First of all, one should probe the anti-vaxxers and the hesitant about their worldview. How do they view the world? What gives them meaning and purpose? One should seek to know this because a worldview is crucial in refusing or getting the vaccine.
Religious and secular people (an oxymoron indeed since human beings are inherently religious, but for the sake of this post, I will use generic terms) view the world through different worldviews or lenses. These worldviews are formed by one’s religious faith – its ethics, values, traditions, creeds, and communities. I use the term “religious” on secular people because their worldview has ethics, values, traditions, creeds, and communities – typical traits of any worldview.
So, if one has to convince a person who adheres to religious faith and, in particular, the Christian faith, one should say this to them.
At the heart of the Christian faith, a central tenet of the Christian faith is agape paradidomi. Both Greek words. Agape means affection, goodwill, love, benevolence, God’s divine love. Paradidomi means to surrender, i.e., yield up, to give up oneself for another, to give into the hands of another, give oneself to death for, to undergo death for (the salvation of) one,
One can see the usage of agape and paradidomi and clearly in Ephesians 5:25
Husbands, love (agapao – verb) your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave (paradidomi) himself up for her
Simply put, the husband loves his wife by surrendering or giving up his rights or undergoing death for the benefit of his wife.
This agapao paradidomi is central to the Christian faith. In the person of Jesus Christ, God gave up his divine rights, became a man, suffered, and died like one to save humankind. (Philippians 2:6-8 NLT) The Christian wears this lens when they view the world.
Jesus spoke these words to his disciples.
John 13:33-35 NLT
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
Four times Jesus used the word agape and agapao to drive in the message of self-sacrificial love. The followers of Jesus are not to be known for their love for themselves but for self-sacrificial love for others. This self-sacrificial love for others at the great expense of our own lives is what marks the Christian.
If scientists tell us we are saving others by receiving the vaccine and observing social distancing measures, this should resonate with Christians. Christians live for others. Christians live to see others benefit. We are blessed to be a blessing. (Genesis 12:1-3 NLT)
In my interaction with anti-vaxxers and the hesitant, it has been futile to convince them from a scientific view because 1), we are not scientists or medical professionals; therefore, our knowledge on how science works is limited and 2), the science world is divided on this issue further causing more confusion to laypeople and 3), facts convince very few. Most people are convinced by lived experiences or metaphysical realities.
If then science (facts) does not appeal to them, one has to try and convince them through the tenets of their faith (metaphysics). Do they believe the tenets of their faith, or have they just mentally accented – a mental exercise the same as knowing what a seatbelt is? Does their faith inform their lives, or is it just “white noise”?
Secular people do not have this agapao paradidomi idea. Secular worldviews are devoid of the transcendent and place human beings at the center of the ideology. Terms such as “pro-choice”, “my body, my choice,” “my rights,” “my truth,” and so forth are the language of secular worldviews. And rightly so. When a professing Christian uses these terms, the Christian is trying to insert a round peg in a square hole.
A Christian gives up their rights for the benefit of others. When it comes to issues such as the vaccine, which are minor issues, a Christian must easily give up his rights for the benefit of all, for the common good. Vaccines are a minor issue when it comes to the greater scheme of the Christian faith. They are. This is not to mean a Christian abandons the core beliefs of the faith, not at all.
Oh, Schulter what if one dies because of the vaccine? A Christian should die trying to save their family, friends, colleagues, and so forth. Jesus did this for us. We are saved from eternal damnation by him laying down his life for us – physical death. This laying down one’s life for others is what it means to be a Christian.
It has been ironic to see secular people advocate for agapao paradidomi while Christians advocate for “my body, my choice.” The reverse should have happened. Secular people should be the most resistant to government mandates because the state is infringing on their rights. Christians, on the other hand, should be advocating for vaccines and mandates because these save lives.
So why did I take the vaccine and continue to observe social distancing measures? I was asked this while I drove a client to her destination. I explained my Christian faith was vital in receiving the vaccine and observing social distancing measures in a ten-minute ride. I told her scientists say the vaccine protects me from the seriousness of the disease if I get infected. Also, observing social distancing measures protects others from me – in the event I have the virus, I would not pass it on. I told her I did it for her and others. She was taken aback and paused for a moment. She had never heard it put that way. We reached the end of our journey and bade farewell to each other.
One should agree if a secular person says they do not want the vaccine because government mandates infringe on their rights. Their worldview places them at the center. If a Christian says the same, one must assume they do not know the Christian faith’s core values or are plain disobedient. In my experience, most Christians and especially charismatic Christians do not know. So then I usually explain the Christian faith and inadvertently perhaps share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them.
Lastly, these words of Paul sum up the Christian worldview, the lens through which a Christian must see the world. The reason why a Christian should take an interest in others too is Jesus put our interests before his.
Philippians 2:4-8 NLT
Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
I will not try to convince anyone about the vaccine until I have convinced them about what Jesus did for us. This metaphysical reality captures hearts and minds and causes one to lay down their life for others. A much-needed reality in our world today.
That’s what grace looks like.