Commentary: Dear Placer County pastors: support the vaccine

Throughout the pandemic, Christians have made up a large portion of those opposed to taking the vaccine. If religious leaders would educate their congregations with the proper facts, our community could be much safer.


Justin Ha

According to KFF, 22 percent of white, evangelical Christians refuse to vaccinate.

In studying reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine, researchers found that 22 percent of white evangelical Christians refuse to vaccinate. This is eight percent higher than the national average. Why? 

Getting vaccinated is a community issue. We are influenced by our surroundings: the media we consume, friends, neighbors and religious leaders. The latter is important because throughout the pandemic I have seen how pastors have encouraged their congregations to not take the vaccine, using religion as an excuse to ignore science.

As a practicing Christian for over 10 years, I strongly believe that if pastors vocally supported the COVID-19 vaccine and acknowledged its benefits, we would see an increase in Christians getting the vaccine.

Unfortunately, every week I see pastors advertising religious exemptions for the vaccine or using God to justify not wearing a mask.   Often these declarations against masks and vaccines are not backed by science or scripture. 

To cast an even darker shadow on Christians, many churches in Placer County disobeyed Governor Newsom’s mandate to practice religion outdoors at the start of the pandemic.

Throughout the entire pandemic, many pastors have been riling up their congregations against Newsom and have directly disavowed many of his COVID-19 policies.     

Ironically, disobeying authority runs counter to the scripture.

Romans 13:1-2 says that Christians should “obey the government, for God is the One who has put it there.”

The authority in place “(has) been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Romans 13:1-7).

While these tirades are often masked with religious overtones, there is a lack of Biblical basis to their claims. 

It is particularly unsettling when a pastor gets dangerously close to supporting one political movement or party because these are nonprofit, untaxed organizations.

It’s borderline illegal, not to mention distasteful. 

These pastors are leveraging the anti-vax movement and their position in the church to boost attendance (which has declined by around 20 percent in the last 20 years) and draw money to their business, but at the cost of their congregation’s health.

These pastors are leveraging the anti-vax movement and their position in the church to boost attendance and draw money to their business, but at the cost of their congregation’s health.

— Justin Ha

Furthermore, there isn’t a single verse in the Bible that even hints that Jesus would be against getting the vaccine. A common verse that the anti-vax community likes to cite is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

First, this verse is referring to sexual impurity, not vaccines. Second, if your body was really a temple you would take care of it and protect it.

Christianity should not be used as an excuse to endanger others’ lives. The church should be protecting their community because THAT’s what God would want.

Another common excuse for Christians is the use of generation-old, aborted fetus cells in the testing of the vaccine. They have been told that this violates Christianity’s principles.

These are fetus cells from the 1970’s, which vaccinated individuals are benefiting extremely indirectly from. 

If Christians don’t take the vaccine because they don’t like how it was created, they probably shouldn’t look up how their iPhones were made or who picked the beans in their coffee.

The COVID-19 vaccine isn’t even the only product that uses fetal cells in its testing. Just look at Tylenol, Tums, Preparation H and aspirin, which despite all using fetal cells in testing, are not under moral scrutiny.

If pastors were to speak out against these common, unsubstantiated arguments instead of perpetuating ignorance and opposition to science, it could help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Whether they like to admit it or not, being the head of a religious institution carries weight. If the right people encourage Christians to vaccinate, real, positive change can occur.

I hope that pastors in our community will start taking responsibility and educating their congregations with the proper facts. Most of all, it is troubling to see people prescribe values onto Jesus that are not supported by scripture.

1 Peter 5:2 says “Just as shepherds watch over their sheep, you must watch over everyone God has placed in your care. Do it willingly in order to please God, and not simply because you think you must. Let it be something you want to do, instead of something you do merely to make money.

To the pastors of Placer County: God has asked you to watch over your sheep. Protect them.