In January, I offered a few reasons why some thoughtful people weren’t racing to get the COVID-19 shot. Now seems a good time to revisit that topic.
Because I don’t like to forge ahead on anything controversial without fair deliberation, I talked with my husband one recent evening about whether this would be prudent. “Maybe I should address something safer,” I said, “like…abortion.”
Sadly, it does seem safer right now to broach the “a” word than the “v” word. I wouldn’t have guessed that two years ago, nor how “My body, my choice” would be associated with both.
Each of these has created devastating division, including within the Body of Christ. That makes them qualified to be highlighted here. I’ve always hoped this column would be about things that matter – eternally – and both do.
But no part of me wants to stir up more discord nor judge anyone’s vaccination decision. Instead, I’d like to highlight why the vaccination issue has continued to be so vexing. After all, we started this COVID journey affirming, “We’re all in this together,” but unfortunately, that hasn’t held. So, what went wrong?
Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Martin Kulldorff, who supports COVID-19 shots for most people, inferred on Fox News recently that the pushes for vaccine compliance have worked against human nature.
“Public health must be based on education and trust, not on coercion or vaccine mandates,” he said. He called mandates “nonsensical,” in part because people who’ve had COVID have better immunity than those vaccinated. “It makes zero sense…and sows distrust in public-health officials.”
I agree that trust is paramount, especially when making a crucial decision about a largely untried situation with a largely untried solution. Coercion, shaming and name-calling don’t tend to sit well with humans trying to weigh their options thoughtfully. And material incentives offered in such an atmosphere can come off as disingenuous.
Simply put, the heavy-handed push for COVID shots seemed to begin before trust had been established, and human nature kicked in. But there’s a remedy, according to Dr. Kulldorff. “We have to reach out in a positive and gentle manner, not trying to coerce (the unvaccinated).”
I believe most people on either side of the vaccine debate have had good intentions, but it gets complicated. We’re human beings, after all, not robots. The human psyche can be complex, and our consciences cannot be properly formed with force.
Jesus reminded us of something to combat this dilemma: grace. It is grace that moves the heart; grace that gives those trying to make the right decision under pressure room to think and breathe; and grace that can restore broken humanity, healing relationships that have been ruptured, as so many have in recent months especially.
Grace works in the abortion controversy, too. We can never have enough grace.
We’ve tried so many things to repair our world, and our fallen human nature always gets in the way. So why not try putting grace back into place? By God, I think we can.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Sept. 20, 2021.]