I have always loved those stories of missionary power encounters…those moments when the Christians challenged the powers that held people in bondage to fear in dramatic and profound ways.
You have to love a story like the moment when Winfrid, better known as St. Boniface, stripped to the waist and took up an axe and cut down Thor’s Oak. When Thor didn’t strike Boniface dead, the Germanic warriors who were present decided to be baptized.
To be fair, there are more daring stories. The people of Geismar to whom Boniface preached were allies of Charlemagne and had “accepted” Christ. Yet their acceptance was not true conversion. The former missionary, Scirbald, had merely revised their religion. The people of Geismar worshipped Christ at an altar in Thor’s grove alongside altars to Thor and other gods. Boniface had come to call the people to the truth of Christ…a call to total devotion…so his destruction of their great idol was not without risk.
Nor is it without romantic appeal. It is something of a poetic act. Who among us that take the claims of Christ seriously would not feel like a warrior wielding a weapon against the gates of hell with such a deed.
However, we cannot take an axe to the idols of our pagan culture…our demons are too subtle. Our Scirbalds do not claim to worship Christ alongside other gods. Rather, they claim that the rites of Thor’s altar are actually the worship of Christ. Somehow they have lost sight of the fact that the love of neighbor in obedience to Christ will never require me to placate my neighbor’s fears by participating in human sacrifice. Yet this seems to be societal requirement now put upon us, even sadly by Christian intellectuals and church leaders. In our fear of COVID we have elevated our medical professionals to the unquestionable heights once held by medicine men in the most superstitious pagan cultures. With their magic mantra of “science” and various medical talismans they will save us all…and any who dare question their methods or motives must be silenced and shamed.
Yet before you silence me and stop reading, I would simply ask you to hear me out. I am not anti-science. Not anti-medicine. Not anti-vaccine (in basic principle). However, I am adamantly opposed to the slaughter of the millions of humans…image bearers of God…who have been slaughtered by our medical industry.
Furthermore, as someone who has studied public health ethics on a graduate level, I understand the basic argument allowing for the use of vaccines that have been developed using aborted fetal cell-lines. These cells are grown from cells that date back to a few abortions that happened decades ago. Many genuinely pro-life ethicists have made the case that as long as other means of future development are being pursued and new fetal matter is not being harvested from abortions, then it is permissible for a pro-life person to accept a vaccine. Most of these ethicists have also typically included the caveat that one should be allowed to refuse vaccines so developed for conscience sake.
But there are serious problems with this argument in relation to our current context with COVID:
First, the hype and fear around COVID have state and national governments already trampling on civil rights and ruling against principled non-compliance, usually with the endorsement and blessing of mainstream media sources. Any window of opportunity to resist or even simply question government overreach of power in these matters is quickly vanishing.
Secondly, the major reasoning behind allowing for vaccines developed using fetal matter given by pro-life ethicists as mentioned above is rooted in the idea that other means of development should be sought. Yet the current and growing consensus of the vast majority of the medical industry backed by the ideals of the World Health Organization is not directed away from further fetal tissue research. If you don’t believe me, take a look through major medical journal article on the matter. The world health community vocally celebrated the defeat not simply of President Trump, but of his ban on US funding for research rooted in aborted fetal matter. With no political restrictions and full government funding, there is no conceivable reason that the larger scientific community in its current mood will cease or reduce such immoral practice. Furthermore, if pro-life people for the most part comply, there will be no other incentive to find other means of research. Aborted fetal cells offer the most effective and efficient means to medical ends…and efficiency is as always one of the great idols of the modern world.
Next, the medical media is in the habit of bending the truth about the connections between aborted fetal matter and vaccines. For instance, this is not uncommon: This Healthline article has the headline, “No, Fetal Tissue Wasn’t Used to Create the J&J COVID Vaccine.” However, the article states plainly that fetal cell lines were used. Again, these are cells grown from cells, grown from cells going back to cells taken from the victim of an elective abortion. So technically, not they don’t take cells from an aborted fetus and inject it into you…but that is clearly not the only concern of pro-life people. Also, it is important to consider that such cell lines were not used to develop the vaccine by other companies…meaning that they did not use those cell lines in the actual development of a vaccine. However, they all use those cell lines to test the efficacy of the vaccine once it is developed. One might argue that this is still splitting hairs.
