Work Health and Safety Act requires businesses to take reasonable steps to keep their premises healthy. Good. Ban anyone who has Covid, be they vaccinated or unvaccinated, from participating to the extent that is possible and for the time they are infectious – but no more.
When it comes to church, their policy appears to allow anyone, irrespective of vaccine status, to attend – which exposes the nonsense of their employment policy.
As an unvaccinated church organist, I won’t be able to contribute to worship by playing the organ, where I sit away from the congregation, but I can sit in the pews amongst everyone else and bellow out the hymns. In which role am I most likely to infect someone else?
The church appears to be partly relying on old information. They claim vaccines remain highly effective ‘…at preventing severe disease and death six months after vaccination’ when new information suggests vaccine effectiveness reduces quite considerably over six months – which is why we’re all lining up for boosters after five.
There’s little difference between the vaccinated and unvaccinated at the end of six months, except being able to fully participate in their parish.
Then there is natural immunity. Omicron has just surfaced, so the church couldn’t have taken it into consideration for their policy. With its rate of infectiousness and ability to evade the vaccines, Omicron effectively equalises the vaccinated and unvaccinated. It won’t take long until almost everyone has the strong protection of natural immunity.
The church doesn’t refer to the ‘Good Neighbour principle’, but it underlies much of their thinking. They misapply it here because they have a binary view that ‘vaccinated equals good’ and ‘unvaccinated equals bad’, without taking into account that for a number of people the vaccines actually ‘equal’ bad.
There is a risk of myocarditis and pericarditis (particularly in young men), blood clots, Guillain Barre Syndrome, and other severe side-effects depending on the vaccine type being used. And that’s what we know about.
It will be years before we know what the long-term effects and the risks of the vaccines may be. Thalidomide was initially thought to be very safe for pregnant women, until it wasn’t.
Given the balance of risk, there is no justification for younger congregational members to be coerced into Covid vaccination.
I’m probably dreaming, but I’d like to see the churches expunge their guilt for their moral failings of the recent past through proper analysis and advocacy in the present. It’s obvious that the civil powers are trapped by past bad decisions, duplicity, and a need to get elected.
The churches need to think logically and be clear with their congregations. There is no valid reason to discriminate against any individual on the basis of their vaccination status. Rather, parishioners should be urged to take control of monitoring their own health for signs they might be infectious.
If they must, put thermometers and rapid antigen tests next to the holy water by the door – but please don’t check the login apps for green ticks.
There are three vaccines available in Australia, another one to be approved, plus other therapies that can deal with Covid (like monoclonal antibodies). The church should not be mandating one approach over the others, particularly when its express aim – to protect the vulnerable – will not be achieved by that mandate.
Let their followers find their own way to health, just as they find their own way to salvation.
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