Further Thoughts on Vaccine Resistance
We had a lovely group of friends here with us at our Wallowa Lake cabin last week. One of the topics that came up both in the group and in one-to-one conversations was how to think about and respond to those who adamantly resist vaccination.
It turned out that at least several of us had family or friends who had declined the vaccination. What to do, what to say? Say nothing? Ask questions? Argue? Cite statistics? Get mad? Cut off relationships? Cast aspersions? Call them bad names?
It occurred to me that one possible response that doesn’t appear on that list is to do what Christians are taught to do, especially when we find ourselves powerless to change another person’s mind or behaviors.
We pray for them.
Praying for others, a.k.a. “intercessory prayer,” means turning another person or group of people over to God. It means placing in God’s hands those we are concerned about, those who we wish would make different decisions, but of whom we are not in charge or in control. There are a lot of those situations in all our lives.
Most of us don’t like it when we discover our control is limited. So we think up strategies to effect a change of mind and behavior. We may start by asking questions and listening. We may point to statistics. We may argue. We may blame and shame. We may tear our hair out and stomp around in frustration.
But those who are resisting the vaccine don’t seem, with some exceptions, to be moving or changing much in response to any of those strategies. Some may even kind of like all the negative attention, or enjoy being “bad boys” or girls.
What then? Then, we acknowledge and accept the limits of our control.
“Lord, I wish I were, sometimes I think I am, but really I’m not, in charge of him, her, them. I’m placing him/ her/ them where they were all along — in your hands, loving God. Care for h/h/t. If possible lead them in a new and different direction. If that happens, keep me from gloating or saying “I told you so.” If it doesn’t happen and they get sick, or someone close to them does, keep me from blaming, gloating or saying, “I told you so.” He/ she/ they are your children. Love them and care for them as only you can. In the name of the great physician of the soul, Jesus. Amen.”
And pray the Serenity Prayer. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” Do what you are supposed to do for your own care and that of your dependents. Turn the others over to God’s care. Keep praying.
This obviously is more a strategy for how we deal with such issues as vaccination resistance on a personal level with people we have some relationship. It may be extended, as well, to people we don’t know who are resisting vaccination.
But there are other levels with other responsibilities like governments, schools and businesses.
On a larger, political level the Washington Post columnist, Greg Sergent, had a perceptive column on the way Republican leaders sow distrust and then claim that people should be allowed to go unvaccinated and unmasked because they don’t trust the government or medicine or statistical information. Here’s from Sargent’s column, commenting on Fox’s Chris Wallace interview with Nebraska’s Republican Governor Pete Ricketts.
“After Ricketts insisted the only way to rebuild trust is to refrain from vaccine mandates, Wallace noted that the covid vaccine now has full federal approval and that polio vaccines were mandated at the outset.
“But the critical point here is that Republicans such as Ricketts are themselves actively undermining people’s trust in vaccines, while piously citing that mistrust as the basis for opposing mandates.” (italics added).
The con-game that leaders such as Gov. Ricketts are playing isn’t in the category of “give me the serenity to accept.” Rather, it is the category of “give me the courage to fight this sowing of fear and distrust.” Pray for that too.