As in society at large, Christian people and churches hold a wide range of views on all sorts of things, including some of the current issues around Covid and vaccinations. But here’s our take on what the majority of Christians and churches think in these matters…
Almost all Christians accept that the purpose of lockdowns is to help prevent the spread of a highly contagious virus, and a major threat to public health. Yes, lockdowns seriously affect many businesses and livelihoods, temporarily restrict our freedom of movement, and have brought the suspension of large gatherings including church. However, lockdowns have spared New Zealand the huge loss of life that has happened in many other countries. In all parts of society, there appears to be some flouting of lockdown rules. But most Christians would not see that as responsible or morally right, and most do their best to comply with lockdown rules.
As Christians, we are biblically bound to submit to the law, and to respect and pray for those who govern. We don‘t have to agree with everything governments think or do. Who does, with any government? At the time the New Testament was still being written, some emperors were ruthless despots, who required people to either worship them or be put to death. The biblical injunction to obey the powers that be is not absolute, however: Christians should put God first if those in authority forbid us to hold or express our faith, or if they try to compel us to do something clearly unethical and wrong.
As with society at large, the majority of Christians are willing to accept public health authorities’ assurances that Covid vaccines are generally safe and effective for most people, and that a high vaccination rate is the key to New Zealand starting to move beyond a reliance on lockdowns to manage the pandemic. Most church leaders accept that when a high percentage of the New Zealand population is vaccinated, all of us (including the unvaccinated) will be better protected against the virus, and that as a society we can then move forward. Some church leaders have been pro-active in encouraging their people to get vaccinated, to help protect them, while at the same time respecting individual choices.
For various reasons, a minority of Christians are unwilling or unable to take the vaccine, or have serious hesitations or worries about taking the jab. The anti-vax movement is not a specifically Christian movement, but it does include some Christians. Some are influenced by medical professionals here and overseas who have raised concerns about the Covid vax. Some others fear that something underhand could be going on.
To vaccinate or not is not an issue of doctrine, but a medical and public health issue. It is not an issue which excuses us from Jesus’ command to love one another, or which nullifies the principle of making “every effort to guard our unity in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). We recommend church leaders encourage their people to make their own well-informed, prayerful decision, to respect the conscience of others, and to avoid judging those who see things differently.
3 Vaccination certificates
Vaccination certificates could be another useful practical tool in the fight against Covid, at least in the short term until vaccination rates reach 90%. Because of Christian values of welcoming all, however, most churches would be very concerned if people without a vaccination certificate were excluded by law from attending church. Most churches will likely want to retain measures to help protect everyone, including those not vaccinated. Some unvaccinated people may choose to avoid mass gatherings for the time being. Those attenders who are vaccinated may be at a relatively low risk from those who are not. It was reassuring to hear the Prime Minister say that churches would probably not be included in laws to exclude the unvaccinated.
In these strange and uncertain times, it is good for Christian believers and churches to keep the main things the main things: to love God, to love others, to proclaim Christ, to be salt and light, and to pray and work for the extension of the God’s kingdom.