Two lawyers, each claiming to be a Christian, wrote a National Post article, and they managed to cook up a multi-syllabic soup.
No this isn’t a joke, or at least it’s not a funny joke. Thousands of Canadians have been fired for their conscientious objections to mandatory vaccines. Most, at least in my experience, have not been fired per se, but they’ve actually been put on unpaid leave, many indefinitely. That is tantamount to getting fired without any compensation or prospects of drawing from employment insurance, so it’s worse than being fired. Thousands of families are wondering how to pay the mortgage and buy the groceries, so the lawyers fed them some soup, adding a pinch of niceness, three teaspoons of the Laurentian consensus, some chopped sanctimony, and a hint of muddy contradiction, to stew up a nauseating stench of misunderstanding of the religious nature of conscience.
It is an opinion piece titled, “Why refusing the vaccine isn’t inherently Christian.” Remember, this is while Christians are being denied religious exemptions the nation-over because they have conscientious objections to the vaccine. This is while people are being denied mobility rights, service at restaurants and meeting places, and rights to gather and worship. Refusing the vaccine, even on conscience grounds, is somehow not inherently Christian, says the two lawyers, who are each “Christians belonging to different theological traditions.”
Of the Christians who object to the vaccine, the lawyers say, “We do not expect to persuade them to change their opinion. Nor do we seek to antagonize or condemn those who hold these views.” How nice. In a previous sentence, in the context of observing a “notable degree of skepticism” about things surrounding COVID among some believers, they confess “we are especially discouraged that many of our fellow believers have adopted these attitudes.” Why precisely are they “discouraged”? Because some fellow believers have questioned the consensus among the elites. That “discouraged” the lawyers.
Semantically, “discouraged” can mean at least one of two things. One, the non-conforming Christians have depleted the two lawyers of courage. Or, two, the lawyers disapprove of the non-conformity, perhaps even to the point of embarrassment. The discouraged lawyers do not lack courage in expressing their discouragement to the national media, so we are reasonable to reject the former interpretation and conclude it’s the latter. Thus, the dually discouraged lawyers disapprove of the Christians who disapprove of the establishment’s interpretation of and response to COVID-19. That disapproval seems to be coupled with a hint of embarrassment. They didn’t say they’re embarrassed, but it reads that way.
They chose the word “discouraged” instead of “disapprove.” It carries more sentimentality, while allowing them to present themselves as the ones affected by the discouraging actions of discouragers, as opposed to presenting themselves as the ones disapproving of the disapproved. They commit no actions, but the negative actions of others have produced an uncomfortable emotional response in the lawyers. They’re “discouraged.” They don’t want to “antagonize or condemn” the non-confirming Christians. But the conscientiously-objecting Christians, many now unemployed with no hope of drawing on employment insurance, sure do discourage the employed lawyers. The fully employed lawyers are quick to say that the dissenters have discouraged them.
The discouraged lawyers also courageously tell the world of their very own “profound act of love.” They chose “vaccination against COVID-19,” not because Scripture teaches them to be vaccinated (it doesn’t), but because, as they point out, Pope Francis called vaccination an “act of love.” Scripture teaches us to love our neighbours by standing against injustice, but Pope Francis teaches us to do it by getting vaccinated. The discouraged lawyers got vaccinated to love their neighbours, while being discouraged by conscientious objectors, some of whom have unjustly lost their jobs. Never mind what Jesus teaches about love, they got a pat on the head from the Bishop of Rome – the one Evangelicals have until recently called “man of sin” and “Antichrist.” Discouraged, the lawyers still love. They know they love because the Pope says they love.
Their piece offers no clarity, while disparaging a tragic situation where thousands of people, believers and otherwise, are being churned up by a beastly and merciless establishment. “We are especially discouraged that many of our fellow believers have adopted these attitudes,” they note.
What “attitudes” are the discouraged lawyers discourage by? Glad you asked. They explain: “Some people have never accepted the gravity of the pandemic, or even its reality,” “Others doubt the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines,” “…many fear the vaccines impair fertility,” and, “…some consider the vaccines ineffective because breakthrough infections occur, and vaccinated individuals can still spread the virus. This view glosses over the fact that vaccination greatly reduces the prospect of infection and transmission, to say nothing of serious illness and death.” Unjustly placing the burden of proof on the individuals doing all the discouraging, the lawyers offer no substantial argument as to why they disagree – or, as they put it, “are discouraged’ – by said sentiments.
