In response to our Christmas letter to family and friends, we received a rather curious response from someone who accused us of living in fear because we take the necessary precautions regarding Covid-19. The person told us to start watching vvarious far-right media sources if we wanted to know what was right about Covid-19, and also indicated that “freedom and not safety” should guide our lives. We chose to respond with what we hope was kindness and grace while at the same time offering a clear understanding based on actual medical evidence and not political propaganda. A number of friends have told me of their frustration with vaccine deniers among their family and friends. And one Tennessee megachurch pastor told his congregation that anyone who wanted to wear a mask or who had been vaccinated was not welcome in his church. Sadly, he’s not the only one. So I share this letter with you in hopes that you might find it helpful in interacting with deniers.
II confess that too often my responses to these folks were far too harsh, and the Lord has had to remind me that we should “speak the truth in love.” I’m trying to apply that on this incredibly divisive matter.
Always good to hear from you, but I was a bit surprised by your assertion that we and our congregation are “living with fear” by avoiding crowds and wearing masks. We both take what we see as necessary precautions based on recommendations from our physicians and from immunologists from the medical school at Johns Hopkins University, the Mayo Clinic, and the Medical School at the University of Minnesota which Dr. Michael Osterholm directs. In addition, Bob was a participant in the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine trials conducted through Tryon Medical Partners, the medical group where both of us have our doctors. When going through the trials, Bob asked a ton of questions of the doctors and the immunologists supervising the trials and came away convinced that the vaccines were effective against the original Alpha variant of the disease. As with any virus (Polio, Measles, Covid-19, etc.) there are mutations as we are seeing with the Omicron variant. After participating in the trials and listening to immunologists like Michael Osterholm and Dr. Ajish Jha at the Brown University School of Medicine. We were convinced even before the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines arrived that Covid-19 would be more like the flu and that we will probably need new vaccines annually.
Regarding our church, we wear masks so that we can worship together in person and protect each other, which is something Holy Scripture encourages us to do. Moreover, our pastor and his wife lost their only child to Covid-19 early last April. He was 37 and had just become eligible to get vaccinated. Before he could schedule a vaccine appointment, he caught Covid-19 on Thursday afternoon and by Saturday night he had to be rushed to the hospital because he was unable to breathe. On Sunday morning, our pastor was interrupted during our second service, he was interrupted and told that his son had just died. I cannot imagine the heartbreak and grief that comes from losing an only child; all of us grieved and mourned his death that week, especially because he left a wife and four children who have had their dad taken from them by this horrible disease. How I wish that he could have gotten the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine three weeks earlier. That is why our congregation tries to care for each other in this matter and why we support the necessary protocols to keep people safe, especially those in our membership who have underlying health conditions. It’s not a loss of freedom for us to care for them; it is our joy in our Lord Jesus Christ to care for them as the Apostle Paul makes clear in Romans 13, Romans 15, and as Jesus makes clear in Matthew 5-7.
Regarding the media you ask us to watch, we do not watch any Cable-TV news. We deliberately do not have them on our streaming services because all of them deal in left-wing or right-wing propaganda. We get our news from reading. Bob subscribes to The Economist, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post (a range of political viewpoints), and those sources keep us up with the latest important medical research.
We also follow Covid-19 and other health news from the medical schools listed above. And we think these sources are far more objective and comprehensive than the propaganda on Cable TV. So we feel very free in caring for others and we both feel that the Covid-19 vaccines are truly a gift from our Lord and have saved so many lives. And we thank our Lord Jesus Christ for giving wisdom to our doctors and epidemiologists regarding these things. We realize that nothing is perfect, and that medical people make mistakes, and sometimes serious ones. We recognize that we’re learning more about Covid-19 all the time and that we face a virus that evolves and shifts, and that there will be new guidance that we will have to follow. That is the nature of medical science.
If you haven’t done so, we would encourage you to get the vaccine shots. Even if you have already had Covid-19, they produce antibodies in your immune system that strengthen any antibodies you may already have. They are safe and effective, and they do what they are intended to do—keep folks who get the vaccine safe from hospitalization and death. Right now, 95 percent of people hospitalized from Covid-19 are unvaccinated and many of them are extremely ill. Lots of people in our area are getting Covid-19 right now and I’m grateful that for most of us the vaccines are working. It is a tragedy whenever anyone dies no matter their vaccination status, and we both mourn for the 900.000 fellow Americans (included several we know) who have died from this horrible disease over the last 21 months, and we’re committed to do everything we can to slow its spread and make sure our relatives, friends, and all of those we work with are cared for. May Christ have mercy on all of us in this difficult season.
Again, it is great to hear from you and we hope that this will be a good year for you.