Finally, the recent political event have led to a growing impetus to compromise on abortion ethics among pop-culture religious influencers, well-known Christian leaders, and elitist Christian intellectuals. While the official position of the Catholic church remains in line with past ideals…that Catholics should take the vaccine with the least connection to aborted fetal matter…some prominent Bishops have stated that this should not be a concern, and parishoners should take whatever vaccine is most readily available.
In consideration of everything I have noted above, I think it is time for average Christians to take an informed and potentially costly stand in mass. I think many of us should refuse the current vaccines, explaining why…and without promoting conspiracy theories. This is not about fear of the vaccine. We have a God that promises that even if we are fed poison we will not die, so we need not fear a vaccine any more than we fear a virus. This is about the refusal to let the serious issue of the centrality of the abortion industry for medical research to go unquestioned.
Also, I think we should call attention to the untrustworthiness of Dr. Fauci. Certainly we need to pray for our leaders, including Dr. Fauci…but we also have the obligation to speak truth to and about power. Dr. Fauci works from a deluded position rooted in total moral compromise. To quote his own words:
“If you are in a position where you have got to deal with everyone and people are looking to you for something that is not tainted by politics, [something] that’s pure science, then you have got to really be careful about not getting into a situation where you are expressing a political view.”
We should be clear, there is no such thing as “pure science” that is not political. Politics are the means to working out our shared public morality…and the social, medical, and scientific questions that are addressed in public health are not amoral and therefore cannot be apolitical. (I say that he is deluded out of generosity, for if it is not delusion to claim a position above the issues as he does, then it is a wicked rhetorical manipulation game.)
No doubt our confrontation with our cultural idols promoted by our societal version of the ancient pagan medicine men does not carry the same thrill as cutting down Thor’s sacred oak. We will not have the profound thud of the axe or the thrilling crackle of the falling tree. Nor will we have the protection of our own version of Charlemagne…even from a distance. To those who hear us may well seem more like the shrill and annoying voice of Athanasius contra mundum than the noble thundering of a Bishop who unseated the god of Thunder. Likely we will be thankful if our only punishment is exile, like Athanasius. Still, I think it worth a prayerful attempt to stand against this now while we still can. The night may be coming when no man can work.
I do not mean to imply that anyone who has received the vaccine is in sin or evil or uncaring. Some likely took at face value the statements that there is no fetal tissue in vaccines to mean that there is no connection to abortion in the development of their vaccine. (Taking things at face value is a luxury we no longer have…if we ever did.) There are many more who I know and respect who have done so already because they have thought carefully and have taken seriously the writings of many Christian ethicists who hold to the standard noted above. I do not hold that such a standard is essentially in error (always and everywhere wrong). My concern is for our current climate. It is clear from scripture that something that may be permissible under one circumstance can become inadvisable or even wrong under other circumstances. I believe whole-heartedly that we have reached a point in our culture in which medical science has been elevated to a religious position for many…this is evidenced by our spending and rhetoric on the matter…and that our medical professionals are held in a position of awe and sometimes (with growing frequency) given a level of power and influence that is dangerous for any human of any walk of life to have. I have friends that I greatly respect in the medical field…however, I believe if they are honest with themselves they will be forced to admit that among their peers there are plenty of professionals with a god complex…or very nearly one.
There is an interesting article in Public Discourse that, oddly enough, came out the same day that I wrote this article. I came upon it after publication of my own blog post. The author, Mark Perkins, makes some interesting and important observations in line with my concerns. However, I think he fails at the end to offer anything better than the ethicists that he criticizes. His final position is, “If vaccines can end this pandemic, then refraining from taking them solely due to the use of immortalized cell lines is both selfish and pointless—a vain attempt to avoid an unavoidable burden of complicity in our civilization’s greatest ongoing wickedness.” But why would he claim this? According to Perkins we would have to become like the Amish to avoid products connected to such problematic cell lines. His claim on this point is radically overstated. We can, and should, make the relatively small sacrifices that it would take to remove from our lives products that are still tied directly to such fetal cell lines. In fact, boycotts of such products in the past have affected change in the policies of several large companies. So, does the careful selection of cosmetics and avoidance of many (probably unhealthy) processed foods really put us on the level of the Amish? Or are we just too lazy and comfortable to try?