[For those who prefer to watch rather than read, the video version of this post is here.]
In a speech last Thursday (9/9/21), President Biden began by expressing his frustration “with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated” and went on to lay out several coercive measures to force vaccination on those who have hesitated.
The reasons for hesitation are varied. The question on the minds of some is whether a Christian can claim a religious exemption.
For a religious exemption to be valid, according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the objection must rise from religious beliefs that are “sincerely held.”
The Mark of the Beast?
Since New York implemented it’s policies disallowing unvaccinated people from many businesses, some have seen a connection with Revelation 13:17, where those who refuse the mark of the beast are not allowed to buy or sell.
Would concerns about the mark of the beast be a legitimate reason to claim a religious objection? If one can honestly claim such concerns are sincerely held beliefs, the answer is yes.
But should Christians be concerned about whether the vaccine is the mark of the beast?
Fears of inadvertently receiving the mark of the beast may be quelled by considering the alternative—the seal of God. Those who receive the beasts mark on their foreheads suffer God’s wrath (Revelation 14:11). Those who receive God’s seal on their forehead are protected from God’s judgments (Revelation 9:4).
I find it odd that so many Christians obsess about the mark of the beast but show comparatively little interest in the seal of God. If one has the seal, he need not worry about the mark. Why is there not at least as much effort put into obtaining the seal than there is about avoiding the mark?
A mark on the forehead symbolizes one’s allegiance. If your allegiance is to Christ, you are safe—even if someone tricks you into getting a tattoo, chip, or vaccine.
Body as Temple?
What about the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)? Or purifying yourself from everything that contaminates body or spirit (2 Corinthians 7:1)?
Neither passage has anything to do with protecting your body from physical harm. They are about moral defilement. Whatever harm the vaccine may do to the body, it cannot defile you morally.
If I were required by my employer to take the vaccine, I would resist on the basis of a religious objection, but not out of concern for the mark of the beast or protection of the temple of the Spirit. My first objection would be on the ground of stewardship.
Stewardship and Wisdom
God has given us bodies and called us to use them in his service. We are to carry out his work and serve others. Taking unwise risks with our bodies is foolish—a way of living God has forbidden. Just as we should be good stewards of our money, it is even more important that we manage our bodies well, as they are worth more than our money.
COVID 19 is not a significant health risk to me. And much more is known about COVID than about the side effects of the vaccine. Indeed, nothing is known about long term effects. There have been many instances in which perfectly healthy people have taken the vaccine and have had very serious side effects or even death.
What is the likelihood of suffering side effects worse than the effects of COVID? I don’t know. And I have no way of knowing. The scientific research on anything connected to COVID has become so politicized that I have no trust in it. So much money and so much political power is invested in a particular narrative, and so many clear falsehoods were propagated about the issue in 2020 that I have no confidence that information from any source will be accurate. After a year of stories about people who died of COVID after being decapitated in a car accident, I’m skeptical about all reports.
If someone came to me with a new investment and said, “It’s never been tested and there is no track record to point to, but trust me, it will perform better than the stock market,” I would be a poor steward if I took all my retirement out of the 401K and risked it on the unproven investment scheme. It would be even more foolish to risk my health on an unknown risk. Especially when those assuring me of its safety have a strong financial and political interest in me taking the shot.
NOTE: If a fellow believer made the judgment call differently and decided that for them, the risks connected with the shot are worth it, I would certainly not say that those people are wrong. It’s not my role to make that call for others–only for myself. For them, it may very well be the wisest course to get the shot.
Standing against Oppression
Another possible reason a Christian might object is to stand against oppression. The heavy-handed control government officials are using in connection with COVID seem to go beyond a concern for public health. At this time, 75% of adults in the U.S. have taken the shot. Given the pandemic status of the virus, a considerable number of the remaining 25% have had COVID and possess natural immunity (which has been found to be 6 to 13 times more effective than the vaccine). Even with that number vaccinated, the number of COVID cases now is more than double it was a year ago. The motive behind the vaccine push seems to be something other than public health.
Many politicians, after 2020, seem to be drunk with power. Under the justification of a health emergency, many government officials have claimed absolute authority to do whatever they claim to be in the interests of public health. For politicians to posses that much power is dangerous, and history shows it always results in oppression.
As we learned in the civil rights movement, stopping government oppression requires large numbers of people resisting. As a Christian, I believe I have responsibility to do my part in standing against illegal government oppression to protect future victims of oppression.
A Hill to Die on?
If the government threatened me with jail for preaching the gospel, I would still preach. If they said, “Renounce what the Bible says about homosexuality, or go to prison,” I would go to prison. For that matter, I would die before renouncing anything in the Bible.
Would I die before getting the jab? No. I wouldn’t even go to jail over it. The command to preach the gospel in Scripture is undeniable. But the decision about how much risk is too much—that’s a judgment call. I would not go to jail over a judgment call. But that doesn’t make it any less a religious issue. It is still a sincerely held religious belief and therefore falls under the category of valid religious objection.
The protections of the Civil Rights Act were meant to be broad. Lawmakers (correctly) went out of their way to prevent employers from placing any requirements on employees that might anywhere close to forcing people to behave in ways that contradict their religious beliefs. It doesn’t have to be an issue you would go to jail over, only something you sincerely believe.