Notwithstanding that, we are 20 months into this deadly pandemic and I’ve survived the endless waves and variants of COVID-19 (despite all my high risk behaviour), along with 99.921555% of my fellow countrymen. I hope that doesn’t discourage the loving lawyers, but at the risk, nonetheless, of even further discouragement, Anthony Furey has reported that government data indicates the startling number of young people, an age group at very low risk of dying from COVID-19, who have suffered myocarditis after being vaccinated. At least two researchers have called for pregnant women to not receive the vaccines, after arguing that the data indicates a heightened risk of miscarriage for vaccinated pregnant women. Many studies indicate that natural immunity provides a superior immunity to vaccination (see here and here), something that employers and governments are failing to acknowledge in policy. Credible academics and medical doctors are sounding alarms about the vaccines, some even warning that it could cause infertility (here and here). Even so, the discouraged and loving lawyers, offering no empirical evidence themselves, speculate, “The overwhelming medical consensus is that the beliefs that animate opposition to the vaccines are speculative and lack empirical foundation.”
Amidst all their love and discouragement, the lawyers also contradict themselves. They say,
Any person, Christian or not, can conscientiously reject vaccination. If a person sincerely believes that a vaccine will cause serious medical harm – or has been counselled by a qualified physician against being vaccinated – we would not want that person to take the vaccine under duress or against their will. Human dignity calls for medical interventions, including vaccination, to be voluntary.
Persons can “conscientiously reject vaccination” if they sincerely believe “that a vaccine will cause serious medical harm” (an attitude that discourages the loving lawyers). That was nice. Well said.
But now for the contradiction. What the loving discouraged lawyers offer to the discouragers (some of whom are now unjustly unemployed) in one paragraph, they take back later: “But conscience is not the same as religion,” “Most Christian traditions reject the notion that Christians can claim religious exemptions in this context,” “Where clergy purport to offer religious exemptions to the vaccines, they have likely conflated freedom of conscience with religious obligations,” and, “Moreover, a decision to stand on conscience doesn’t necessarily entitle someone to accommodation.”
On one hand the lawyers say that human dignity and conscience call for medical treatment to be “voluntary.” On the other hand, they say conscience is not religious and conscientiously objecting to medical treatments doesn’t “entitle someone to accommodation.”
Human dignity aside, the loving and discouraged lawyers not once mention the sincere conscientious objections held by many which are grounded in the use of aborted fetal tissue to produce some vaccines (see here).
Conscience is a biblical concept. It’s religious, and our understanding of conscience has religious origins. Conceptually conscience was clarified by 17th century Puritans who were jailed for conscience under tyrannical kings. That was back when loving and discouraged lawyers might have written muddled pieces entitled, “Why refusing to attend the state church isn’t inherently Christian,” something non-conforming Christians had conscientious objections to and summarily lost their jobs for, with some even being legally charged and imprisoned.
In Romans 14, the Apostle Paul provides instruction on how to deal with some matters not clearly prescribed in Scripture, as in eating various foods or celebrating various festivals. Some Christians object to some foods that others eat. Some Christians object to some festivals that others celebrate. These are issues of conscience. They are not clearly prescribed in Scripture, and each Christian must obey his own conscience on the issue. Those who have conscientious objections to eating certain foods must not eat them, “because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Christians can eat all foods if their consciences permit them, but if someone has a conscience reason not to eat a food he must not eat it because eating against conscience is sin. If this applies to holidays and food, how much more does it apply to permanent body-altering medical treatments, like an experimental vaccine or otherwise? Coercing conscience is coercing sin, and coercing sin is sin.
More to the point, conscience rights did not emerge from a secular framework, but much rather they are the fruit of the rich soil of the Christian religion. Conscience is a Christian idea. The secular man or the atheist might like the idea, but he has no objective ground for it outside of the Christian Bible. Disobeying conscience is sin because the Bible says so. If a Christian believes that vaccination will inhibit his freedom or cause him harm, then that Christian might be conscientiously bound not to be vaccinated, and for that Christian the violation of his conscience is as real a sin as any. On some issues not clearly prescribed in Scripture, Christians must employ their consciences. And to violate conscience is sin. Conscience is a religious concept. Conscientious objections are religious objections.
The lawyers claim to be discouraged. The lawyers claim to be loving. The lawyers claim that conscience isn’t religious. The discouraged loving contradictory lawyers who don’t understand the religious nature of conscience cooked up a multi-syllabic soup.
They said a lot, but the other believers are no better for it. They are likely worse. It’s probably more fodder used to crush God’s people and grind the face of the poor, whether by policy makers or HR departments. Their Christian brothers and sisters – discouraging as they are to the loving lawyers – are losing their jobs, are being denied mobility rights, are prohibited from entering restaurants and public venues, and in some provinces are being restricted from attending church. That’s all because they are bound by conscience not to be vaccinated. Discouraged by their brothers and sisters, the lawyers close their article heralding their own “simple yet profound act of love” in getting the vaccine.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23).