Dr. Peter Mack is a doctor at Novant Health SouthPark Family Physicians.
As an evangelical Christian, faith inspires every aspect of my life and informed my decision to become a doctor. When I read Matthew 25:36, "I was sick and you looked after me," I heard my calling.
COVID-19 has tested me, as it has every health care worker. I was thrilled at the development of a safe, effective vaccine and got it as soon as I was eligible. But many of my fellow evangelicals have not rolled up their sleeves. The Pew Research Center reports white evangelicals in the U.S. resist getting the vaccine more than any other religious group.
I've been disheartened that men and women who share my faith have avoided this life-saving measure. I'm speaking out today to share why I believe God has sent us this tool and how we honor him by taking advantage of it.
Let's start by looking closer at Matthew 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”
COVID can hit anyone. It has especially devastated vulnerable communities, including immigrants, people in low-income households, and those with pre-existing conditions. The Bible refers to these groups as the visitor, the poor, the sick. Aren’t those the people we as Christians are called to serve? If you believe Matthew 25 to be true, you are summoned to do what you can to stop the spread of COVID.
Through the scientists who spent night and day to develop a vaccine, God has provided a tool to protect us. We see examples throughout the Bible of times when God didn’t need to offer tools to safeguard our well-being but did.
Genesis, chapter 41 tells how Egypt was stricken by famine. God could have reversed the circumstances without human involvement, but he chose to use the skills of Joseph, who organized the government’s storage and distribution of crops so that people were fed in lean days. Human talent and hard work kept the population from starving, and it was God who raised Joseph to that position and gave him the skills in the first place.
Consider the story of David and Goliath. God could have defeated Goliath, but he chose to use David, who employed a slingshot and a rock to fell the giant. God could protect people without doing anything, but through history, he has used imperfect people and imperfect tools to accomplish his aims.
We now have a modern-day tool from God: the COVID-19 vaccine. By using it, you will save lives. Most evangelicals take a pro-life stance. Getting the vaccine is an important way to preserve life and put your faith into action. The delta variant has attacked children much more than the original strains of COVID. Getting the vaccine helps you protect yourself, your family, and the children in your community.
There's a path out of this.
My three sons are all younger than 8 and can’t get vaccinated yet. They aren’t worshiping inside a church, both for their safety and the safety of my patients. I can't risk my children becoming sick and giving the virus to me, leaving me to infect the families I serve. There are thousands of families like mine in our region, praying their children, seniors, and other loved ones won't come down with COVID.
Christian skepticism about vaccines isn't new. Neither is Christian involvement in preventing disease. Cotton Mather, a Puritan pastor in Boston, encouraged smallpox inoculation during the smallpox outbreak of 1721. Inoculation exposed a small amount of the smallpox virus to the patient, causing a less severe infection.
In his congregation, Mather was met with great skepticism — a small bomb was tossed through his window. Many believed Christians would be extraordinarily preserved. He was right to urge the faithful about inoculation: People who came down with smallpox naturally were seven times more likely to die than those who were inoculated.
In our time, evangelical Christians have immense power to help stop this terrible disease. Use it today and get your shot. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and a practicing Christian, put it well when he said the vaccine “feels like a gift from God, but you do have to unwrap that gift.”