Conscience and Covid: vaccines and abortion
One reader of our session’s statement, “Conscience and Covid-19 Vaccine Mandates: In defense of sphere authority,” wrote asking about, among other things, the matter of fetal cell lines and the development and testing of Covid vaccines. He said he had a commitment to avoid participating in abortion on any level, and thus was going to avoid using vaccines that used fetal cell lines to produce (not to test) vaccines. To which I responded:
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A couple thoughts, dear brother. First, many years ago I decided/realized it was likely impossible to live in this nation today without participation in evils on lower levels than directly. It hit me on traveling and hotels. Was I going to avoid Marriott properties because they were Mormon? And if not Marriott, where? For several reasons, I decided I would not avoid Marriott properties (including moral reasons, actually), and since have used them almost exclusively.
Now abortion is bloodshed. Thus our desire to avoid participation in it is orders of magnitude more intense than patronizing a business owned by heretics. I get that. But are we really as clean on abortion as we’d like to think?
I’m doubtful. Start with United Way and taxes. Many Christians and businesses owned by Christians donate to United Way, annually, and it’s a rare community’s United Way that does not support Planned Parenthood indirectly or directly (and you can’t separate Planned Parenthood from abortion). Why has there not been a national movement led by Christians to remove PP from United Way? I’ve tried to seed this but it’s never gotten off the ground.
Then taxes; it’s common for taxes to support abortion, but I’ve never known anyone personally who refuses to pay taxes because they support abortion. And really, if we were to stop paying taxes because of abortion, why not for a host of other Christian conscience issues which are both almost equivalent in their wickedness, and slightly less so?
Then there is the matter of our patronizing businesses that provide abortions. Kroger, for starters. The pharmacy in the supermarket where you buy your food. So now, you’re going to keep as far as you can from a Covid vaccine that was tested with a cell line originating with an unborn child who may or may not have been aborted non-spontaneously (HEK-293) while buying ice cream a few feet from a pharmacist who is handing an abortifacient to a young mother who will take it home and murder her child?
But supposing you say you will go along with testing, but not producing, as regards these cell lines originating from the bodies of unborn children. But why origination and not testing? Seems to me to be a fairly arbitrary distinction, and thus conscience should bar one’s participation in both. But then forget every drug in the world, and many food flavorings and lots and lots of other things. The list is endless.
Now my goal isn’t to silence your conscience, but to point out that we do live in an evil world and we do participate in its evil simply by virtue of living in it and it’s often the case that those places where we like to think of ourselves as drawing a line—somewhere—are more about our own conscience-salving than they are about a strategic opposition to any particular evil.
Many years ago, Joe Sobran wrote an astounding piece on the drive of the wicked to justify their bloodshed of little ones by finding ways to use the little ones’ bodies for something of redeeming value. I’ve never forgotten that piece and I fully believe he’s right. In a nation aborting a quarter to half the babies God blesses us with each year, doing so for half a century now, there’s a powerful need for self-justification, and I view unborn baby cell lines as deep karma demonstrating that need. So I don’t at all take this matter lightly. In fact, I’ve being pointing out for decades that the blood-guilt of abortion is the engine that drives feminism.
Nevertheless, about the only way to get away from this today is to stop paying taxes and go off the grid, completely. There’s no place we can move. New Zealand? Borneo? Zimbabwe? Iceland? Moscow?
My problem with much of the rabble-rousing over Covid is that it’s mind-numbingly simplistic, and therefore not really about reform (let alone revolution) as much as it is politically conservative clannishness combined with a moralistic self-justification. These are a powerful pair, for sure.
So what would I say we should do to oppose the growing evil?
Preach to the conscience, teach to the conscience, and provide pastoral care aimed at the conscience. These are what pastors do to lead the nation. We owe them to those in our own churches. In other words, as usual, the church is the answer to culture and nation.
But the rabble-rousers don’t preach to us. They teach us and preach against them out there. They tell us precisely what to think and make a show of the stupid pagans’ bad thinking.
All the sins of the world are out there. Never in here. They don’t fence the table at their communion. Compare their liturgies to any reformed liturgy of the past five centuries. They don’t discipline anything that doesn’t hit them in their face leaving them no option but to do so. Discipline is only formal. The pulpit doesn’t discipline and there’s almost no pastoral care.
This is precisely the church filled with men and women who refuse to wear masks . Again, the evil is always out there. In here, there’s only grace, and a multiplication of ways of condemning and taking a public stand against the evil out there.
The pulpit leads the world. Yet the pulpit that focuses on the world never leads the world unless that pulpit is out in the Areopagus—not inside a Christian podcast or blog or worship service. Inside our lives, our pastors and elders are called to expose our sins and call us to repentance and faith. Honestly, I do so wish I could convince people to read “Church Reformed/Elders Reformed. Sadly, though, there’s too much red meat being tossed to parishioners for them to have the patience to read books about our sins today.
Our problem is not this or that facet of this or that public health policy or mandate. Our problem is ourselves; our wife and her husband and their children and their church.
No, I’m not opposed to someone saying they will stop using Ibuprofen because they don’t want to participate in any way in the trade in the bodies of unborn children. But that commitment either won’t be consistent or will explode across their lives in a way that will drive them mad.
And as their commitment expands and expands, I’ll go to their church and find out they are raising their family in a church that has departed from the historic Protestant and Reformed faith in many ways, starting with pastors who don’t pastor and elders who don’t elder and sacraments which are not administered Biblically and Titus 2 (“older women”) who don’t pour their lives into teaching the younger women of the church and children who don’t ever show respect for any authority whatsoever never.
So to sum up, not let judgment begin and let it begin with crying “tyranny” (and I know this isn’t you, dear brother), but let judgment begin in the house of God. Love,