For those who have asked God for a miracle to end the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines may well be the answer to their prayers, according to Francis Collins, an evangelical Christian who also serves as director of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
“I do think it is not a stretch to say, for all of us who’ve prayed for deliverance from COVID-19, the vaccines are an answer to that prayer. That is very much consistent with the way God often responds to our needs — by working through human capabilities that we’ve been given as a gift by the Creator. Why wouldn’t you want to take that gift and not just look at it, but open it up and then roll up your sleeve?” said Collins in a June 15 interview with Religious News Service. “When you look at what we know about the time Jesus spent on this earth, it is interesting — read through the four Gospels — how many instances where he is involved in healing. If we are called to be followers, as I am, then shouldn’t we also find opportunities to provide healing as well?”
In an interview with CNN, Collins explained, “There is a tendency in many White evangelical churches to assume that science is atheistic. God gave us both a sense of God’s love and care and compassion, but he also gave us the brain and the opportunity to understand God’s creation, which is nature, which includes things like viruses. And I think God expected us to use those gifts to understand how to protect ourselves and others from disease. If we have the opportunity to heal through medicine, I think God expects us to do that and not count on some supernatural intervention to come and save us when he’s already given us the chance to be saved by other means.”
A survey released in August by the National Association of Evangelicals found 95 percent of evangelical leaders said they would get vaccinated against COVID-19, while many in their congregations were vaccine hesitant according to the Associated Press report.
In an interview on National Public Radio, Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said misinformation and political polarization have contributed to the problem in his religious community. The National Association of Evangelicals is partnering with the Ad Council on a campaign to reach out to evangelicals with the message that getting the coronavirus vaccine may be a way to “love your neighbor.”
Part of that campaign is a website, https://www.christiansandthevaccine.com/. The website explains the mission “is to provide biblical thinking in a confusing world, and the COVID vaccine has certainly become one of the more confusing issues of our time. We have created a video series addressing the most common spiritual questions Christians have regarding the vaccine. We are also producing short video conversations with key Christian leaders providing their unique perspective and guidance. For pastors specifically, we have developed a Pastor’s Toolkit on the Vaccine to help them shepherd their congregations on this issue.”
On March 24, the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the late Rev. Billy Graham posted on social media: “I have been asked my opinion about the vaccine by the media and others. I have even been asked if Jesus were physically walking on earth now, would He be an advocate for vaccines. My answer was that based on the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, I would have to say — yes, I think Jesus Christ would advocate for people using vaccines and medicines to treat suffering and save lives. In this Scripture passage, Jesus told about a man beaten and wounded, lying on the roadside as religious leaders passed by and didn’t help. But a Samaritan, considered a social outcast of the day, becomes the hero of the story when he stops and cares for the injured man — pouring oil and wine, which were the top medicines of the day, on the man’s wounds. We also know that Jesus went from town to town healing ‘every disease and sickness.’ He came to save life—to offer us eternal life. Did Jesus need a vaccine Himself? Of course not.
“So, my own personal opinion is that from what we know, a vaccine can help save lives and prevent suffering. Samaritan’s Purse has operated COVID-19 emergency field hospitals, and we have seen the suffering firsthand. I also have staff and their family members who contracted the virus and spent weeks on a ventilator and months hospitalized as a result — I don’t want anyone to have to go through that. Vaccines have worked for polio, smallpox, measles, the flu and so many other deadly illnesses — why not for this virus? Since there are different vaccines available, my recommendation is that people do their research, talk to their doctor, and pray about it to determine which vaccine, if any, is right for them. My wife and I have both had the vaccine; and at 68 years old, I want to get as many more miles out of these old bones as possible!” Graham wrote.
A wide variety of religious leaders have encouraged the faithful to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
A video message released Aug. 18, Pope Francis encouraged everyone to be vaccinated. “Being vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the competent authorities is an act of love. And contributing to ensure the majority of people are vaccinated is an act of love,” said the leader of the Catholic Church. “Vaccination is a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable.”
The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops called vaccination “an act of charity toward the other members of our community.”
In July, more than 200 church leaders in Missouri signed a statement urging Christians to get vaccinated. They statement noted the church’s teaching to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
According to the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, Roland Begay — a traditional healer in the Navajo Nation — was the first to get vaccinated at Chinle health care facility in Arizona. “I wanted to show that I trusted the scientists who made the vaccine, and the trial study results showed the safety of the vaccine,” he said. “Navajo cultural knowledge is a tool for promoting acceptance of COVID vaccines to keep the people safe and to sustain the Navajo people.”
In an interview on PBS NewsHour, The Reverend Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptists’ public policy arm, said he believes vaccination is “something we ought to thank God that we have the technology for, because it’s going to get us back to doing the things we need to do” more quickly.
Imam Ammar Amonette of the Islamic Center of Virginia, in Richmond, told the WebMD website that Muslim teaching supports vaccination. “We have a religious duty and obligation to be vaccinated as long as competent science and medical authorities approve the vaccine,” he explained.
According to The Washington Post, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld was vaccinated during a clinical trial held at Meridian Clinical Research in Maryland, in July 2020. “Our faith teaches that the most important way to serve our Creator is to save another life,” Herzfeld said. “Getting a vaccine saves lives and is therefore a great religious act in service of our Creator.”